[Study] Fully implementing Europe’s Single Aviation Market could save the EU economy €37 billion per year

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From left to right: Michael O’Leary (Ryanair), Johan Lundgren (easyJet), Carsten Spohr (Lufthansa), Willie Walsh (IAG), Smith (AF-KLM), Thomas Reynaert (A4E) at the start of the Aviation Summit at Brussels, Belgium (3 March) © André Orban

A new study1 found that Europe’s 25-year old single aviation market is incomplete, costing EU airlines, their passengers and society up to €37 billion per year due to gaps in existing legislation and inconsistencies in the way EU aviation rules and processes are applied by member states. Nearly half of these costs, (€17.4 bn) could be saved by implementing an updated Single European Sky (SES) regulatory framework.

The single aviation market is, nevertheless, one of the major achievements of the EU. It has allowed airline competition to flourish, providing travellers with better connectivity, lower fares and enabling the free movement of people and goods throughout the continent – a cornerstone of European integration.

In 2013, the European Commission estimated that implementing the Single European Sky would yield an annual cost savings of €5 bn2. Seven years later, this amount has more than tripled due to the continued absence of a seamless airspace structure and an updated SES regulatory framework. Its implementation would allow airlines to put these funds to better use, for example investing them in new aircraft technologies or sustainable aviation fuels”, said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director, Airlines for Europe (A4E).

The study looked at known bottlenecks in the current system as well as new areas that have not been previously quantified. Improvements across five key areas would strengthen the competitiveness of Europe’s aviation sector over the long term, safeguarding jobs and connectivity while generating significant socioeconomic benefits.

Current gaps include:

  1. Lack of a Single European Sky, due to airspace inefficiencies and their
    related socio-economic costs (up to €17.4 billion/year);
  2. Unilateral aviation taxes which distort the EU’s internal market and
    create an uneven playing field (up to €16.7 billion/year could be gained
    by abolishing them);
  3. Airport charges: More effective regulation and better enforcement of the
    EU’s Airport Charges Directive could yield up to €2bn /year in savings;
  4. Reintroduction of border controls within the Schengen area and lack of
    adequate staffing levels, causing passenger delays and additional
    operational costs of up to €1 billion/year;
  5. Lack of consistent implementation of new EU customs rules (Union
    Customs Code) causing unnecessary administrative costs and thereby
    impacting EU cargo carriers’ competitiveness (amount undefined).

As a global business, aviation is easily impacted by disruptions in the value chain and therefore requires a holistic approach. We call on the European Commission to take the necessary steps to finally and fully complete the single market for aviation in Europe to unlock these savings for airlines and travellers alike”, Reynaert added.

1 ICCSA-University of Bergamo for A4E, Cost of Non-Europe in Aviation (CONEA), February 2020.

2 European Commission, Press Release Single Sky: Commission acts to unblock congestion in Europe’s airspace, 11 June 2013

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