The European arm of the international association of airports Airports Council International (ACI) has intensified its struggle to obtain what it describes as “non-discriminatory relief” for its members, while asking for the duty-free shopping arrival in the Union European.

On Thursday, ACI Europe, which represents over 500 gateways, illustrated his case at an online aviation summit coordinated by Berlin by the German presidency of the European Union. Airports are facing a precarious financial future, having lost nearly 900 million passengers this year. Traffic was almost nonexistent in April and May, down 98%.

Jost Lammers, president of ACI Europe, whose members handle over 90% of commercial air traffic on the continent, said: “Financial aid to airlines does not address and solve the financial problems of airports or the ongoing business continuity risks during recovery. Unilateral financial aid to airlines creates huge imbalances in the single aviation market and threatens its integrity. “

This liberalized market for air transport services offers airlines the freedom to operate national bases and routes outside their home countries in other EU and participating countries. But Lammers believes that unevenly distributed assistance will end up damaging air connectivity and consumer interests.

No drop

So far, over € 30 billion in financial aid has been paid out to airlines, but ACI Europe says it is not flowing to airports and other suppliers, including dealers’ dealers. “The economic and financial situation of the airports is disastrous and the recovery is proceeding at a much slower pace than we had hoped for,” said Lammers.

Elimination of certain travel restrictions in addition to Covid-19 health protocols – including extended guidelines by the Duty Free World Council – allowed the restart of the airports and their retail facilities. However, passenger traffic has yet to show any major rebound: it declined 93% in June and discounted 80% this month.

The idea of ​​large-scale duty-free sales in the EU is not new, but in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis it could give airports a strong increase in revenue and offer job opportunities. Earlier this month, the European Travel Retail Confederation said it would campaign for its introduction.

ETC President Nigel Keal commented: “A level playing field with the rest of the world will be crucial for a sustainable recovery. We will therefore seek changes to EU legislation to allow duty-free shops to arrive at airports. “ACI Europe’s support will ensure more powerful lobby power in Brussels.

Pressure for discounts

In the here and now, most airports generally do not benefit from specific financial facilities, so their liquidity is high. Loans for investment financing are diverted to continue operations.

In a statement today, ACI Europe said: “Airlines are exerting constant pressure on airports to further reaffirm or renounce their accusations – with cases of airlines receiving massive bailouts that currently do not even pay airports for use. their structures. “

On Tuesday, the 27 EU member states were eliminated a Recovery package of 750 billion euros called NextGenerationEU, consisting of € 390 billion in grants and € 360 billion in loans. Speaking today in the European Parliament, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “Where we started from, this is a huge achievement. And that’s big enough to make a huge difference. ”

With the transport destined as a single beneficiary, ACI Europe is looking for possible recovery handouts in the EU and has outlined the rescue measures it wishes. These include:

  • Financial compensation to the airports for the costs related to staying open during the blocks and for the additional costs of the sanitary measures. The European Commission has confirmed that such compensation would not qualify as state aid because it falls under public competence.
  • Extension of temporary unemployment schemes for airport staff to limit layoffs.
  • Slot waiver extensions the next winter season must allow airports to plan their resources to ensure that unused slots can be reallocated quickly to restore air connectivity as quickly as possible.
  • Get airlines to pay for airports for the use of their facilities if they receive government bailouts.
  • Allow duty free sales on arrival at EU airports to support the restoration of revenue generation capabilities.

The aviation summit attracted around 250 participants, including EU transport ministers. All member states were represented. On the question of how badly injured airports are, the host, Andreas Scheuer, German Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, said: “A lot, a lot is at stake. All stakeholders are part of a large aeronautical ecosystem. If a part breaks, things will become difficult. That’s why airports have pushed us to consider financial support, not only international hubs but also regional airports. ”

Although the request from the airports was recognized, Scheuer did not offer concrete guarantees of support.

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