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Brexit still a burning issue for airports, says ACI Europe

Dr Michael Kerkloh

ACI Europe recently provided an overview of the issues that the airport industry faces in the months to come.

ACI Europe President, Michael Kerkloh, who also happens to be the CEO of Munich Airport, spoke at the New Year Reception at the European Parliament, and expressed optimism about European aviation, mostly due to the exceptional traffic growth during 2017.

He also echoed the organization’s support for more Open Skies, which is considered to be a key pillar of the EU Aviation Strategy

But Kerkloh warned anew of the potential impact Brexit might have on the industry, the looming shadow of airline protectionism and the

However, he also issued fresh warnings about the potential impact of Brexit, the shadow of airline protectionism and the self-centered nature of their existing bid for more airport charges regulation.

The Board of ACI Europe would be meeting with EC Task Force 50, to discuss their concerns regarding Brexit and its impact on European aviation

Officials of Europe’s airports are actually relieved that the UK and the EU have settled on an agreement during the first phase of the negotiations and are both very supportive of a transition.

However, Kerkloh remained on his toes and said:

“The risks of a ‘no deal scenario’ are real – and 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.”

He continued:

“Over the past 20 months, ACI EUROPE has repeatedly stressed the 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.”

Europe’s airport industry has long been vocal regarding its support for Open Skies agreements and its potential to boost connectivity and support trade and jobs and growth.  Possibly swaying this agenda is the recent revision of EU Regulation 868/2004 on unfair trading practices in aviation.

With regards to this subject, Kerkloh commented:

“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.”

With regards to the continuing evaluation by the European Commission of the EU

Directive on Airport Charges, ACI EUROPE stressed that the new market dynamics are redefining airport-airline relationships and resulting in increasing airport competition. 

These include low cost carriers expanding at primary airports and developing long haul offerings, and full service carriers being more accepting of low cost norms and consolidating, and airports engaging in more fiery competition to gain more air traffic.

Kerkloh remarked:

“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?”

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