Lobby group Airlines for Europe (A4E) has hit out at an EU airport charges directive as being “inadequate and ineffective” in keeping fees down.

It claims the 2009 directive falls short of its objective of setting minimum requirements on consultation and transparency.

The concerns were raised at an briefing hosted by Dutch MEP Wim van de Camp a month after the UK government gave the go ahead for a third runway at Heathrow.  

A4E managing director Thomas Reynaert said: “In its current state, the directive is inadequate and ineffective in protecting airport users and consumers from airports’ abuses of their market power, notably in the process for setting airport charges.

“Airport charges account for up to 20% of airlines’ total cost. In order to protect the interests of passengers and for consumers to enjoy value for money, it is vital that charges are justified and linked to efficient costs.”

A4E believes that unnecessary investments, operational and cost inefficiencies and high – often pre-determined – returns have all resulted in increasing airport charges, even in cases of increased traffic volumes without additional investment.

It believes that economic regulation is “indispensable” when dealing with airports that enjoy significant market power.

However, the directive fails to guarantee effective transparency over costs and revenues.

Reynaert added: “Today’s discussion has shown that airlines, airports and regulators should work together to the benefit of European travellers.

“Net fares to, from and within Europe have reduced by as much as 20% over the last decade. Now it’s time that our partners contribute to this positive development by ensuring that passengers receive the full benefit of the commercial revenues which they generate at airports.”

UK Civil Aviation Authority head of competition and markets William Webster said: “Constructive engagement between airports and airlines has been a central part of the UK regime for a number of years.

“Airports may either do this through a regulated process or as part of their commercial negotiations with airlines where they are not economically regulated.

“The A4E event has given us an excellent up-to-date perspective on the way different stakeholders perceive this process, which is particularly timely in view of the major challenges we face in increasing capacity in the coming years.”

Van de Camp said: “I fully support the constructive engagement between airports and airlines that is proposed by A4E and the balanced approach to create more effective transparency over costs and revenues with regard to airports.

“In order to do this, we will now have to use the evaluation of the Commission to get the real facts on the table. In this context, we must take into account the present functioning of the market.”