The crisis currently gripping European airports and airlines is worse than during the Gulf War. Bob Verburg, addressing the European airport management, planning and security conference, in Palma yesterday said that air passenger traffic within the European Union has fallen by five per cent as a result of September 11. The President of the Regional Airport Conference (ARC) said that during the Gulf War passenger figures dropped by 1.5 per cent. Verburg said the situation is much worse but he believes that a solution will be found. According to studies carried out by ARC, the short term effect of September 11 on European airports will be a fall by as much as 15 per cent in air passengers, but in the medium term, the decrease will balance out at around five per cent. Verburg said that the clearest indication of the severity of the situation is that airlines have closed, some are reducing flights and staff and all are in need of financial aid. The ARC President said that he fully supports the economic aid packaged approved by the European Commission. Looking ahead to air traffic and passenger loads for next summer, everything depends on events in Afghanistan, Verburg said. The creation of a new government in Afghanistan could serve to revive confidence, he added. But however long it takes airlines and their markets to recover, airport security has got to be tightened. Verburg said that on September 11, terrorists demonstrated that they have become more creative, but in order to improve security controls, the ARC President admitted that airport taxes will have to be increased in order to help airports cover the high costs involved.
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