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Air connectivity essential to Europe's regional cohesion and inclusiveness

The 12th Annual Aci Europe conference this week in Poland

Europe's regional airports gather in Krakow, Poland this week for the 12th Annual ACI EUROPE Regional Airports Conference & Exhibition. The event, hosted by Krakow Airport, provides the opportunity to review trading conditions and discuss the challenges they face in developing air connectivity and advancing regional cohesion & social inclusion.

Traffic and connectivity gains-supporting the regions

Over the past 10 years, regional airports in Europe have welcomed an additional 251 million passengers – more than the annual traffic of Europe’s 3 busiest airports (London-Heathrow, Paris-"CdG" and Amsterdam-Schiphol). Through proactive route development strategies involving incentives & rebates to airlines and competing with other airports across Europe for direct/point-to-point air services, they have boosted the direct connectivity of their communities by +28.8% since 2014.

Network development and economic challenges

But while regional airports bring undisputed benefits to their communities, they also face significant challenges.

Route & network development has become harder this year. Indeed, apart from Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) moving upmarket into primary airports, airlines are generally becoming more risk-averse –up-gauging, focusing on higher-yield markets and increasing capacity contingencies for ATM disruptions. Consolidation is also playing its part– with no less than 7 European airlines having gone bust since last September. As a result, smaller regional airports are seeing their direct connectivity fall by -2.9% this summer.

Meanwhile, economic sustainability remains an on-going concern for many regional airports –especially at a time when the European Commission is reviewing its State Aid Guidelines. 61% of airports handling less than 5 million passengers per year are loss making– with that percentage rising to 71% for those with less than 1 million passengers.

Climate action, social inequality and cohesion

In the wake of the UN IPCC’s report published last October, the impact of air transport on climate change has become the subject of intense scrutiny - rightly so. The report calls for urgent & drastic action to limit global warming, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Climate action is nothing new for regional airports in Europe. 85 of them are currently certified under the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, with 19 having achieved the carbon neutrality level and 3 having even reached net-zero carbon emissions without offsetting. But more needs to be done.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency