Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has called for changes to airport charging regulations to help airport operators leverage more private investment, thereby driving growth and jobs in the industry. The statement was made following discussions at the Airport Investment Symposium held in Brussels, Belgium, and hosted by ACI.
Attending parties discussed the current and future challenges to airport investment, with industry stakeholders stressing the need to improve the industry’s regulatory framework. This was seen as a prerequisite for continued sustainable investment in Europe’s airports – in line with the new EU Aviation Strategy. The group stressed that tighter government budgets and more restrictive EU state aid rules mean Europe’s large and medium sized airports are no longer supported by public funding. Therefore, accessing private capital and enabling corporate financing – and recovering the costs from those that use their facilities – have become the only means by which airports are able to develop.
Augustin de Romanet, president of ACI Europe and president and CEO of Groupe ADP, said, “Whether we like it or not, governments in Europe are neither interested nor able to invest in large airport infrastructure these days. They expect us to do the job ourselves or by leveraging private investment. This means that Europe’s airports have become businesses in their own right. Nearly half of the airports in the EU now have private shareholders, up from just 23% back in 2010.
“This business transformation has allowed large and medium sized airports to keep investing in modernizing and developing their facilities, boosting airport capacity, quality and connectivity. All this without weighting on national budgets – and ultimately taxpayers.
“If Europe’s airports are to achieve the objectives set by the EU Aviation Strategy in terms of capacity, connectivity and quality, there is little doubt that they will need to further harness corporate and private investment to keep developing and modernizing their facilities. This is where the commission’s agenda to mobilize private investment in infrastructure is so important.
“This agenda needs to encompass the evaluation of the current Airport Charges Directive, which has just begun. The regulation of airport charges must evolve from being systematically focused on reducing airline costs – to instead ensuring that passengers benefit from sufficient levels of timely and efficient airport investment.
“This also means coming to terms with the reality and implications of airport competition – and ensuring policy alignment. We can no longer accept a situation where airport competition drives tight state aid rules, but where it is all but ignored when regulating airport charges.”