The European Commission (EC) has published its so-called "Airport Package" including a draft directive on airport charges, a communication on capacity and a report on ground handling.

The decision to go for a directive on airport charges has been criticised by low-cost carriers, which say regulation is not necessary and will harm liberalisation. But the EC says the move "will set clear but basic principles with regard to airport charges" and will still give member states flexibility in applying the directive to their own particular circumstances, provided they stick within the guidelines.

The Association of European Airlines has broadly welcomed the proposals, while arguing more work needs to be done to ensure airports are cost efficient. Airports body ACI Europe also gave a cautious welcome, arguing that the practicality and impact of the proposals are still not clear.

© Eurocontrol   

The move "will set clear but basic principles with regard to airport charges"

Many of the recommendations in the draft directive have already been championed by the EC and include a principle of non-discrimination and transparency procedures for regular consultation between airports and airlines and an independent regulatory authority in every member state.

Airlines have long called for more transparency over airport fees, and the directive calls for an annual meeting for airports to explain charges, as well as providing information on productivity.

On capacity, the EC makes clear that it sees optimum use of existing resources as the key, warning there is no "golden bullet" solution. Support for some form of slot trading is reiterated, something the EC was wary of earlier this decade.

The EC wants air traffic management (ATM) body Eurocontrol to play a central role in determining airport capacity, mirroring the role it is playing for air traffic control with the Single European Sky (SES) programme. The EC plans to issue a mandate to Eurocontrol to this effect, and also wants to set up an "observatory" of member states, relevant authorities and stakeholders to supervise the planning process.

The EC wants to use Eurcontrol's work on air traffic flow management in the SES to ensure greater consistency between take-off slots and flight plans. The EC suggests that ATM bodies should be compelled to reject an aircraft operator's flight plan if it does not hold the required airport slot.

In a further move involving Eurocontrol, the EC wants the organisation to develop rules for collaborative decision-making, to improve operational communications. The EC argues that this could help cut five minutes off "buffer" times in airline schedules, which would be worth around €1 billion ($1.3 billion) annually.

On safety, the EC proposes extending the powers of EASA to airport operations. The EC also says it wants to encourage integrated air-rail ticketing and will publish a consultation paper on the issue this year.

Noise has taken a back seat as emissions has dominated the agenda, but the EC says it will issue a report that allows for the phase out of the noisiest Chapter 3 aircraft under certain conditions agreed by ICAO. Following the report, the EC says it will consider whether any amendments to the directive are needed.

Reporting on the progress of its earlier ground handling directive, the EC says that airlines have tended to use the increased competition to get the best price rather than the best service. Independent ground service suppliers complain that opportunities have been restricted due to the tendency for airlines, particularly hub carriers, to cater for alliance/codeshare and franchise partners. The EC notes, however, that the number of service suppliers has increased, suggesting that independent handlers are increasing market share.

To view the full EC "airport package" click here

Source: Airline Business