Saturday 20 July 2019

Airline chiefs will launch new lobby group next week in Amsterdam

IAG's Willie Walsh and Ryanair's Michael O'Leary
IAG's Willie Walsh and Ryanair's Michael O'Leary
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary and IAG chief executive Willie Walsh will attend an Amsterdam conference next week that's being held by a new aviation group formed to represent their interests.

The other members of the new group are Air France-KLM, EasyJet and Lufthansa.

The formation of the new group was first announced last year, and it's been established to give the airlines a common voice for their lobbying efforts within the European Union. The name of the new association hasn't been formally revealed yet, but will be officially launched next Wednesday at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

The tentative name given to the group last year was Airlines for Europe.

The heads of all five airlines involved will be present, including Air-France-KLM boss Alexandre de Juniac; Carolyn McCall, chief executive of EasyJet; and Carsten Spohr, the chief executive of Lufthansa.

The European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, will also be present, as will a representative from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The Netherlands currently holds the EU presidency.

The day after the launch, all of the airline chiefs except Ms McCall will take part in various panel talks.

Mr O'Leary will take part in a discussion on 'EU Priorities and Smart Regulation', which given Ryanair's fractious past relationship with the European Commission is likely to be lively.

The chief executive of Wizz Air, Jozsef Varadi, is also taking part in that panel.

Last week, Ryanair announced that it has hired its first ever head of public affairs. Former Uber executive Cristian Samoilovich will pursue Ryanair's agenda with European institutions and governments.

Willie Walsh will take part in a panel discussion on connectivity. He'll be joined by Mr Spohr, and Jose Manuel Vargas, the chief executive of Spanish state-owned airport operator AENA.

Given IAG's commitments on connectivity as part of its deal to buy Aer Lingus last year, the discussion is likely to draw interest. A panel discussion on innovation will include Mr de Juniac and EasyJet chief operating officer Warwick Brady.

Mr Brady was among the potential candidates approached to sound out his interest in the Aer Lingus chief executive position after former chief executive Christoph Mueller announced his departure in 2014.

The role eventually went to Stephen Kavanagh, who was the chief strategy and planning officer at Aer Lingus.

When the airline group initiative was confirmed last year, Ryanair said that it had identified four measures to support the European Commission's objective of enhancing the competitiveness of the European air transport industry.

Those measures included: the development of an EU Aviation Strategy; lowering costs at EU airports; reducing the cost of air traffic control; and removing passenger and environmental taxes.

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