The internal air transport market has become a reality for a great number of citizens and is an engine for growth. Restructuring and integration are well advanced and the market has been broadened with the multiplication of routes served in Europe, the entry of the low-cost carriers and the development of regional airports.
However, the necessary investments in airport infrastructures also need to be made.
The trans-European airport network comprises about 400 airports situated within the territory of the Community which are open to commercial air traffic and which comply with some criteria, like a minimum number of annual passengers, tonnes of freight, aircraft movements etc. For simplicity, only passenger figures will be mentioned here. These airports are classified differently according to the volume and type of traffic they handle and according to their function within the network. They permit the development of air links and the interconnection between air transport and other modes of transport.
The international connecting points (over 5 million passengers/year) and the Community connecting points (between 1 million and 5 million passengers) constitute the core of the trans-European airport network. Links between the Community and the rest of the world take place mainly via the international connecting points. The Community connecting points essentially provide links within the Community, with extra-Community services still accounting for a small proportion of their business. Regional connecting points and accessibility points (0.5- 0.9 million passengers) facilitate access to the core of the network or help to open up peripheral and isolated regions.
International and Community connecting points are gradually linked to the high-speed lines of the rail network, where appropriate. The network includes the infrastructures and the facilities which permit the integration of air and rail transport services and, where appropriate, maritime transport services. In the geographical European area, over 50 airports already have some kind of rail connection. This represents about half of the "rail connected" airports of the world.
Financial support for Airports is also available through other instruments like Cohesion Funds and the European Investment Bank.