Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has pushed back against IATA’s assertion that airport charges in Europe are rising at a faster pace than inflation while airlines’ fares “are undercutting inflation.”
In dueling Nov. 14 statements, ACI Europe and IATA offered a different portrait of the European commercial aviation market’s post-pandemic status, with the airports body pointing out that route connectivity recovery is “lagging” the return of passenger numbers.
“Latest traffic figures show that European carriers sit just 3.6% down on the 2019 peak,” IATA says in a statement. “Europeans are traveling despite the inflationary environment. In June, average air fares in Europe were around 16% higher than pre-pandemic. However, that is lagging the average consumer prices index for the [European Union], which in June stood at 20% over pre-pandemic.”
IATA Director General Willie Walsh says Europe’s airports and air navigation service providers are “continually increasing charges,” pointing to a planned 56% increase in London Heathrow Airport’s charges and a planned 37% increase in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport’s charges.
IATA is calling for “stronger regulation of monopoly infrastructure providers to bring charges down.”
ACI Europe says “IATA’s assertion that airport charges have been continuously increasing above inflation … does not stand scrutiny as it relies on flawed data from just two airports. In fact, airport charges in Europe this year have increased by 13.6%, far below inflationary pressures hitting airports, let alone air fares.”
According to ACI Europe, European airlines’ peak summer fares were 38% higher than 2019, well above the overall 16% increase in fares noted by IATA.
“Confronted with inaccurate and misleading data, it is crucial to set the record straight about how air fares and airport charges have actually evolved,” ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec says, noting that “many airports have yet to fully reflect inflationary pressures in their user charges, with regulators often oblivious of these pressures and of how debt accumulated through COVID is hurting [airports’] investment capabilities.”
ACI Europe also says that the recovery of passenger traffic volumes, which is nearing 2019 levels at European airports, obscures the fact that “as of June, air connectivity from European airports remained 17% below pre-pandemic levels.”
Jankovec says the European airline market “has structurally changed through the pandemic and the recovery, and it is crucial that policy-makers and regulators now see through these changes and what lies ahead. In particular, the acceleration of airline consolidation coupled with airports reaching capacity limits will challenge our single European aviation market and air connectivity developments.”