Transport Airports

EU Commission Smacks European Airports for Discriminatory Pricing

May 21, 2014 9:00 am

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Consistency and transparency may be important, but airports would like to keep a competitive edge and don’t necessarily want to let everyone know how they’re keeping certain airlines happy.

— Jason Clampet

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Luke MacGregor  / Reuters

Passengers wait with their luggage at Heathrow airport in London. Luke MacGregor / Reuters


The European Union Commission has issued a report charging airports in the Member States with failing to consistently abide by requirements for governance of equitable airport charges as established by Directive 2009/12/EC of the EU Parliament of the Council of 11 March 2009 on airport charges, which went into effect in 2011.

The report credits EU Member Airports with “increased transparency” about the airport charges they set, but asserts that there is “uneven implementation of rules.”

Specifically, the European Commission references inconsistent adherence to the rules which govern “the fees airlines pay to airports for the use of runways and terminals.”

As the report from the commission indicates:

“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.”

However, according to this new report, “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.”

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.”

When Directive 2009/12/EC on airport charges was originally drafted, its intent was to provide a level playing field for the largest airports in each Member State.

As worded in the Directive:

“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 a framework, basic requirements in the relationship between airport managing bodies and airport users may not be met.”

To address the issues of disparity of pricing for airport services highlighted in this report, the Commission will establish the Thessaloniki Forum of Airport Charges Regulators.  The report also indicates that the Forum will have regular meetings in future to continue this oversight.

According to the report issued by the EU Commission, the primary objectives of the Forum will be to enforce adherence to the basic principles of the Directive, as follows:

  • 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.

Any airport which handles over 5 million passengers per year and/or the primary airport of that Member State, must comply with the Directive. At present this applies to 75 airports in the European Economic Area.

The first meeting of the Thessaloniki Forum of Airport Charges Regulators will take place on June 13 in Thessaloniki, Greece and will be hosted by the Greek Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Marisa Garcia has worked in aviation since 1994, spending 16 years on the design and manufacturing of cabin interiors and cabin safety equipment. She shares insights gained from this experience on Flight Chic and Tweets as @designerjet.

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