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Siim Kallas

Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport

"Better Airports" Package – boosting capacity, promoting quality

Speaking points on launch of "Better Airports" Package

Brussels, 1 December 2011

Airports matter – they are our gateways to the world. For geographical and historical reasons Europe is a "world hub" connecting flights across all 5 continents.

Europe accounts for one third of the world air transport market and aviation is one of our most competitive sectors.

But we face a major "capacity crunch".

On present trends nineteen of our key airports will be full to bursting by 2030. The resulting congestion would mean delays for 50 % of all passenger and cargo flights across the network.

We are reforming the Single European Sky to increase capacity in the air. Now we need to come down to earth.

Airport operators and airlines are doing a good job. But they are currently working with one hand tied behind their back. We can help them by updating the regulatory framework to be more in line with the challenges they face.

We need to remove the bottlenecks at airports. We need to boost capacity and improve quality. That means looking how passengers get to the airport, the quality of service they receive on the ground before they take off and after they land, and the complex network of take-off and landing slots that make up their journeys.

The measures I am announcing today contain 3 key proposals on slots, ground-handling and noise.

On Slots

The current system of allocating take-off slots is inefficient. Our busiest airports are not being used as they should. It’s something we simply cannot afford.

The current system is simply not flexible enough to cope with out increasingly crowded sky. These new rules will make it easier for airlines to buy and sell slot capacity, making for a more efficient slot allocation on the ground.

This will help to ensure that slots are filled by the airlines which can make the best use of them.

This change alone will allow the system to carry 24 million more passengers a year by 2025. It could be worth €5 billion to the European economy, with 62,000 more jobs.

On ground-handling

Three out of four delays are caused by problems on the ground, not in the air.

A comfortable, safe and reliable flight requires a whole range of ground services such as cabin cleaning, refuelling, de-icing in wintertime and baggage-handling.

Airlines need more choice in who provides their services on the ground - that means at least three providers at every major airport.

And high quality services rely on a high quality workforce. That means reinforcing stable employment terms for those working on the ground.

On noise

We know it is important to protect our citizens against excessive air traffic noise, particularly those living closest to airports. But decisions on cutting noise levels have to balance protection for those on the ground against the needs of those who wish to travel.

Europe is a world leader in building cleaner and quieter aircraft and we aim to make it easier for airport authorities to phase out the noisiest planes.

At the same time we need to improve the transparency in decision- making when it comes to noise. Decisions taken on noise restrictions in one airport can have important knock-on effects on the whole network – so the decision-making process needs to transparent and evidence based.

On Siberian Overflights

Before I finish, I have one more positive piece of news for the EU aviation community.

I have the pleasure to announce that we have an agreement with Russian authorities to normalise our aviation relations and to change the royalties system for Siberian overflights.

Today, together with Commissioner De Gucht, we have signed a letter and sent it to the Russian Trade minister Nabiullina. From 2014, any charges that EU airlines have to pay for flying over Russian territory will be transparent, cost-related and paid to public authorities.

This has been a long and mutual effort - and I wish to thank the Polish Presidency, Member States and Commissioner De Gucht for our cooperation.

I am pleased that we have finally found an acceptable way forward which is beneficial to both of us - Russia and the European Union.

I feel that the recent EU-Russia Aviation Summit held in St Petersburg was the catalyst for this final agreement.

I would like to underline that this agreement is extremely important for our aviation industry. It paves the way for the normalisation and upgrading of our aviation relations and the modernisation of our air traffic management cooperation.

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