European Parliament recognises small airports as drivers of regional growth

In the last Plenary Session, on the 10th of May 2012, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a resolution on the future of regional airports and air services in Europe.

The resolution highlights the need to unlock the potential of small airports by integrating them in the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T). Regional airports appear as essential for territorial cohesion and social and economic development, especially in regions where other means of transport are lacking. They attract new businesses and offer opportunities for regional tourism as well as specialized freight transport.

However, the crisis has taken its toll on regional airports, said the Rapporteur Philip Bradbourn during the debate. They are “currently priced out of the market, leading to greater consolidation between major airports and airlines, the result being less choice and higher prices for customers” he added. “This must be counteracted by removing economic barriers and better defining their role in the transport network”, he said, calling on the Commission to speed up work on the “Single European Sky” initiative and to design a network in which regional airports could help to alleviate capacity crunches in bigger airports.

Integrating regional airports in the TEN-T would furthermore create incentives for private financing and encourage member states to invest in better ground connections, especially high speed trains, MEPs believe.

However, to improve the overall quality of services, certain practices of dominant low-cost airlines need to be tackled, urges the resolution, namely abusive booking fees and hand-luggage restrictions that discourage travelers from buying goods in airports.

MEPs “applaud Spain’s decision to outlaw these practices” as they ruin local retail sales and say common upper weight limits should be imposed on airlines.

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