Europe prepares to act on airport charges, EC calls for balanced approach

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By Aimée Turner in Paris

Europe’s transport commissioner is calling for a balanced approach on the issue of airport charging as he prepares to present his legislative solution by the end of year.

Speaking at this year’s IATA annual meeting in Paris, European Commission transport commissioner Jacques Barrot told delegates: “In terms of action, we have started an important debate on the necessity of a common approach on airport charges and on the greater opening of markets, all of which have an impact on airline costs.

jacques barrot small“That implies a central dialogue between airlines, airports but equally with other stakeholders which do not always share obvious shared interests,” Barrot said.

“All stakeholders are important. All contributions welcome. We have to pursue this process of liberalisation on an international level, we have to pursue opening markets in a balanced way, eliminating obstacles which damage us,” he said.

IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani presented the industry body’s complaint against Paris Charles de Gaulle airport: “Charges at Paris Charles de Gaulle increased by 26.5% since 2001 while the government approved 5% annual increases through 2010. A shortsighted government which is fattening the airport for privatisation.

“We have taken the French state to court. And Paris was among several case studies we brought to Brussels to support our appeal for more competitive infrastructure. The gap between airline cost reduction and airport cost increases is not acceptable and it is not responsible,” he said.

“Airlines delivered a 30% drop in consumer prices for air tickets while improving our safety record and investing in new capacity. So airports cannot tell us that we are asking the impossible. Airlines have proved that it can be done.

“We appreciate EC commissioner Barrot’s leadership to find a solution to this problem. We need effective national regulation of airport monopolies. The wake-up call is for all airports not yet on board: efficiency is coming. You can run, but you cannot hide. This is one wake up call you cannot turn off,” said Bisignani.

Airports Council International Europe only days before has called for a transparent and balanced approach to the airport charging issue. “We believe effective and unbiased dialogue on all sides: government, industry and stakeholders is essential to achieving a balanced and sensible outcome.

“Recent descriptions of Europe’s airports as expensive and inefficient by IATA fail to tell the true story – that of the massive multibillion euro investments made annually by airports.”

Defending Aeroports de Paris, which runs the Paris airports, ACI Europe said that during much of the 1990s ADP received little or no increase in the fees it charged airlines for the use of its facilities.

“Despite this ADP continued to invest heavily in providing new and improved existing infrastructure for its airline customers such as two new runways built in 1998 and 2000,” said ACI Europe.