European airport and tourism chiefs have highlighted the importance of Arabian Gulf airlines in improving Europe-Asia connections.
The latest doveish statements from the European aviation sector come as regional carriers remain embroiled in a dispute with US rivals, who have accused Gulf carriers of benefiting from $42 billion in state subsides.
“Open skies and fair competition need to go hand in hand,” said Arnaud Feist, president of Airports Council International Europe and the chief executive of Brussels Airport. “But Europe’s airports and tourism organisations do not regard the public financing of airport infrastructure, start-up aid for airlines and more favourable fiscal regimes as necessarily involving unfair competition – but rather as legitimate economic development policy choices, made by the Gulf states.”
In a joint statement, the European Travel Commission has also voiced solidarity with Arabian Gulf carriers.
“In the future, the major growth in tourism arrivals will arrive from the emerging source markets located outside Europe,” said Eduardo Santander, executive director of the Brussels-based organisation. “A good aviation strategy will be an important prerequisite to keep Europe the world’s No 1 tourist destination,” he said.
Europe’s big airports and airlines are lobbying for reforms to their industry as Violeta Bulc, the new EU transport commissioner consults on a new aviation strategy for the trade bloc.
“Connectivity goes beyond open skies,” said Mr Santander. “The EU’s new aviation strategy should address a range of issues, such as more liberal and tourist-friendly visa policies, enhancing airport capacity, abolishing aviation taxes, reducing regulatory driven costs and implementing the Single European Sky.”
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