Airbus A-320 - avion - zrakoplov.jpg
Photograph: en.wikipedia.org

Five major European airline groups launched a new alliance on Wednesday aimed at promoting their interests when dealing with national and EU regulators, with their sector facing fierce international competition.

Aviation firms employ almost 2 million people in the European Union and are worth 110 billion euros (120 billion dollars) to the bloc's economy, according to the European Commission, the bloc's executive.

But competitors such as Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways have been gaining ground in the European market.

The new lobby group, Airlines for Europe (A4E), brings together Air France-KLM, easyjet, International Airlines Group, Lufthansa Group and Ryanair, and plans to expand its membership during the coming months.

"For the first time, low-cost and network carriers are creating an association to support the adoption of a new European aviation strategy," the heads of the five corporations said in a joint statement.

A4E said it would work with the commission on measures it had unveiled last month to boost the bloc's aviation sector.

The airlines aim to "increase their competitiveness and result in lower fares and more choice for passengers," by tackling industry issues such as "large-scale airport monopolies, high charges, taxation and inefficiencies," the statement said.

The group also presented its first study on Wednesday, showing that airport charges at the EU's 21 largest airports had increased by 80 per cent in the last 10 years, while flight costs dropped 20 per cent over the same period.

"While the airlines have reduced their fares, EU passengers continue to be fleeced by excessive airport charges," the group's chief executives said, urging the bloc to "take action lowering the cost of the EU's airports by ensuring that monopoly airports are effectively regulated."

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