European airlines lobby for assistance after terrorist attacks

by Canadian Shipper

Many of Europe’s ailing airlines are appealing to the European Union to help them survive the impact of last week’s terrorist attacks on the United States.

Airline representatives asked the EU’s Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio for a relaxation of restrictions on subsidies to allow for compensation packages and exemptions from antitrust rules so companies can work together to pull out of the crisis, reports the Associated Press.

Palacio said the EU would examine possible solutions for the airlines, including the suggestion that antitrust rules be relaxed so companies can cooperate on reducing capacity. However EU officials insisted such moves would have to be strictly controlled.

EU officials said they would also be looking closely at the U.S. government’s plans for a multibillion dollar aid package to help its struggling airlines, to see if they need to be matched in Europe.

“We don’t want a situation where European airlines are placed in a disadvantageous position,” said de Palacio who is scheduled Monday to meet U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta in Washington.

EU officials said they would look at the proposals and other measures to help, but insisted there could be no cash injections from the EU or any lifting of the ban on governments bailing out loss-making flag carriers.

EU officials stressed any compensation for their nations’ airlines would have to be temporary and strictly limited to cover immediate losses caused by the terror attacks.

Meanwhile, Europe’s largest carrier, British Airways announced it would cut 7,000 jobs and reduce operations by 10 percent because of the expected slowdown, while Germany’s Lufthansa froze plans to buy new jumbo jets and said it would stop hiring new workers.

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