LONDON (eTN) – During a panel discussion attended by experts at the recently concluded World Travel Market, delegates were told: “The airline industry should have seized the opportunity to show its value to economies in the aftermath of the ash cloud crisis.”
Leading experts agreed during the “Airline Industry in Turnaround debate” arrived at a conclusion that “airlines failed to show the importance of aviation to the global economy during the closure of much of Europe’s airspace when trade and tourism was deeply affected.” According to them, this failure means the industry will remain a target for increased taxation.
Birmingham Airport Chief Executive Paul Kehoe, said the industry’s problem was that it “lacked an Al Gore figure” to promote it, while Emirates’ President Tim Clark said, “We were too busy trying to sort out the mess to turn it to our advantage and spin it out.”
As a result, panelist said airlines received huge compensation bills from passengers. In addition, the failure to lobby properly in the past means the industry now faces an increased taxation burden from Air Passenger Duty.
British Airports Authority Chief Executive Colin Matthew said airlines had become an easy target for a revenue-hungry government. He said the current highest level of APD of £170 compared with a maximum in Europe of Euros 45. “That is positively encouraging someone to fly a less carbon efficient route by going via one of our competitor hubs,” he said. “It also discourages a Chinese tourist from coming here. France has six times the number of Chinese tourists that the UK gets.”
Clark warned Emirates could easily reconsider its position in the UK if need be and switch capacity to other European hubs. “People will start to make an alternative choice and possibly fly via Europe. We will do what we have to do as demand falls off, which I certainly hope we will not have to do.\