Why is Europe involved?
Charges for the use of airport infrastructure can represent a significant expense for airlines. In the European single market, there is no justification for airport charges to be applied in a discriminatory manner, to the detriment or advantage of certain carriers. For the European aviation market to work properly it is important that there be minimum standards for charges at larger airports in order to ensure fair competition among airlines. Such common standards, however, need to respect the different systems of regulation which are in operation in the Member States and which might be designed to compensate for the market power of the airport as the sole infrastructure provider at a given city or in a given region.
For these reasons the European Union adopted a Directive in March 2009, complementary to the policies on charges for airports and air navigation services drawn up by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The main objectives of the Directive, which applies to all EU airports handling more than five million passengers per year and to the largest airport in each Member State, are as follows:
- Greater transparency on the costs which charges are to cover. Airports shall be obliged to share a detailed breakdown of costs with airlines in order to justify the calculation of airport charges
- Non-discrimination: airlines receiving the same service shall pay the same charge. However, airports can differentiate their services as long as the criteria for doing so are clear and transparent. Airports can also vary charges on environmental grounds (e.g. lower charges for more environmentally-friendly aircraft).
- Systems of consultation on charges between airports and airlines (which are already in place at many EU airports) will become mandatory at all airports covered by the Directive
- Member States will designate or set up an independent supervisory authority whose job will be to help settle disputes over charges between airports and airlines.
Implementation of the Airport Charges Directive
In 2013 the Commission carried out a study and subsequently presented a report in 2014 on the application of the Airport Charges Directive by the Member States. In this report the Commission noted that whilst some positive results can be identified in terms of increased transparency of airport charges, more needs to be done to ensure the consistent application of the Directive in the EU. The Commission has also set up a new expert group, the Thessaloniki Forum of Airport Charges Regulators to discuss the implementation of the Directive.
Further information and documentation on the forum's work is available on the Commission's register of expert groups
Summaries of legislation