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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's five largest airlines set aside their differences on Wednesday to urge the European Union to do more to lower airport costs and taxes.
The airlines urged the European Commission - the EU executive - to lower security and airport charges, remove passenger and "unreasonable" environmental taxes and ensure air-traffic control strikes did not do too much damage to their business.
The initiative brought together the chief executives of Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA), Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), British Airways owner International Airlines Group (ICAG.L) and low-cost airlines Ryanair and Easyjet (EZJ.L).
"It's a historic day for European aviation because it's the first time the five of us have met together," said Michael O'Leary, chief executive of budget airline Ryanair (RYA.I), at a press conference in Brussels.
The EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc is due to unveil a series of measures later this year to boost the competitiveness of the aviation sector.
The airlines have not always seen eye to eye, with IAG leaving the Association of European Airlines over differences in attitudes toward competition from Gulf carriers and joining a low-cost association instead.
But on Wednesday, the five said they would look at setting up a new grouping to lobby for airline interests in Brussels.
The airports industry rejected the airlines' statements, saying a reduction in airport charges would likely not be passed on to consumers.
"Major airlines already have a free lunch, now they also want a free dinner," said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of Airports Council International Europe. "Assuming airlines would pass mandated reductions in airport charges on to consumers is ludicrous to say the least."
Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Paris; Editing by Keith Weir and Susan Thomas