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ACI Europe head flashes the red card to regulators

Olivier Jankovec produces a red card for regulators (photo: Mark Pilling).

The normally mild-mannered Olivier Jankovec got angry at ACI Europe’s Annual Congress and General Assembly in Istanbul on 3 July, brandishing the red card to two regulators that his association feels have committed a dirty foul on the aviation industry.

He pulled out the red card on the Irish Aviation Authority and the French regulatory system in a strong language deviation for this politically astute body, more use to working effectively behind the scenes to make its point.

The timing of ACI Europe’s robust message is because airport leaders believe they face serious revenue imbalances and an investment squeeze.

Jankovec told delegates: “That reality has yet to sink in with the way airports are regulated in some countries, where the interests of airlines, rather than those of the travelling public, communities and the planet, remain the guiding light,”

Reviewing recent decisions on airport charges, he flashed the red card to:
The Irish Aviation Authority for its decision on airport charges at Dublin Airport – which is based on the interest of just one dominant airline [un-named by Jankovec, but wild guess, Ryanair], rather than consumer interest.

The French regulatory system, which is based on a systematic downward pressure on charges irrespective of actual costs for airports.

Although the IAA and France were singled out for the red card treatment, Jankovec went on with a general plea on charges.

He said that airports posted a “much needed” €8 billion net profit in 2023, but of the risk of an investment squeeze on airports who paused spending during the pandemic.

“They now need to catch up to boost operational resilience, drive decarbonization forward, keep digitalising and increase capacity where required.

“And with inflation having pushed airports’ operating costs to record levels and the debt accumulated since COVID still standing at €130 billion, there is simply no way around relying (any) more on the ‘user pays’ principle.”

The answer is not one airlines will want to hear.

“This means airport charges cannot be frozen let alone decrease – but that they need to increase to sustain the estimated €360 billion in Europe’s airports investment needs by 2040,” stated Jankovec.

This is an inevitable plea from airports as the industry recovers in traffic number terms from the pandemic years. Costs are up, and will go up more, and airport bosses believe they need to assert themselves on charges.

Expect an airline backlash.