Europe is not an easy or cost-efficient place for airlines to operate, according to the head of Iata.

Director general and chief executive, Alexandre de Juniac, also hit out at travel bans in clear criticism of US president Donald Trump’s executive order covering seven mainly Muslim countries.

Speaking at the European Aviation Club in Brussels, he set out an agenda for a “stronger, safer, more secure and sustainable” European aviation industry.

The Iata chief called on European policy-makers to prioritise four areas:

•   Regulate smartly
•   Reduce costs
•   Reinforce security, and
•   Remove infrastructure bottlenecks

“Air transport plays a vital role linking Europe together with the rest of the world,” de Juniac said.

“In the EU, 8.8 million jobs are linked to aviation, as is €620 billion in GDP. Some 650 million passengers a year rely on aviation to get them where they need to be. So it is vital that we work together to chart the right course for its future.

“For airlines, Europe is not an easy or cost-efficient place to do business.

“As global competition further intensifies it is only going to get more challenging – potentially costing European jobs, hindering European growth and reducing the European quality of life.”

De Juniac also had a message for global policy makers on the role of aviation as a catalyst for economic and social development.

“Aviation is the business of freedom. Air travel liberates people to live better lives and makes our world a better place,” he said.

“The current political rhetoric is deeply concerning. It points to a future of restricted borders and protectionism. We see it in travel bans, border walls and trade agreements that are being called into question.

“Durable peace, prosperity or security have never been achieved through provocation, exclusion and division.

“The world has grown wealthier with people travelling and trading. That has helped to lift over a billion people from poverty.

“Aviation is proud of the role it plays in making this happen. Ensuring aviation’s power to connect people has never been more important.”