The boss of Europe’s regional airlines trade body has called for governments to relieve the twin burdens of taxation and regulation on the industry.

European Regional Airline Association director general Mike Ambrose made the plea ahead of the inflation-busting hike in Air Passenger Duty from April.

Releasing figures for 2011, which saw average scheduled passenger growth of 4.8% compared with 2.5% in 2010, Ambrose said: “ERA airlines continue to demonstrate their versatility at adapting to the constantly changing market but we are a long way off from full recovery.

“More than ever we need Europe’s regulators and national governments to recognise the power of air transport to drive economic growth and prosperity, and to facilitate the industry’s growth rather than weighing it down with further taxes and regulatory burdens.”

While ERA described the 2011 figures as “encouraging” the organisation added that the closure of airspace caused by the volcanic ash disruption in April 2010 created a distortion which has resulted in a “somewhat inflated” growth rate last year.

Member airlines’ load factor in increased to 66.9% up from 66.4% in 2010, which ERA said demonstrated that airlines are continuing to utilise capacity efficiently to match demand.

But Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKs) growth dropped significantly from 7.4% in 2010 to 4.3% in 2011.