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Airline chiefs in call for lower passenger charges

By John Mulligan

IAG boss Willie Walsh and Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary have called for European airport passenger charges to be slashed.

IAG and Ryanair are part of the newly-formed Airlines for Europe association that was formally launched in Amsterdam yesterday. The other members include Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and EasyJet.

Mr Walsh also called for the EU to be transformed and said that the European Commission's concern about the continuing rise of Gulf carriers is a "complete nonsense".

The European Commission's recently launched aviation strategy cited tackling the rise of Gulf carriers such as Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways as a priority.

Qatar Airways owns a 10% stake in IAG, which in turn owns Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling.

But Mr Walsh insisted that the Gulf carriers aren't a problem and that the EU should be concentrating on other issues.

"The Commission doesn't need to worry about the Gulf carriers," he said.

"What the Commission needs to worry about are issues it controls.

It controls things like Single European Sky - we have a very inefficient air traffic environment in Europe.

"It's estimated that we burn about 12% more fuel than we need to because of the air traffic control (ATC) infrastructure in Europe. That's where Europe needs to focus on.

"Forget about the Middle East carriers. We'll compete with them and we do compete with them. This idea that Europe needs to worry about them is a complete nonsense."

He said the EC needed reform. "I'm pro-EU, but my experience with the Commission is that they love talking about issues that they can't control," he said. "And when it comes to talking about issues they do control, they're very uncomfortable because it's not an effective organisation."

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