Common system drafted for European ATM user charges

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DAVID LEARMOUNT / LONDON

Greater cost transparency called for under proposed changes to fee structure

European air traffic service providers have agreed a draft proposal for a pan-European charging scheme. The main change will be in making the system transparent by opening the books of the air navigation service providers (ANSP), says the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO).

The template has been agreed by all parties, including airlines, ANSPs, Eurocontrol and the European Commission, working together in the Industry Consultation Body (ICB). CANSO says the basic system structure does not have to change: the formula, according to the EC’s draft charging regulations, is still basically for an ANSP to forecast its annual costs and divide those by predicted air traffic movements, which will produce the unit charge. The implication is, however, that system transparency will create pressure for the convergence of charges, because inefficiencies and precisely where and how they originate will be identifiable for the first time. In addition, there are provisions for incentive schemes – allowing the ANSPs to reap the rewards of service quality improvements and efficiency – but how these would work remains vague.

Meanwhile, the intricacies of a charging system in the Single European Sky of the future have been defined in the ICB’s draft proposal and the EC’s draft regulations. The most potentially vexatious is recovering charges for multinational functional airspace blocks. Although the proposed rules provide for separate rates to be chargeable within sectors of a single block, they also provide for member states to be able to set their rates collectively, says the EC.

Another transparency requirement is that users be able to see what they are paying for. This may make it clear which services should be paid for by government. If pre-funding of common projects is seen as necessary, the users must take part in the process of approving it, says the draft proposal.