Protectionism is the darling of populist movements and populism is alive and well around the world today. Now the EU plans to make it easier for European carriers to lodge anti-competitive complaints against foreign rivals. If the discourse in Europe even remotely resembles the misinformation campaign in the USA, the Gulf Carriers better get busy planning a counterattack now.
Lufthansa contends that Gulf Carriers have “severely damaged European network carriers”. Pardon my skepticism, but Lufthansa recently announced a much cozier relationship with Etihad Airways. Is this not a clear example of speaking out of both sides of your mouth?
> Read More: Etihad and Lufthansa Announce Closer Partnership
A 2004 law addressing airline competition is already on the books, but European airlines contend the burden of proof to even submit a claim is too high.
The EU’s proposals, which have to be cleared by the European Parliament and Council, lower the bar for airlines or member states to launch a complaint against foreign rivals.
If the European Parliament and Council adapts the proposed legislation, which seems almost guaranteed, complaints will be permitted based upon “foreseeable” (rather than “demonstrated”) harm.
Restricted landing slots are at the heart of the matter: European carriers contend that they are often granted uncompetitive slots vis-a-vis their foreign competitors. Subsides are central to the debate as well. We are hearing the same arguments from European carriers that we hear from Delta.
The European Commission will be able to launch complaints on its own or act as the investigatory body on behalf of airlines or national governments. If violations are found, the commission may restrict European airport access or issue fines to the offending carrier.
While such legislation may appear harmless and fair, I have my doubts. European carriers will now be able to drag rivals into court based upon potential harm, not actual harm. Spurious lawsuits meant to handicap especially fierce competitors will only hurt consumers. Ultimately, consumers may find reduced service at higher prices, all in the name of “fairness”.