The latest official travel figures in Europe reveal a rosy picture for air travel in 2015: there were almost a billion intra-EU passengers with more than 400 million international passengers transported.
It wasn’t always this way. Air travel in the European Union didn’t become as widespread as it is today until the liberalisation of the sector during the 90s. Increased competition gave travellers the opportunity to fly more than ever before. It also increased opportunities for new players to compete in the aviation sector, like low cost carriers. As a result many more consumers could afford to fly thanks to more choice and more transparency.
Consumers expect to compare air fares in a transparent and neutral manner. This is important because whether we’re shopping for travel or shopping for groceries, we all want to be able to compare apples to apples. The ability to compare fares also sets the basis to ensure fair competition amongst airlines of different size and profile in the distribution of their products and services.
The European Union has traditionally protected these basic principles through different policy and regulatory mechanisms.
Relevant EU stakeholders, such as the European Parliament, have re-emphasised the importance of these principles and are now assessing how they might be affected by the new airline distribution landscape:
- The Aviation Strategy report, prepared by the Member of European Parliament Pawel Telicka, encouraged the sector to continue to take a lead in the technology adoption process, while ensuring fair competition, interoperability of systems, neutrality, and transparency of access to clear and concise information for all users.
- At a recent public hearing, Members of the European Parliament’s Consumer and Transport committee talked to travel industry representatives about potential changes in air travel that might affect consumers, and how to best safeguard competition, transparency and choice for them. From changes due to airline consolidation, to new pricing techniques, the industry is shifting and the hearing highlighted the importance of maintaining consumers’ interests in the new distribution landscape.
We welcome initiatives by the European Parliament and other relevant stakeholders that support the principles of transparency, neutrality, and fair competition. This is in line with our role in the travel industry, as we collaborate with our customers and partners to solve industry issues and ensure the traveller’s needs are maintained as the point of focus. This will ensure that aviation remains competitive and travellers will continue to enjoy the benefits of air travel in the decades ahead.