BARIN New Year’s Gathering
Toespraak | 15-01-2010 | Schiphol | Minister Camiel Eurlings

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Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to see all of you here today for this New Year’s Gathering of BARIN at Schiphol Airport. I would like to wish all of you an exceptionally good new year. A year of happiness at home. A year of pleasure and success at work. And particularly a year with a “tail wind”, after the difficult times of 2009.

No one can look into the future. But if the signs are not deceiving us, 2010 could bring us a cautious recovery. I know how much you have been looking forward to such a recovery!

Having and keeping a healthy airline in the air requires quite an effort. Competition is fierce, the customers are critical, the rules are strict and the ambitions are high. Under these circumstances, an economic crisis is never welcome. I greatly admire the “fighting spirit” with which you have fought back!

Working with you, I focus every day on ensuring the aviation industry is strong. Good air connections are absolutely essential for the Netherlands. Your businesses have helped to make the Netherlands a European and global “hub” of significance.

That is why I am very happy about an organization such as BARIN. You give a voice to the interests of the airlines. This is vitally important. You keep us on our toes, for sure. But you do much more than that. You also work with me, with Schiphol and with other partners to find concrete solutions.

There are many subjects that required our attention in 2009 and that will be high on the agenda again this year. I would like briefly to say something about three of them:
· a competitive cost level;
· security;
· passenger rights.

Lowering costs

The first item is lowering the costs of flying at Schiphol. You are right in repeatedly drawing attention to this. I take these signals from you very, very serious.

Last year we decided to abolish the air passenger tax on air tickets. The cabinet attached the condition to this decision that Schiphol Airport would also cut its costs. Schiphol decided, as of 1 April, not to increase the airport charges this year. Schiphol is also working hard on improving the efficiency of operations, something that can bring down costs in the end.

In consultation with my Ministry, Air Traffic Control the Netherlands will also take cost-reducing measures and freeze its rates for five years. The Transport and Water Management Inspectorate will not raise its aviation rates for 2010 either. These are concrete actions taken to make Schiphol Airport and aviation in the Netherlands more competitive.

Schiphol must remain attractive. That is an absolute priority.

I keep a sharp eye on developments. I want to have a very solid picture of where we stand. Recently I had a benchmark analysis carried out into the level of costs at Schiphol, as compared with its large European competitors. The most important conclusion was that Schiphol has improved its position.

In 2008 it was the second most expensive airport after Heathrow. In 2009 Schiphol passed three of its competitors in the respect (Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, and Gatwick). It is a result that gives us confidence in the future!

I am monitoring everything very closely. Your findings are vitally important to me in this effort.

Security

As you know, we are also taking a close look at costs in the area of security. This is something we take great care with, as you can understand.

The incident that occurred on Christmas Day on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit forces us to look at the hard facts once again. Security requires continual vigilance.

I oppose the picture painted of Schiphol by some of the media.
I am absolutely convinced that Schiphol takes security very seriously. Security measures are carried out with precision according to the national and international rules. It is done well. Regular and detailed inspections by ICAO, the EU and the American Transportation Security Administration confirm this view.

Let us also not forget that in 2006 Schiphol was the first airport in Europe to start experiments using the security scan. Schiphol leads the way with respect to new developments.

One hundred per cent “security” does not exist, of course. But we can ensure that we continue to meet the highest international requirements in this regard. This is an essential part of a mainport that sees high quality services as a top priority.

At the same time, we continue to work – in close consultation with our European partners – on further international coordination and collaboration, particularly in the area of intelligence. This is important with regard to both security and bringing down the level of costs.

Passenger rights

Finally, I would like to say a few words about passenger rights.

In November, the European Court of Justice passed judgement on the rights of passengers in the event of protracted delays. I have noticed that many of you are surprised at the strictness of this verdict. I have also noticed that you are worried about the impact this may have on the level playing field.

However, if the European Court of Justice passes judgement, it is a binding verdict. That is how the European legal system works.

I can tell you that next month the European Commission will meet with the national enforcement bodies in order to discuss the implications of this Court verdict. During that meeting they will also discuss ways to implement the verdict as unequivocally as possible in actual practice.

It is up to the legislator to provide a solution with regard to this issue. The European Commission has initiated a consultation procedure on the effects of the consumer legislation concerned. I am counting on your active input to help steering the right course in the European legislative process.

This is a challenge for 2010.
At the same time, let us not forget what we achieved in 2009 in the field of passenger rights.

Thanks to BARIN and the Consumers’ Association, the Netherlands last year hosted the first private Arbitration Board in the aviation industry. It serves as a magnificent example of self-regulation. The Netherlands is taking the lead in Europe in this regard.

Our goal is: a European approach to consumer protection in the aviation industry. I am proud that in the Netherlands we are showing others the way forward in this area.

The vast majority of airlines, united in BARIN, are participating in the Arbitration Board. I hope, of course, that the others will join soon. But better yet, I would say: join BARIN. It will put you in very good company!

Ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to raise a glass with you and make a toast to 2010.
Soon after the “take off” of the new year, I wish you all a pleasant and successful flight.

➡ Click on: Photo Impression BARIN New Year Gathering 2010

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