European Air Fares Rising Slower than Inflation

Nov. 14, 2023
IATA released data showing that travelers in Europe are benefiting from air fares that are undercutting inflation, as the market continues its post-COVID recovery.
IATA
iata

Amsterdam - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data showing that travelers in Europe are benefiting from air fares that are undercutting inflation, as the market continues its post-COVID recovery.  

Latest traffic figures show that European carriers sit just 3.6 percent down on the 2019 peak. Europeans are traveling despite the inflationary environment: In June, average air fares in Europe were around 16 percent higher than pre-pandemic. However, that is lagging the average consumer prices index for the EU, which in June stood at 20 percent over pre-pandemic.

“European air travel is continuing to recover strongly and is on track to exceed the 2019 benchmark in 2024. The competitiveness of Europe’s air transport market is holding air fare inflation at 16 percent --four percentage points below the rises that we have seen in the broad consumer price index. Considering the extreme volatility of jet fuel prices and increases in workforce salaries this is a significant achievement and stands in contrast to the continually increasing charges being pushed by our infrastructure suppliers,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

Recently the UK CAA approved an increase of 56 percent to London Heathrow’s charges, and an increase of 26 percent for NATS, the UK’s air navigation services provider, despite its service failure this summer. Meanwhile in the Netherlands, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, which has also suffered service failures, has been granted an increase of 37 percent.

Regulators play a crucial role in generating the conditions under which airline competition has been able to thrive. European regulators can take credit for ensuring a light-touch consumer regulation which has enabled airlines to create tremendous consumer choice and flexibility by unbundling the travel package. And the European slot regulation has created a balance between consistent schedules while increasing accessibility for new entrant airlines.

It’s equally important for regulators to recognize where they could enhance competitive conditions. Two key areas are:

  • Stronger regulation of monopoly infrastructure providers, to bring charges down.
  • Reform of consumer protection regulation EU261, to ensure more consistent application of its aims, and a fairer sharing of accountability across the aviation value chain.

“The recovery of Europe’s air transport market is bringing with it even more competitive market conditions. Consumers will see that with more routes and more airlines to choose from. In total, last year saw 20 new airlines born in Europe. This is important because a more competitive air transport market will make Europe a more competitive place to do business,” said Walsh.

The data was released at the Wings of Change Europe (WOCE) event, held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with KLM as lead sponsor, on 14-15 November. WOCE is a flagship industry event for Europe, where aviation leaders, regulators, and subject matter experts come together to discuss air transport’s top issues.