Since the EU's Internal Market for Aviation was born back in 1992, there has been a revolution in air travel. Today, air travel is cheaper, safer and open to more people than ever before. What's more, because of a comprehensive set of EU passenger rights, travellers can have full confidence they will be looked after on their journey. This is all thanks in no small part to an EU initiative to replace a series of national rules by a single set of EU rules, known as the EU Internal Market for Aviation.
Competition brought major changes to air travel - changes that have propelled European mobility forward, successfully helping to bring Europeans closer together, and providing solid foundations for more jobs and a growing economy. The idea of travelling and experiencing new places and cultures has become a reality for many people in Europe during the past 25 years.
Creating the Internal Market removed barriers to competition. 25 years ago, competition was low and prices were sky-high. A last minute getaway or a weekend city trip with friends could only be dreamed of for many Europeans. Today, thanks to the wider choice of travel, offered by more airlines competing on the market, flying has become more affordable! The dream of flying turned into a reality for people right across the EU. For example, a family trip from Milan to Paris in 1992 would have cost 16 times more than today - the minimum price for a ticket on this route has dropped from more than € 400 to about € 25 today.
Why have prices decreased so much in the past 25 years? One major factor is that opening national markets and creating an EU single aviation market spurred competition, providing more routes and more destinations to places in the EU and further afield. In fact, today there are almost eight times as many routes as there were in 1992, giving more choice to the consumer, and ensuring more places are connected regularly. A good example is Dublin Airport, where the number of intra-EU routes went from 36 in 1992 to 127 in 2016. Furthermore, during this incredible growth period, delays have decreased, while safety and security have improved, due to the commitment of national and European organisations. New air transport agreements signed between the EU and its major aviation partners around the world have brought even more destinations and lower prices to the travelling public.
Consumer demand has driven the continued expansion of new routes. In 2015 for example, almost 920 million passengers passed through 450 EU Airports, which is nearly three times more than in 1992. In addition, smaller regional airports continue to expand helping ensure balanced economic growth in all parts of the EU.
More routes and more connectivity also give a boost to the economy. In 2014 for example, aviation supported 8.8 million jobs in the EU, and contributed over €621 billion to EU GDP. However, aviation is also important for the success of SMEs and tourism. €1 spent in the aviation sector generates €3 for the overall economy; and for every new job in aviation three more are created elsewhere. EU rules also ensure that aviation workers are treated fairly. In addition, the number and quality of air connections can play a decisive role in the location choice of large firms’ headquarters.
Of course, while the growth of aviation is important it cannot be at any cost. New aircraft technologies, cleaner fuels and renewal of the fleet over time mean that emissions today are far lower per Km flown, than in 1992. We continue to invest in our Air Traffic Management, through programmes such as SESAR. This leads to shorter journey times and less fuel burn. Meanwhile, the past 25 years have seen huge progress in noise reduction, so important for people living close to airports, and EU rules on noise encourage airlines to continue investing in the more silent aircraft.
What about the Future of aviation?
Celebrating 25 years of success doesn't mean that everything is perfect in the aviation market. There is much to be done in the sector to realise its potential for passengers and business, while at the same time protecting the planet. To unleash that potential, and plan for the future, the European Commission launched of An Aviation Strategy for Europe in 2015. But while it is important to plan for the future, it is equally right to look back at just how far we have come in growing the aviation market in the EU, over the past 25 years.