What are airport charges?
Airport charges are paid by airlines for the use of airport facilities. They include aircraft landing, freight and other charges related to the use of airport infrastructure such as runways and passenger terminals. Ultimately these charges are paid, indirectly, by passengers and freight customers via the ticket price or freight forwarding fee.
Charges are applied in different ways, depending on the service they cover. Passenger charges are levied per passenger whilst other charges are applied per aircraft landing or take-off.
Airport charging systems are in many instances imposed or otherwise regulated by national authorities. Even where the airports concerned are privately owned, the charges have to comply with the rules by the authorities. Charging systems can also work as management tools. By varying certain charges, airports can try to increase the use of airport infrastructure or reduce the environmental impact of aviation.
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.
Summaries of legislation
The Commission set up in 2014 an expert group, the Thessaloniki Forum of Airport Charges Regulators on the implementation of the Directive.
Further information and documentation on the Forum's work is available on the Commission's register of expert groups.
Evaluation of the Airport Charges Directive
As announced in the Aviation Strategy, the Commission launched the evaluation of the Airport Charges Directive by publishing an Evaluation Roadmap on 1 September 2016. An independent external contractor conducted in 2017 a support study which is now complete. This report reflects only the views of the authors and not the views of the Commission. The Commission will use this study, alongside other evidence, including the results of an open public consultation that will be launched early in 2018, in finalising its own conclusions on the evaluation of the Directive. The Commission expects to publish its conclusions on the evaluation in autumn 2018.
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.
Study: Evaluation of Directive 2009/12/EC on airport charges (September 2013)