Official Journal of the European Union

C 10/35

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on airport charges’

COM(2006) 820 final — 2007/0013 (COD)

(2008/C 10/09)

On 1 March 2007, the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 80(2) of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the abovementioned proposal.

The Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 5 September 2007. The rapporteur was Mr McDonogh.

At its 438th plenary session, held on 26 and 27 September 2007 (meeting of 26 September 2007), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 143 votes to 2 with 2 abstentions.

1.   Recommendations


The Commission should lay down design criteria for various types of airport to ensure that they are practical, functional and can be commercially justified where costs are recovered through airport charges.


The State should pay for security at airports. This is a national security problem.


The construction and operation of regional airports should be encouraged. They play a vital role in the economy of the regions. They also relieve congestion at major airports and often lend valuable assistance to Search and Rescue operations.


Airports have to be considered as a basic public utility that do not necessarily make money and may need financial assistance according to circumstances. Aid is quite common in public transport.


The Commission should lay down design criteria for airport processors (e.g. Check In, Passenger Search) and then consider the impact of regulation change on these key processor dynamics and the associated impact on resource levels and costs to operators to continue to achieve Service Level Agreements and in particular airline turn around time criteria.


The Commission should recognise the scale of charges required to achieve compliance at the smallest airport where the passenger volume may not support the economics of the business.


Airports are required to maintain compliance with specific regulatory requirements as a minimum. Pressures from low-cost airlines, who ask for a lower service level and for accordingly lower airport charges, can not always be accommodated given the costs associated with regulatory compliance. Therefore airports should be entitled to reflect and recover airport costs in their charging structure regardless of the level of service required by the airline.


Large state capital subventions to airports may distort competition.


Proper facilities should be provided for cargo.


Biometric security should be introduced to enable frequent travellers to be processed quickly. If necessary a charge could be made for this.


In line with current European legislation on this area, airports must ensure that available facilities and services are suited to the particular needs of disabled and infirm passengers.

2.   Introduction


The main task and commercial activity of airports is to ensure the handling of aircraft, from landing to take-off, and of passengers and cargo, so as to enable air carriers to provide their air transport services. For this purpose, airports offer a number of facilities and services related to the operation of aircraft and the processing of passengers and cargo, the cost of which they generally recover through airport charges.


It is necessary to establish a common framework regulating the essential features of airport charges and the way they are set, as in the absence of such framework, basic requirements in the relationship between airport managing bodies and airport service providers (i.e. Airlines, Handling Agents and other service providers) may not be respected.


This Directive should apply to airports located in the Community territory that are above the size of one million passengers per year.


Airport charges should be non-discriminatory. This applies to services and suppliers.


An independent regulatory authority should be established in every Member State so as to ensure the impartiality of its decisions and the proper and effective application of this Directive. It is vital for airport users to obtain from the airport managing body, on a regular and transparent basis, information on how and on what basis the airport charges are calculated.


Airports should inform airport service providers about major infrastructure projects as these have significant impact on the level of airport charges.


Due to the emergence of air carriers operating air services at low costs, airports served by these carriers should be enabled to apply charges corresponding to the infrastructure and/or the level of service provided as air carriers have a legitimate interest to require services from an airport that correspond with the price/quality ratio. However, access to such reduced level of infrastructure or services should be open to all carriers that wish to avail of them on a non-discriminatory basis.


As the methods for establishing and levying the amounts due for the coverage of security costs differ across the Community, the harmonisation of the basis for charging security costs at Community airports where the costs of security are reflected in the airport charges is necessary.


Airport service providers should be entitled to a minimum level of service in return for the charges they pay. To ensure this, the service level should be the subject of agreement between the airport managing body and the association(s) representing the airport service providers at the airport, to be concluded at regular intervals.


The objectives of the action taken cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale and effects of the action, be better achieved at Community level.


Member States shall ensure that the airport managing body consults with airport service providers before plans for new infrastructure projects are finalised.


In order to ensure smooth and efficient operations at an airport, Member States shall ensure that the airport managing body and the association or associations representing airport service providers at the airport enter into negotiations with a view to concluding a service level agreement with regard to the quality of service provided at the airport terminal or terminals. Such agreement shall be concluded at least once every two years and be notified to the independent regulatory authority of each Member State.


Member States shall take the necessary measures to allow the airport managing body to vary the quality and scope of particular airport services, terminals or parts of terminals, with the aim to provide tailored services or a dedicated terminal or part of a terminal. The level of airport charges may be differentiated according to the quality and scope of such services.


Member States shall nominate or establish an independent body as their national independent regulatory authority in order to ensure the correct application of the measures taken to comply with this Directive.


Member States shall guarantee the independence of the independent regulatory authority by ensuring that it is legally distinct from and functionally independent of any airport managing body and air carrier.

3.   General comments


It has to be welcomed that the Commission is going to lay down basic rules and criteria for the management and running of airports in the community.


It is important that there is clarity and transparency in the charges laid down by airports since in many cases these are monopolies.


The allocation of terminal aircraft stands have to be tackled on a rational and non-discriminatory basis if there is to be a level playing field for all airlines. Non usage of valuable terminal parking slots over a prolonged period should lead to forfeiture of these rights.


Continuous bad performance relating to their aircraft parking slots by airlines and regular delays, which can over time lead to serious disruption of airport traffic flow, should be tackled by fines and penalties.


Grandfather rights at main airports should be abolished and these slots should be auctioned every number of years.


All EU airports should employ where possible the same formula for charging landing fees and parking fees etc. Landing fees should always reflect the prime slots at sought after times so as to encourage more even utilisation of the airport facilities.


In order to speed up traffic and increase capacity airports should be encouraged to install the most modern navigation facilities. Runways should aim in having the capacity target of one landing or take off every 35 seconds. Improved efficiencies in this regard will reduce holding times during peak periods and therefore have a positive impact on emissions.


The national aviation regulators should be monitored and audited by the Commission to see that they are carrying out their duties in a firm and even handed manner.


Security changes and other costs reflected should be paid for by the state as is the case of other transport like rail. These should be closely monitored as the installation of sophisticated equipment can be costly for small and medium sized airports. It may not be economically justifiable.


The regulator should ensure the prices charged in airport retail outlets are not out of line with those charged in nearby cities.


It will be difficult to establish the common framework regulating the essential features of airport charges, the way they are set, and deciding on a common framework when employment, construction, and infrastructure costs differ from State to State. Planning policy and regulation also differ from State to State.


Where it is suggested the Directive should apply to local airports located in the Community territory that are above a minimum size, the term ‘a minimum size’ needs to be clarified.


Airports should be allowed to charge fees to make a reasonable profit in order to reinvest in infrastructure and other facilities.


If a vocal low-cost carrier does not want to pay anything to the airport, this makes it difficult to cover the cost of compliance, safety etc. at the airport!


In order to ensure smooth and efficient operations at an airport, airlines should be required to sign a service level agreement with the airport to guarantee a level of service to the airport.


The airport has a number of potential airline customers, not all of whom are low cost. The mix in some cases is critical in maintaining income streams which vary according to passenger profile. These income streams are at risk with the over dominance of a low cost carrier at the smaller airports.


Security equipment used in screening should be defined and standardised. Public will loose confidence in the security system quickly if the systems are not standardised. You can pass through the security screening in various airports while in some the alarms will be set off. A company is operating a registered traveller programme at a growing number of American airports. For an annual fee of USD 99,95, it will issue a biometric identity card to people who pass government checks, entitling the holders to use fast lanes at security checkpoints. This is an example of how improvements in technology could offer enhancements to the passenger experience and reduce queue times.


Land around and near airports because of its commercial value should be designated to prevent and discourage land speculation.


While security at airports seems to be rigid, there is still a lot of pilfering from passenger's luggage. This should be tackled as a matter of urgency.


The meaning of Tax free and Duty free in airport shops should be clearly defined and displayed prominently to make customers aware of what costs are involved.


Commission should set up a website to protect travelling public so they can clearly see what the relevant charges that apply to various airports are, like landing fees, etc which are shown on tickets, and charged to the public.

4.   Airport design


Airports should be user-friendly and should be designed in consultation with the users that is the airlines and the passengers.


The Commission should lay down some criteria regarding a minimum space to be provided for baggage retrieval, security processing and passport control.


Design should ensure smooth movement of passengers in and out of the airport and that the airport is user-friendly.


It is a good idea to provide more sophisticated facilities for those airlines that wish to have them and are willing to pay for them.


Signage at airports is of paramount importance and at the many European airports signage is confusing. These, where possible, should be standardised.


Adequate seating and waiting areas should be provided for passengers. Access to terminals should be as user friendly as possible, particularly for passengers with disabilities and special needs, e.g. also passengers with small children.


Airport terminal design principals are based on design hour passengers flows and as such design hour criteria for critical passenger processes like check in and passenger screening should be researched and then published as a baseline for the industry.


Minimal operational criteria should be reinforced in accordance with the relevant design standards. Situations where requirements over and above the design standard are set by airlines on the airport as their minimum criteria should be avoided.


Airports must ensure that the facilities and services for which they are responsible either in their own right or in conjunction with air operators are suited to the particular needs of disabled and infirm passengers. Following on from comments made in an earlier opinion (TEN 215 — rights of persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, the Committee feels that airports meet these obligations in complying with the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air, particularly Article 9 and Annex 1.

Brussels, 26 September 2007.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee