The European Commission has released today a report on Member States' application of EU rules on airport charges — the fees airlines pay to airports for the use of runways and terminals. Airport charges are estimated to account for up to 10% of airlines' operating costs, which are ultimately paid by passengers as part of the ticket price. By ensuring that airports price their facilities according to market principles, the directive helps passengers get value for money when they fly from European airports. The directive currently applies to around 75 airports in the European Economic Area.
The report shows that since the introduction of the rules in 2011, larger European airports have become more transparent when taking decisions about these charges. In general, consultations between airports and airlines, as required by the directive, are now being carried out and Member States' independent supervisory authorities have been set up. However, problems identified at a number of important airports show that the directive has not been applied consistently across the EU and further monitoring of the situation is needed. Largely as a result of the development of a true European aviation market and the competition that this has brought, EU airports have gone through an important transformation of their businesses, which also has an impact on the setting of airport charges.
Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "This is about value for money for airlines and of course ultimately passengers. If European airlines are to respond to the challenges they face, and continue to provide intra-EU and global connectivity, it is essential that competitive airport services be available. This is the goal of the airport charges directive, which we must see consistently and thoroughly applied all over Europe."
In order to promote a more consistent application of the directive and more cooperation among Member States' independent supervisory authorities, the Commission is establishing the Thessaloniki Forum of Airport Charges Regulators. The first meeting of this forum, hosted by the Greek Presidency of the Council of the European Union, will take place in Thessaloniki on 13 June. The forum will meet regularly in the future.
The report takes stock of Member States' implementation of the airport charges directive, which was adopted at EU level in 2009 and became applicable in 2011. The directive sets out a number of principles on airport charges to be followed by the main airport in each Member State and all airports handling more than 5 million passengers per year and provides for the setting up of independent bodies for the monitoring of its application:
- Consultation: airports should consult airlines regularly on charges, in particular when changes are made.
- Transparency: airports are obliged to share certain information on the costs of runways and terminals with their airline customers.
- Non-discrimination: airports should not discriminate among airlines. The directive does not prevent the modulation of charges for issues of public and general interest (e.g. environmental charges) but the criteria should be relevant, objective and transparent.
- Independent supervisory authority: each Member State must set up or designate an independent supervisory authority (ISA), responsible for the supervision of the directive's application.
- The Commission report draws on the results of a study on the application of the directive, based on surveys among the main stakeholders and analyses of charges applied at a sample of European airports.