European airports association ACI Europe has warned airports face a financial crunch that will curtail efforts to decarbonise for a decade unless governments and regulators act.
ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec called for “an urgent reset” on airport charges and a review of EU rules on state aid.
He noted Europe’s airports took on “more than €20 billion in additional debt last year and this is financing today’s operations” and told an Airport Economics Symposium: “Recovery this summer will be cash-intensive and revenue-weak.”
Jankovec pointed out social distancing would limit airport capacity this summer while costs would escalate from the concentration of traffic at peak times.
Analysis for ACI Europe by consultancy firm AlixPartners suggests airport revenues will be insufficient to meet capital spending requirements for 10 years to 2032, leaving airports no choice but “to slash” investment plans
Jankovec warned: “Governments and regulators need to wake up to the financial weakness across the airport industry.
“Health measures and physical distancing will reduce capacity. Slot waivers continue to limit planning efficiencies.
“We foresee lasting financial weakness and a financial crunch. It’s going to be difficult to increase capacity and connectivity.
“The investment crunch will limit decarbonisation and digitalisation, [leaving] efforts to cut emissions compromised.”
He pointed out airlines had received “significant financial support” during the Covid crisis, but said: “This did not trickle down to airports.”
ACI Europe called for reform to allow to regulated airports to recoup losses by raising charges to airlines.
Jankovec insisted: “We can’t continue to be regulated as if nothing happened. The crisis is a turning point. All airport and airline models have to be reconsidered. It requires a policy and regulatory reset.
“Covid-19 has shown the limits of the price cap model which treats the airport business as risk free. As airlines have been protected, we need airports to be protected. Airlines have more countervailing power and their interests are not always aligned with passengers’ interests.”