Air transport makes a key contribution to the European economy, with more than 100 scheduled airlines, a network of over 400 airports, and 60 air navigation service providers. The aviation sector directly employs between 1.4-2 million people and directly or indirectly supports 4.7-5.5 million jobs. Aviation directly contributes more than €110 billion to the European GDP. Some 900 million passengers departed or arrived at EU airports in 2014. Linking people and regions, air transport plays a vital role in the integration and the competitiveness of Europe, as well as its interaction with the world.
This is largely due to the creation of a single market for aviation in the 1990s. Air transport had been traditionally a highly regulated industry, dominated by national flag carriers and state-owned airports. The internal market has removed all commercial restrictions for airlines flying within the EU, such as restrictions on the routes, the number of flights or the setting of fares. All EU airlines may operate air services on any route within the EU.
Prices have fallen dramatically, new business models appeared and – especially in terms of choice of routes – the progress is impressive. European policy has profoundly transformed the air transport industry by creating the conditions for competitiveness and ensuring both quality of service and the highest level of safety. Consumers, airlines, airports and employees have all benefited as this policy has led to more activity, new routes and airports, greater choice, low prices and an increased overall quality of service.
It is the Regulation 1008/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community ("the Air Service Regulation") that provides the economic framework for air transport in the European Community setting out the rules – as of 1 November 2008 – on:
- the grant and oversight of operating licences of Community air carriers,
- market access,
- aircraft registration and leasing,
- public service obligations,
- traffic distribution between airports and
Closely linked to the internal market of aviation, specific competition rules are applicable in this field. An Aviation Guideline was adopted in 2014. This Guideline set out the conditions under which Member States and local authorities can grant state aid to airports and airlines in the EU.
Licensed European airlines
Based on information communicated by the Member States and in line with the Article 10 of Regulation 1008/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community: List of EU air carriers holding an active operating licence (last update: April 2017).
Policy and other related documents
Summaries of legislation - Common rules for the operation of air services
Market observatory - Annual reports
- 2015 (incl. 2014) - Summary - Statistical Annex
- 2012 - Summary
- 2011 - Summary
- 2010 - Summary
- 2009 - Summary
- 2008 - Summary