Europe's largest airline carriers announce new trade body

A new European airspace user association unites leading legacy and low cost carriers for the first time.

By Colin Mackay

25 Jan 2016

Europe's five leading air passenger carriers - Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and International Airline Group (the holding company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling), along with easyJet and Ryanair - have formed a new trade association, Airlines For Europe.

The new grouping - also known as A4E - will lobby governments and regulators on airport charges, reducing the cost of air traffic control and eliminating unreasonable passenger taxes.

The heads of the five airlines believe that the most effective way to improve competitiveness for European carriers is to lower the costs imposed on airlines and their passengers. The best way to do this, they believe, is by focusing on the charges from monopoly holders including airport operators and air traffic control providers.


The new trade body - it will be the seventh European airspace user association - will be headed by Thomas Reynaert. Despite the existence of so many trade associations in the sector, A4E brings together what have been previously disparate partners, namely the legacy carriers and the low cost carriers.

Although the core IAG airlines of British Airways and Iberia left the Association of European Airlines - historically the home of legacy carriers - and joined the European Low Fares Airline Association, the five carriers making up A4E have never worked together as a group.

Given previous vociferous criticisms of legacy carriers, particularly by Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary, the cooperation has raised a few eyebrows. However, clearly the benefits of a single voice make it worthwhile to put past hostilities aside.

Inevitably, similarities have been drawn between the new association and a similar venture in the US, Airlines for America (A4A). That group was undermined recently by the departure of key member Delta Airlines, frustrated by the lack of a position on alleged state subsidy of Gulf State carriers. It appears that A4E also lacks a clear position on this issue.

However, the launch of A4E may have come at the right time, as the European Commission's new aviation package will address many of their key issues.