‘Fake’, ‘cheap’, ‘unfair’ – the many faces of competition in Europe

Social dumping, fake “self-employed” pilots, pay-2-fly schemes, cheap aircraft and cheaper fuel, and flags of convenience: these are some of the many forms of unfair competition in aviation worldwide. While the term “unfair competition” doesn’t need much explanation, the schemes used by some airlines – in Europe and across the world – need to be put in the spotlight and must be stopped before they destroy the industry in Europe.

A new ECA publicationreveals the many market distorting practices which airlines are increasingly keen to adopt. While some of those practices are verge of being illegal, many others are simply stemming from legislative loopholes. This is the case with new ‘business’ models, which cherry pick among different national regulatory regimes and uneven (safety) oversight. Norwegian Air International is one prime example but there are more. On the other end of the continuum, are practices, such as pilots who are obliged to set up their own limited liability company or fake self-employed pilots. If those practices are allowed to flourish and spread, they will be highly detrimental to Europe’s aviation.

Distorting competition is also a serious problem when it comes to carriers from outside Europe. Their unlimited (financial) resources, access to state-of-the-art airport infrastructure, weak social legislation and employees, who can barely rely on basic labour standards, offer them competitive advantages which are not available to their EU competitors. While non-EU carriers are not bound to play by the same rules, competition will continue to be unfair.

These trends are highly worrying. But there are solutions to (re)establishing a level playing field. The ECA publication shows that stopping unfair competition is not only necessary and urgent, but also feasible. Download your copy here.