Two years on from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Europe’s regional airlines are still struggling to recover from some of the toughest business conditions they’ve ever seen. But the European Commission (EC) keeps kicking them while they’re down, according to Mike Ambrose, director general of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA).
Regional airlines, long dependent on the efficiencies their comparatively low cost structures bring, have watched increased security burdens since September 11 erode the very advantages on which they’ve thrived for the past two decades. But in today’s risk-averse environment, the industry has found itself performing a balancing act of sorts.
The chaos that erupted on the morning of September 11 brought a flood of questions. Where were these airplanes coming from? Who was flying them? Why were they crashing into skyscrapers? In short, what on earth was happening?
In Europe, reaction to September 11 included shock, outrage, empathy and resolve. Terrorism and the threat of violence have been staples of the European consciousness for decades. Whether it’s the Irish Republican Army in the UK or radical Islamic militants in Germany, Europeans have had to be far more conscious than Americans of the terror threat.
To associate the jet-set image of a corporate flight department with S-38 flying boats and Ford Trimotors might seem a bit of a stretch to those who fly in the plush expanses of a gold-trimmed, leather-upholstered Global Express or GIV. But for UTFlight, the East Granby, Conn.-based flight department of United Technologies, the connection to aviation’s past runs deeper than most.
Some charter companies are reporting new interest and bookings as a result of last month’s terrorist attacks. Demand is reportedly up in response to more time-consuming airline check-in security requirements, as well as the perception that charter will provide better security. One wire story said a charter service in Southern California reported a 110-percent increase in customer calls.
The tragedy of September 11, 2001, began with what is arguably the most far-reaching aviation event since the Enola Gay released its burden over Hiroshima. That moment, 56 years ago, defined the onset of a new era, an age overshadowed by the specter of global thermonuclear war, and life was never the same.
Aside from the cost of military actions against the terrorist factions following the September 11 attacks, the big question is, how the government is going to pay for everything else it wants to do.
Political and commercial agendas, both individual and collective, rarely allow for a wholly accurate assessment of the regional airline industry’s condition. With an array
of conflicting and ambiguous signals from within executive circles, trying to gauge industry prospects at this year’s Regional Airline Association convention in St. Louis would prove as frustrating as ever.
Showing signs that it is getting back on a solid footing after nearly being KO’d by an ugly patent lawsuit, Sandel Avionics announced that three regional airlines have chosen its ST3400 terrain awareness and warning system to provide TAWS compliance for their Beech 1900 fleets.