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European Low Fares Airline Association

ELFAA calls on Commission not to compromise regional airports through proposed airport guidelines

The European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) called on the European Commission to clarify in their proposed airport guidelines…

The European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) called on the European Commission to clarify in their proposed airport guidelines that these guidelines only apply in the relatively rare circumstances where a regional airport is unable to develop traffic through normal commercial means compatible with the Market Economy Investor Principle (MEIP). The MEIP is the central tenant of state aid law which recognises that publicly owned airports must be allowed to offer the same commercial terms as their private counterparts. The draft guidelines published by the Commission are both confusing and contradictory. Although the Commission mentions the concept of the MEIP, it then wrongly assumes throughout the document that any incentives granted by public airports are state aid and must therefore comply with the state aid guidelines.



Commenting today on ELFAA`s views submitted to the Commission, Jan Skeels, Secretary General of ELFAA, said: The reality is that European regional airports have been very successful at developing their traffic in partnership with low fares airlines, who are willing to deliver large passenger volumes – the life blood of any airport – in return for low costs and basic facilities. The low cost airport model has been so successful that a growing number of these airports are being privatised – clear proof that the incentives being offered by them make economic sense.



Even in cases where remote regional airports are unable to develop by using the commercially based incentives, the proposed guidelines should only apply to the amount granted in excess of what the MEIP allows. The conditions imposed on such regional airports must be flexible enough to allow the airports to develop. However, the current conditions imposed in the draft guidelines are unworkable and counterproductive and are not based on any economic analysis provided by the Commission. Regional airports are key drivers of job creation and regional development and Member States should have adequate flexibility in how they support these airports, provided that they meet the requirements of transparency, non-discrimination, etc. These proposed guidelines risk placing publicly owned airports at a serious competitive disadvantage and undermining the very positive development taking place at these airports.



We are calling on the Commission today to take heed of what the airlines, airports and regions have been telling them for several months, i.e., any guidelines must clarify that they only apply in the limited circumstances where an airport is unable to develop by using the commercial incentives granted at equivalent private airports and the State must therefore intervene in order to support the development of the airport. In such cases, ELFAA would support conditions that provide for transparency and non-discrimination to ensure that competition is not distorted. However, guidelines must not be used to impose a regulatory straight-jacket on public airports. Publicly owned airports must be permitted to compete on a level playing field with their private counterparts. Otherwise, the huge benefits brought by low fares airlines operating at underserved regional airports throughout Europe will be undermined and both consumers and regional development will suffer.

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