Europe’s aviation sector faces uncertainty, conference told

Political and security issues and overcapacity among key challenges, industry experts say

The Routes Europe 2017 conference in Belfast hear Brexit will also pose a future test for the aviation sector which in Europe is “entering a period of change”. Photograph: iStock

The Routes Europe 2017 conference in Belfast hear Brexit will also pose a future test for the aviation sector which in Europe is “entering a period of change”. Photograph: iStock

 

Europe’s commercial aviation sector is facing a huge degree of “uncertainty” with political and security issues, overcapacity and rising oil prices among the key challenges, senior industry leaders have warned at an international conference in Belfast on Sunday.

The Brexit factor will also pose a future test for the aviation sector which in Europe is “entering a period of change”, according to leading industry experts.

About 1,200 executives from 114 airlines, 270 airports and 36 tourism authorities are in Belfast for the Routes Europe 2017 conference.

The event brings together aviation professionals to discuss not only new business opportunities within Europe’s aviation industry but also to contribute to discussions around the future of European aviation.

Brexit

Jochen Schnadt, chief commercial officer with BMI Regional, said the conference takes place this year in “less stable times than before”.

“There is a high degree of uncertainty for the industry but there also remains a certain level of confidence. Deals are being done and finalised in Belfast and additional seats are being planned for the future.

“Brexit certainly won’t be at the forefront of Routes 2017 because it is really two years away and we can’t know at this time how it will affect us but there are immediate issues like too much capacity in the market and or course security which is always a key issue for the industry, which will be high on the agenda,” Mr Schnadt said.

Mr Schnadt believes the conference could put Northern Ireland on the map for other airline operators.

Tourist destination

“It can be a real showcase for Northern Ireland and it is a great opportunity because I think some airlines don’t have a clue about what Northern Ireland and Belfast have to offer. I don’t think there is enough awareness in some parts of Europe about how Northern Ireland has changed since the Good Friday Agreement and how it has been completely transformed as a tourist destination.”

BMI Regional will begin operating a new service between the City of Derry Airport and London Stansted from May 2nd. The route is being supported by £3.8 million (€4.5 million) of UK government funding as part of an initiative to protect regional air connections to London. The route had previously been operated by Ryanair who pulled out last month.

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