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Internal market

Air transport makes a key contribution to the European economy, with more than 150 scheduled airlines, a network of over 400 airports, and 60 air navigation service providers. The aviation sector employs more than 3 million people in the European Union (EU). Airlines and airports alone contribute more than €140 billion to the European GDP. Some 800 million passengers departed or arrived at EU airports in 2010. 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, in particular on the most popular routes. But it is especially in terms of choice of routes that 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.