Ethiopian Airlines has been operationally affected due to the congestion at European airports, the carrier’s chief executive officer revealed yesterday in Brussels.
The capacity crunch at Europe’s main hubs has been heavily debated at this year’s ACI General Assembly, taking place from 18-20 June and it was discussed during the Airline Leaders’ Symposium session.
The African carrier operates to 12 destinations into Europe, and Tewalde Gebremariam said: “Europe is very important to Ethioipian Airlines but we have suffered due to the congestion at airports and it needs a solution.”
Many gateways across Europe have their hands tied due to restrictions on development and many are unable to operate night flights due to environmental reasons.
Gulf Air CEO Kresimir Kucko suggested to relieve the congestion, there should be a change of policy and more airports in Europe that are able to, should be open 24 hours, freeing up more slots and capacity.
Airlines clearly feel that the lack of infrastructure development is not down to finances and Gebremariam feels that those highly congested airports are making more money than the airlines and his view, there is a need to develop airside infrastructure and parties need to work together.
BMI CCO, Jachen Schnadt said airports who have the biggest capacity problems (Heathrow, Schiphol, Frankfurt) are clearly in the 35 per cent that are making money.
“The issue is not financing but airport costs are at a high level and this should not be passed on to the airlines as it does mean lower fares for customers,” he said and added, the regional sector has suffered because of the congestion and capacity crunch.
In Schnadt’s view air traffic management and capacity are the two biggest aviation challenges in Europe but he does not think airlines and airports have done enough with taking governments to task over these issues.
Better connectivity not only benefits airlines, the panelists said as governments reap rewards from more tourism and airports through more passengers passing through the terminals.
Kucko says there are so many stakeholders investing in airlines that are losing money. He says the benefit of aviation extends beyond the airline and economies benefit.
Schnadt said connectivity helps power any economy and it is “quintessential” and not about subsidies but there should be recognition for connectivity that airlines provide.
But Gebremariam says it should be clearly defined what making a profit means for airlines. He thinks the main problem is not just about finances to build infrastructure at airports but it is also due to environmental constraints.
He feels that the key to overcoming noise and environmental issues is airlines and airports working together and suggested that the top five or 10 airlines at any airport need to work together to make sure air traffic is more efficient.
In reflection, Schnadt said aviation needs to to find a balanced way to how the different players in the chain can “get value” and there should “no silence”. Ultimately it should be done to the benefit of the customer he added.
“We need to find a better way as to how airlines and airports can work commercially better together,” Schnadt said. “The customer should benefit and then it will be a win-win for both parties.”