European Union plans to launch “in-depth investigations” into state aid granted to German and French airports and used to subsidise services from low-cost carriers (Reuters, 13-Jul-2011). State aid is generally forbidden under EU law, but it is permitted for smaller airports in order to boost the economy of less developed regions. The European Commission said it had "doubts whether the subsidies are necessary" and "whether the aid was proportionate". Marseille Airport and Frankfurt Hahn are believed to be the most concerning cases to the European Commission. It will also look at Ireland’s 2009-2011 travel tax, which it believes may have unduly favoured Irish airlines because it imposed a lower duty on short-haul services.
EU investigates French, German airport aid
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Brexit follow-up Part 3: Gulf airlines, Turkish lose UK ally in M/E talks as protectionism spreads
The Brexit referendum produced a vote for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, although this process has not yet been formally invoked. In the scope of aviation, one outcome is the potential loss of the UK in shaping air service agreement negotiations. The UK has been a liberalising voice, one that often counterbalanced more protectionist views from France and Germany. The UK is often able to galvanise the smaller EU states too.
The EU now has mandates to negotiate open skies with states, including the UAE, Qatar, Turkey and the ASEAN bloc. The UAE and Qatar, home to the three Gulf network airlines, are expected to produce the most contentious negotiations. France and Germany will surely takes cues from Air France and Lufthansa to impede Gulf growth. In this light there are questions about whether the talks are genuinely motivated, or merely designed to draw out the discussion and thereby not produce any additional traffic rights while under negotiation.
What Air France and Lufthansa need is a real, lasting solution, rather than persevering Canute-like with stonewalling. Although a partnership seems logical, they may have waited too long. The Gulf airlines have found that they can succeed on their own.
Europe's aviation strike spike could signal a cyclical peak - with downturn to follow
One swallow does not make a spring and nor does a rash of aviation strike news guarantee a turning point for the aviation industry. But the signs are ominous. In the month of Jun-2016 (to 20-Jun-2016), there have been 136 articles on CAPA's website mentioning the word 'strike'. This compares with 81 for the first 20 days of Jun-2015. For 2016 so far (1-Jan-2016 to 20-Jun-2016), the 's' word has occurred in 594 articles – about 20% more than in the same period in each of the past two years. If this rate continues, 2016 could be the biggest year for strike-related articles since before the global financial crisis.
The vast majority of the Jun-2016 articles – 80% – relate to Europe. A significant source is air traffic control disputes, particularly French ATC. There have also been strikes and/or strike threats involving airport workers and ground handlers. Among European airlines, Air France has generated the most coverage for its ongoing dispute with its pilots, and it may also face a cabin crew strike. Lufthansa has not yet faced a strike by its employees this year, but has not yet reached new agreements with pilots or cabin crew after industrial action last year.
History tells us that labour's demands grow as profits rise. The apparent increase in industrial action this year could be a signal of an approaching peak in the airline profit cycle. There are other causes of unrest, such as impending French labour legislation, but the correlation reflects some history.