Flying across from Cardiff to Berlin via Amsterdam over the weekend of the Brexit negotiations made me mindful of how fragile and uncertain the social, political and economic landscape of Europe is.
As I read the headlines – how the Europeans have agreed to the Brexit deal and now Prime Minister Theresa May has the daunting task of getting it past her own government – it made me think of two dogs fighting over a bone, and I wonder how much of that bone will be left after all this is over.
Such was the mood of uncertainty too that prevailed at the CAPA Aviation Summit held in Berlin this week. No one quite knows how Brexit will affect aviation – some hazarding a guess that whatever deal is passed, it will take at least two years anyway for things to fall in place while others just confessed to an outright “I don’t know”.
What’s clear is that aviation is completely at odds with the current zeitgeist gripping the world. Governments have become increasingly protectionistic while the very lifeblood of airlines depends on open borders.
The fact that I could fly on Scoot direct to Berlin without having to go via Frankfurt or another point is testament to the good airlines can do in an open market. (I, for one, hope Scoot can make a go out of these low cost longhaul routes.)
Carsten Spohr: “We are the good guys and we need to shout about it more”.
Berlin is a good example of globalisation, said Carsten Spohr, chairman and CEO of Lufthansa. Imagine, he said, Lufthansa now operates four daily flights to Beijing. “Asia Pacific has, due to globalisation, become the centre of global aviation.”
He said that amid the growing dissent against globalisation – “and the financial industry has to take some of the blame for that” – airlines should shout more about the fact that “we are the good guys”, connecting as they do people, markets, countries. “We have more than 4,000 flights connecting Europeans.”
Certainly, after more than three and a half years of challenges and struggles, Lufthansa has emerged as the good guy in aviation. Facing taunts from Middle East carriers which were declaring they were the future and that legacy airlines like Lufthansa were in trouble, plus those 29 days when the entire fleet was grounded, and that it took three and a half years to resolve issues with pilots, Spohr said he was glad “those days are behind us”.
“Our job is to make sure our company is fit enough to play in the global league. All we are asking for is open and fair competition.”
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