Europe demands curb on budget airlines to support regional airports

EU aviation policy must pay special attention to the needs of regional airports, according to a resolution adopted by the European Parliament.

The potential to boost regional development and reduce congestion at major air hubs could be unlocked by integrating them in the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T), MEPs believe.

But “certain practices” of dominant budget airlines need to be tackled to improve the overall quality of services. These include “abusive” booking fees and hand-luggage restrictions that discourage travellers from buying goods in airports.

MEPs applauded moves by Spain to outlaw these practices as they affect local retail sales. They say common upper weight limits should be imposed on airlines and charges for overweight baggage should also be capped.

MEPs want better price-transparency and an end to extra charges of up to £15 for passengers paying by credit or debit card.

They also want a common system of single ticketing to allow travellers to organise their complete journey, including train or coach to and from regional airports at either end of the trip.

Integrating regional airports in the TEN-T would create incentives for private financing and encourage member states to invest in better ground connections such as high speed trains.

But the European financial crisis has taken its toll on regional airports, said Conservative West Midlands MEP Philip Bradbourn during a debate on Wednesday.

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 warned.

“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 bottlenecks at larger airports.

Bradbourn wants to end the “one-bag” rule applied by some carriers which stops passengers taking airport shop purchases on board flights.

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