ACI Europe delivered an overview of its ‘burning issues’ last month in the annual New Year Reception in the European Parliament.
Although optimism remains high about traffic growth, and ACI Europe reaffirmed its support for more ‘Open Skies’, concerns remain in place about the potential impacts of Brexit and about airline protectionism.
Dr Michael Kerkloh, CEO of Munich Airport and President of ACI Europe, addressed the gathering to voice fresh warnings and concerns that also mentioned the ‘self-serving nature of [airline protectionism] the current campaign for more airport charges regulation.
Following the reception, ACI Europe’s board met with EC Task Force 50 to talk about Brexit impacts on the aviation industry across Europe. The first phase of Brexit negotiations have delivered a small sense of relief for UK and EU airports, who are glad that there appears to be some form of support of a transition period, but Dr Kerkloh remains concerned that the risk of a ‘no-deal’ scenario are still very real. He said, ‘For now, we still remain completely in the dark as to what will happen at the end of the transition. One thing is pretty clear though – the political dynamics shaping these negotiations are very much at odds with business interests.’
Dr Kerkloh added that ACI Europe has repeatedly stressed, since the beginning of the Brexit negotiation process, that there is a ‘need to keep the most liberal aviation regime between the UK and the EU – to safeguard air connectivity. Anything more restrictive than the current Single Aviation Market will come at a cost. There is just no winning alternative.’
ACI Europe has concerns over EU Regulation 868/2004 on unfair trading practices in European aviation. As staunch supporters of the Open Skies initiative, ACI Europe, according to Dr Kerkloh, ‘We are worried that some are trying to use the revision of Regulation 868 to advance a protectionist agenda. Don’t get me wrong: Open Skies need to go hand in hand with fair competition and we do support the Commission proposal. But the rules must be crystal clear and specific – they should not be open to different interpretations. Also, Regulation 868 should be triggered only when damage is demonstrated and only as a last resort – after all other applicable dispute resolution mechanisms have been exhausted. These are essential safeguards to prevent abuses in the use of this Regulation and maintain trust with our trading partners internationally.’
Currently, the European Commission is evaluating the EU Directive on airport charges, and Dr Kerkloh unequivocally defined what needs to be at the very heart of this evaluation. He said, ‘These new market dynamics need to be at the core of the evaluation. That means that the evaluation must resolve the contradiction in policy approaches between airport charges and State aid. The Commission’s own State aid rules and the European Court of Justice have already acknowledged the reality of airport competition. So, I have a very simple question: How can we be told that airports compete when it comes to looking at State Aid, but that airports suddenly no longer compete when it comes to dealing with airport charges?’