GENEVA, 29 April 2022: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warns that a proposed 37% increase in airport charges in the Netherlands could risk significant damage to the recovery of air connectivity in the country.
Despite input from IATA and several airlines, the regulator for airport charges at Schiphol confirmed last week it accepted the airport’s position that due to losses incurred during the Covid-19 shutdown, it must raise airport charges by a cumulative 37% over the next three years.
Air travel has still not recovered from Covid-19, and the impacts in the Netherlands at the height of the crisis caused passenger traffic to fall by more than 70%, at the cost of around 200,000 aviation-supported jobs.
A gradual recovery is underway, but the foundations are weak, IATA noted.
IATA’s Connectivity Index shows the Netherlands is still 35% below its 2019 peak. At this crucial time, the regulator’s decision puts the country’s position as one of the most competitive European air transport hubs at risk.
The Dutch regulator’s stance is in sharp contrast with the position taken by other independent regulators in the region that try to protect the consumer, IATA noted.
In Spain, the regulator rejected the claims from the airport operator that it needed to recover its pandemic losses. The Spanish regulator calculated that the airport operator had sufficient cash reserves to cover the shortfall and would benefit from growing traffic in coming years – and it has frozen charges for the next three years.
Schiphol is in a similar situation, and the regulator should be similarly robust. Pre-pandemic, Schiphol declared EUR 742 million of dividends over the 2015-19 period, and it has several options to cover its losses. Schiphol can easily finance short-term losses without increasing costs to its customers.
“Schiphol airport and its regulator have completely failed to consider the exceptional circumstances that were created by Covid-19. The cost recovery system was never expected to operate in circumstances where demand would collapse for an extended period due to government-imposed travel restrictions. It cannot be reasonable to dump a 37% increase on airlines and passengers. Nor is it sensible to put such costs onto air transport in the Netherlands when other cost pressures, including rising environmental taxes, are already damaging the competitive position of Dutch aviation,” said IATA’s regional vice president for Europe Rafael Schvartzman.