Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 11 News List

European airlines want EU to pay security costs

AFP , BRUSSELS

A consortium of European airlines on Friday asked the EU to take on the costs of new security measures in order to keep prices matched with their US competitors, which are poised to receive a massive government bailout.

"The US government has clearly accepted its responsibilities. The EU member states should likewise finance measures designed to protect society," Rod Eddington, president of the Association of European Airlines, said.

Eddington is also the general director of the UK's largest carrier, British Airways.

Eddington pointed out in a written statement to the 15-member EU that Washington had earmarked US$2.4 billion in aid for American carriers.

Airlines in the US have continually struggled to stay afloat after profits and bookings dropped in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and the war on Iraq.

The recent SARS outbreak, which has had a heavy impact on Asian airlines, has not yet had wide impact on US and European carriers.

Of US$3 billion in aid allotted last month, US$2.4 billion is to be paid within one month to compensate for the costs of added security measures to stay in step with Washington's anti-terrorist imperatives.

"Funding increased measures to protect the general public from a specific threat or during wartime is a government public policy responsibility, not an airline responsibility," Eddington said at an association meeting earlier, at the outbreak of the Iraq war in late March.

The EU transport ministers will meet in two weeks in Luxembourg.

Air transport relations between the US and European countries are regulated by a number of bilateral agreements Most of these agreements have been rendered partially invalid by rulings from the European Court of Justice.

The association's secretary-general Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus warned Thursday against large-scale government bailouts, saying that if competitors were trying to gain "an unfair competitive position over the European airlines, we will resist this at the highest political level."

American Airlines and United Airlines, the world's number one and two carriers, are both in major financial difficulty.

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