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2018 Day 1 Report

Wednesday 18 April

ERA’s first major annual event is the ERA Regional Airline Conference which provides a unique blend of networking and informative conference sessions, attracting a high number of key industry executives from ERA’s diverse and varied range of members. The conference is also attended by influential senior industry figures from across the European air transport industry. 

Each year, the event features a topical agenda of thought-provoking conference sessions and expert insight from key industry players, and this year’s conference, taking place in Vienna with more than 250 registered delegates, was no exception.

Topical agenda
The event opened on Wednesday 18 April at the Vienna Marriott Hotel with the exclusive Airline and Airport CEOs’ breakfast, at which the leaders from ERA member airlines and airports networked with their peers and the gathered European media. The breakfast was followed by an exclusive meeting for the CEOs. The meeting featured presentations from two high-profile figures: Eamonn Brennan, Director General, Eurocontrol who presented on air traffic management developments and challenges for the future, and Filip Cornelis, Director Aviation and International Transport Affairs, European Commission who discussed the European Commission’s airport capacity and connectivity index.

After the meeting, a delicious networking lunch got all the delegates together to catch up with each other and discuss the latest developments in the aviation industry. 

Challenges and threats
After lunch, it was time for the first conference session of the event. ERA President Andrew Kelly welcomed the delegates with a keynote address. Kelly explained how the ERA Regional Airline Conference is an excellent opportunity for networking and discussing shared industry issues, and noted that ERA works efficiently to represent its members in Europe. “There is strength in numbers” when it comes to voicing the issues in Europe’s institutions and getting the message through to its regulators, Kelly said. 

ERA Director General Montserrat Barriga then welcomed the diverse panel of airline leaders for the first session, and explained that the panel will be exploring the biggest issues and threats affecting aviation currently, with the session entitled ‘imminent challenges and threats to our business’. This forthcoming year is certain to provide a series of regulatory and political challenges and Brexit, competition, rising costs and insolvency were just some of the major topics discussed during this panel discussion. 

The session’s inspirational panel consisted of Andy Green, CEO, Jota Aviation; Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO, Flybe; Warner Rootliep, Managing Director, KLM Cityhopper and Mikael Wångdahl, VP External Production, SAS External Production and featured lots of though-provoking discussion. Christine Ourmières-Widener noted that one of the biggest challenges for Flybe currently is not only pilot shortage but also engineer shortage. “Pilot shortage is well known but we need to raise more awareness of the engineer shortage”, Ourmières-Widener commented.   

On consolidation, Warner Rootliep commented that it is something that will never stop and we will see more of it happening in Europe. A downturn will happen in the future, although passenger numbers are increasing and growth is strong at the moment, he continued.

The panel agreed that cyber security was one of the biggest threats and needed to be a high priority for the industry. “It is a team effort to keep our systems secure”, Ourmières-Widener noted.

Industry skills shortage
The next conference session, chaired by ERA’s President Andrew Kelly, featured informative debate by András Farkas, Training and Operations Director, PHARMAFLIGHT, Miguel Vaz Pinto, Technical Coordinator Director, TAP Express operated by Portugália Airlines and Paul Conway, Group Managing Director, Qualitair. As talks continue of an industry skills shortage, the regional sector in Europe is already feeling the full effects of this critical situation. 

András Farkas presented to the delegates on PHARMAFLIGHT’s future pilot shortage solutions and this was followed by Miguel Vaz Pinto’s thorough look into the work TAP Express operated by Portugália Airlines is doing to mitigate the impact of the pilot shortage. 

Paul Conway then explored how to attract the next generation into MRO. He noted how the sector needs to be portrayed as an attractive career option to people from a very early age and how we should inspire young people into the industry. “Apprenticeship programmes are the way forward”, he explained, and also noted how we need more women to see maintenance as a career option.

Delegates then enjoyed a cocktail reception and networked with peers over drinks. The day was a great start to this important conference, with more thought-provoking sessions in store for the next day.