​Sofia – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called for a renewed policy focus on strengthening Europe’s aviation competitiveness under the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency of the EU. There is an urgent need to strategically plan the capacity needed to accommodate growing demand for global connectivity, environmental improvements, and infrastructure cost regulation.

IATA is forecasting 6% expansion of demand for air travel in Europe in 2018. While that is healthy growth, European airlines still face some significant challenges. This was evidenced in recent bankruptcies among European carriers. And there is a clear gap in profitability when compared to carriers in North America which are expected to earn $16.67 per passenger carried this year. In contrast, European airlines are expected to earn a profit of $9.99 per passenger.

“Operating an airline in Europe is challenging. There are high costs and regulatory burdens. Infrastructure capacity is often not sufficient and the charges for using airports have doubled Europe-wide in the last decade. The Bulgarian government has put competitiveness and connectivity at the heart of the agenda for its Presidency of the EU. This will drive greater competitiveness and prosperity for European economies, but only if individual EU member states follow-through with the adoption of policies that promote aviation connectivity,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President Europe, speaking at IATA’s Aviation Day Bulgaria, in Sofia.

These issues were acknowledged in the keynote speech from the Deputy Minister for Transport, Information Technology and Communications for Bulgaria, Velik Zancev.

“We believe that Europe's air transport should focus on mobilizing resources and efforts to modernize infrastructure, deploy new technologies and improve connectivity,” said Deputy Minister Zancev, who also noted the economic benefits of coordination between the airline community, aviation stakeholders, and the regulatory authorities.

“The fruitful cooperation of national stakeholders such as the Ministry of Transport Information Technology and Communications, the Civil Aviation Authority, and BULATSA, with IATA ensures that the Bulgarian aviation sector delivers its full potential. The economic contribution of aviation supports further spheres of the economy: tourism, cargo operations and greater exchange on political, cultural and social levels. Aviation also plays its part in sustainability to ensure environmental and noise impacts are addressed,” said Deputy Minister Zancev.

Bulgaria occupies a strategically important position as the gateway from Europe to Turkey, and beyond to Asia. It is also a fast-growing market in its own right, with passenger numbers set to double over the next 20 years. This is a challenge for the country’s air traffic management, and Bulgaria’s air navigation service provider BULATSA.

In response, BULATSA and IATA have committed to work together and with all aviation stakeholders to deliver and implement a National Airspace Strategy in support of the Single European Sky (SES) initiative.

“Building a National Airspace Strategy is the central element for Bulgaria to ensure the country can cope with the future growth and traffic increase we expect in the coming decades. This commitment from Bulgaria is a strong message to the international community that Bulgaria is focused on maintaining the strategic importance of its airspace,” said Deputy Minister Zancev.

“BULATSA’s cooperation with IATA to ensure airlines have the appropriate influence on the strategy will ensure that Bulgaria’s airspace is fit for the future. This will significantly benefit Bulgaria’s citizens and the economy,” said Schvartzman.

For more information, please contact:
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Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 280 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic.
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