A common framework regulation for EU airport charges

The Council has published in the Official Journal of the European Union on October 7th, 2008, its Common Position adopted on June 23rd with a view to the adoption of a Directive on airport charges. The draft Directive would establish a common framework regulating the essential features of airport charges and the way they are set, as in the absence of such a framework, basic requirements in the relationship between airport managing bodies and airport users might not be met.

The Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (the ICAO Council) in 2004 adopted policies on airport charges that included, inter alia, the principles of cost-relatedness, non-discrimination and an independent mechanism for economic regulation of airports.

The objective of the proposed Directive is to set common principles for the levying of airport charges at Community airports. It aims to clarify the relationship between airport operators and airport users by requiring transparency, user consultation and the application of the principle of non-discrimination when calculating charges levied on users. Moreover, it aims to create strong, independent authorities in the Member States to arbitrate and settle disputes in order to achieve their speedy resolution.

Within this legislative process, the Parliament wants the rules to apply to airports with an annual throughput of over 5 million passengers per year, whereas the Commission had proposed one million.

At Parliament's request, the proposal also provides for mechanisms for consulting airport users, and for resolving disputes between users and airports. MEPs say these are necessary to establish a level playing field for economic operators and ultimately also to safeguard consumer interests.

The main elements of Parliament and Council's position, as stated in a report by the Transport Committee, delivered October 7th, are:

  • Both EP and Council agree that applying the rules to smaller airports, with under one million passengers a year, would impose administrative and bureaucratic burdens, to no great effect, on airports that are not in competition due to geographic and structural factors.
  • The committee also saw to it that any differentiation in airports' charges  will have to be based on transparent and objective criteria. The Council Common Position also makes it clear that there should be a national independent supervisory body, rather than merely regional ones, which is also in line with Parliament's position. The Committee also won a tighter definition of an "airport network", which means one that is operated by the same management body.
  • Transport Ministers also accept that incentives should be permitted for new routes to disadvantaged and  outermost regions and that uniform charging systems may be applied by management bodies serving the same network only on the basis of transparent criteria.
  • Charges for the provision of services to disabled and reduced-mobility passengers mobility will be excluded from the scope of the Directive.

Amendments to the Common Position

The Council had already given a formal written commitment to accept a further series of parliamentary amendments if  tabled at the second reading. These amendments deal with pre-financing of airport investments and link pre-financing  to ICAO policies and the need for safeguards. Firm deadlines for the publication of decisions on charges are also laid down in the proposal.

In its Common Position, the Council notes the informal negotiations that have already taken place between the Council and the European Parliament and trusts that the compromise texts identified will allow for quick adoption of the Directive in the near future.

Airports concerned by the airport charges Directive

Alicante, Amsterdam, Athens; Barcelona, Berlin (Schoenefeld and Tegel), Birmingham, Bourgas, Bratislava, Bristol, Brussels (Zaventem), Bucharest,  Budapest, Catania, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Faro, Frankfurt, Glasgow, Gran Canaria, Hamburg, Hannover, Helsinki, Iraklion, Kobenhavn,  Köln/Bonn, Lanzarote, Larnaka, Lisboa, Ljubljanna, London (Gatwick, Heathtrow, Luton and Stansted), Luxemburg, Lyon, Madrid/Barajas, Malaga, Malta, Manchester, Marseille-Provence,, Milano (Linate and Malpensa), München, Newcastle, Nice-Cote d'Azur, Pafos, Palma de Mallorca,  Paris (Charles de Gaulle and Orly), Praha, Riga, Rodos, Roma/Fiumicino, Sofia, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Tallinn, Tenerife, Timisoara, Toulouse (Blagnac and CCER), Varna, Venezia,  Vilnius, Warszawa and Wien.