Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2012-05-09-Speech-3-255-000"

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"Mr President, I am delighted to present my own-initiative report on the future of regional airports and air services in the EU. This report is born out of the need to recognise the important role that regional air services play for European citizens and in our economy. It also reflects the tendency of the Commission and others to neglect the opportunities that they provide. The report acknowledges that regional air services have an integral role in the economic well-being of the EU and are vital to the financial and social vibrancy of the regions. Europe’s airports provide a large network of 150 000 city pairs. They are essential to facilitating the smooth running of the single market by transporting people and goods between key parts of Member States. They are essential generators of economic growth by expanding trade beyond traditional partnerships, boosting the economies of regions they serve and often connecting inaccessible regions and islands to the broader economy, thus allowing their continued viability. Aviation, however, is an industry with small margins and this is especially true at the regional level. The financial and sovereign debt crisis has substantially changed the conditions for financing regional airports. This must be counteracted by the removal of economic barriers and a better definition of their role in the transport network. Indeed, I strongly believe that regional airports need to be seen as an integral part of the trans-European network, rather than somewhere away on the periphery. By bringing regional airports closer into the transport network, we can provide more of an incentive for industry to better integrate across modes and develop benefits for our citizens, for example, via multimodal ticketing, as cited in the report. The report calls on the Commission to speed up the development of SESAR and the Single European Sky as a matter of urgency. These programmes will bring environmental and economic savings. As well as this, regional airports, which are running well below capacity, can have a role to play in alleviating the capacity crunch that a number of major airports are suffering. If implemented properly, encouraging region-to-region services could lead to less congestion and greater environmental efficiency. Similarly, when considering the upcoming airports package, I call on the Commission to pay particular attention to the regions, as currently they risk being priced out of the market, leaving greater consolidation between major airports and airlines, with the result being less choice and higher prices. The report also aims to tackle the practices of certain airlines on two main subjects: price transparency and onboard baggage. It is the practice of some carriers to add charges to the headline price of a ticket. This report calls for companies to offer all passengers a method of credit or debit card payment that is free and to include any unavoidable administration fees in the headline price. It is important that people know what they will be paying, and not find the cost of their ticket ratcheted up through the entire process. With regard to onboard baggage, the report calls for the industry to set common upper limits for weight and size restrictions. This again is so that consumers know what to expect when travelling. The report also calls for airside purchases to be treated as separate to the ‘one bag’ rule. The strict application of this so-called ‘one bag’ rule as it stands is used as a tool, in some cases, to increase profits to the detriment of consumers. The current practice is particularly harmful at regional airports, which often heavily reduce fees to carriers on the basis of passenger throughput, making these up in retail sales. I strongly believe that regional airports and air services have a role to play in reinvigorating our economy as part of a well functioning transport network. Therefore, I call on the Commission to listen to what we are saying in Parliament. The Commission must be bold and take action for the benefit of consumers, the travelling public and the many businesses that flourish by having access to airports and air services."@en1

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