British membership of the EU is “vital to airlines and passengers”, according to EasyJet boss Carolyn McCall, who put herself at the forefront of the pro-EU camp in the travel industry this week.
Writing in the Sunday Times ahead of an EU summit on Thursday and Friday, McCall suggested: “How much you pay for your holiday really does depend on how much influence Britain has in Europe.”
The summit is due to finalise the terms of a new deal for Britain in the EU, with a referendum on whether the UK remains a member likely as early as June.
McCall is a member of the Business Advisory Group to prime minister David Cameron and has previously spoken in favour of British membership of the EU.
The EasyJet chief executive wrote: “The cost of flights has plummeted while the range of destinations has soared as a result of Britain’s membership of the EU.
“The European debate is vital to airlines and their passengers . . . EasyJet believes the benefits far outweigh the frustrations – the UK is better off in the EU.”
She hailed the benefits of EC regulation to consumers and called for fresh EC intervention to cut charges at leading airports.
McCall argued that, prior to the creation of the common aviation area in Europe in the 1990s: “Few people flew; it was something reserved for the elite.
“Governments decided how many airlines flew and the number of flights. They also dictated the fares, which were expensive.
“Britain led the way in air liberalisation,” she added, “But it was the EU that gave airlines the freedom to fly across the continent.
“That led to the dramatic fall in fares, and the number of routes increased by 180%.”
McCall explained: “EasyJet was born from this deregulation. As a result, a new generation was able to reach destinations they once could only have dreamed of.
“The UK travel and tourism sector is £170 billion and accounts for more than 10% of our economy. The British aviation industry is the third biggest in the world.
“It’s good for Britain’s economy and it’s good for passengers because we can pass on the savings we make in cheaper fares.”
McCall argued: “Remaining within the EU means the UK can directly influence the rules governing the single market, rules that affect our industry and our passengers.”
She added: “The EU has brought other benefits – consumer rights which guarantee passengers are provided with a hotel room if their flight is cancelled and legislation that ensures passengers with reduced mobility are properly cared for.
“Whatever way you look at it, the EU has brought huge benefits for UK travelers and businesses. Staying in the EU will ensure they continue.”
She called for fresh EC intervention to cut airport charges, saying: “Passenger charges at Europe’s 10 largest airports have increased by around four times the rate of inflation in the last decade.
“More active EU intervention in this area is the answer, reducing fares for passengers, just as the EU helped consumers by reducing mobile phone roaming charges.”
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