International air transport is heavily regulated. All traffic rights (right to land and take off, to transport passengers and cargo) are defined in international agreements signed at governmental level (EU or national). The evolution of air transport in the last decades with regard to ownership and control of airlines (with the notion of Community carrier) and airports (which are considered in Europe as economic enterprises) has led to the need for airports to make their voice heard regarding international aviation agreements. The time when the State general interest was fully aligned with the interests of national carriers and airports they owned is over, and Air Transport Agreements should reflect the strategic relevance of aviation and the connectivity it affords to the economy. They should be based on the full spectrum of interests involved, in particular consumers, regions and local communities as well as businesses that depend on aviation and job creation. Air transport – as with any mode of transport – is just a tool not a goal in itself.
Today, passengers want the ability and freedom to fly. They want choice both in the route and the carrier to their destination depending on their priorities, be this a direct non-stop flight or a cheaper ticket. The airport for its part will seek to develop connectivity, multiply routes and carriers and offer the greatest possible choice to passengers. Air transport liberalisation means more choice for consumers, which in turn leads to traffic growth but also economic benefits for the Regions. Indeed, beyond airports and the tourism industry, European consumers have benefitted from affordable air connectivity, within and outside the EU. Air connectivity supports economic growth: a 10% increase in air connectivity yields a + 0.5% increase in GDP per capita. Airports are therefore supportive of the further liberalisation of air transport.