AEA's Steve Ridgway Talks About Europe's Aviation Industry

The Association of European Airlines (AEA) announced this week that Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Steve Ridgway will be the Chairman of the Association for 2011.

"Aviation has a fundamental part to play in the recovery of the global economy and in connecting communities across the world,” Ridgway said in a statement. “We must work together with national governments and EU institutions to ensure that we have the right conditions for European airlines to be competitive and flourish on the world stage.”
Speaking with Travel Agent, he explained that his goal for the next year is to bolster the aviation industry’s reputation as a vital player in the global economy.
China and India would not be the world powers that they are without aviation,” he said. “What AA is trying to do is shout louder about the strategic significance of the industry, especially in a post-recession world.”
As the world recovers from the recession, several European nations are struggling with their own economies—a challenge when they all share one currency.
“The UK is coming back,” Ridgway said, “but it’s not part of Euro. Germany and France are emerging strongly, but not Greece, Ireland or Portugal. That will affect aviation across Europe. Hopefully, it will be a good year of recovery across Europe.”
Ridgway also had harsh words for the way in which Europe’s aviation industry responded to the volcanic ash cloud disaster last year, arguing that the danger to jet engines was exaggerated. “It was a complete overreaction by the authorities, and the costs were picked up by the airlines,” he said. “Aviation didn’t need to stop at all.”
As an example, he pointed out a Virgin Atlantic route from Hong Kong to Sydney that flies over 13 volcanoes. “We have to be responsible for our own safety assessments,” he declared, pointing out that no one has ever died in a plane as a result of volcanic ash. “[The industry has] had incidents with ash,” he acknowledged, “but never a loss of life by flying through ash.” 

In the next 12 months, Ridgway says that he would hope to see Europe focus on progressing the delivery of one single air traffic management system for Europe that is efficient. “It is also vital to keep innovating and investing in lower carbon technologies to reduce aviation's dependency on fossil fuels."



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