Responding to International Air Transport Association (IATA) calls for airports and air traffic service (ATS) providers to trim their charges at a time of unprecedented losses for the airlines, Netherlands air traffic services (LVNL) has asked the Dutch government to research a new method of financing ATS provision in Europe. At present, because the organisations have a largely fixed cost base, they have to increase their charges when there is a traffic drop or they will end up in deficit.

In 2002 the LVNL made a loss of €18.6 million ($20.9 million), and the Netherlands transport ministry is to advance the ATS provider €13.9 million as compensation on the understanding that this is a one-off payment. Meanwhile, the sort of system that the LVNL says it envisages is having permission to establish reserves in high traffic years to offset losses in lean years without having to raise user charges just when airlines can least afford it. This is IATA's argument. It has been calling for natural monopolies like ATS providers and airports to play their part in keeping the system viable.

For example, at present LVNL traffic is 4.9% down compared with 2001, and for 2003 its charges, according to internationally accepted formulae, are expected to rise by 11.1%.

Forecasts for traffic this year remain negative, says the LVNL, adding that although it is cutting costs as much as it can, it has "limited room for manoeuvre" in view of the nature of its business.

Source: Flight International