WE promote a wider understanding of
the challenges facing civil aviation in Europe

Challenges

European citizens are enjoying, as never before, the benefits of an increasingly safe, efficient and affordable air transport system. Effective mobility in Europe has long been one of the primary visions of the EU; in the European Commission’s own words: “The free movement of people, goods and services is a driving force behind the sustained development of the Community.”

The last decade has seen an unprecedented growth in trade and tourist links - especially between the most recent EU Member States and their neighbours in the west. Outside the capital cities, in the regions of Europe where most of the continent’s citizens live, the liberalisation of European air transport and the resulting revolution in low-cost air services have proved especially beneficial. Europe and its regions now enjoy an ever-expanding network of air services, linking the continent’s communities to the world.

But how long will citizens and their communities benefit from increasing air services and lower fares? How long will the resulting economic and social benefits continue to flow? Will future generations see the early years of the 21st century as a short-lived golden age of European travel?

Beyond cyclical economic crises, aviation is now confronted with volatile oil prices and the future prospect of an oil shortage. Over time, new technological and economic fundamentals will substantially re-define the whole sector. This evolution will only be accelerated by the need to address the impact of greater mobility on the environment. While economic growth will continue to be the bedrock to guaranteeing the future welfare of all citizens, society now demands, that such growth takes place within a commonly accepted environmental framework.

Europe’s transport systems thus face the unprecedented challenge of having to actively contribute to the greening of the economy. A strategic review of the EU Transport Policy is already underway, and the unique role and benefits of aviation are key issues to be considered in this respect. Indeed, there is simply no viable substitute for most of the 150,000 routes that constitute the air transport network connecting Europe. As a result, the EU has no alternative but to unambiguously and proactively reconcile the growth of aviation with its ambitious environmental objectives.

With the environmental impact of aviation being felt most acutely at and around airports, Europe’s airports are at the heart of this debate. But with the benefits they generate as gateways to the global economy spanning far beyond their immediate surrounding areas, airport development remains a prerequisite for a competitive economy and a truly cosmopolitan society.

This requires a new way of looking at airports and a new policy approach, both at European and national level - allowing them to proactively address the key challenges that they face.

To read on, download the ACI EUROPE’s Policy Outlook.

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