The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) was one of only two African airport and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to be explicitly named by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) as among those seeking to impose “outrageous” increases in the charges they levy on airlines. The other African entity named in this connection was the Ethiopian ANSP.
Iata is the representative body of the global airline industry. It pointed out that ACSA was seeking to increase its charges by 38% next year, while the Ethiopian ANSP was increasing its charges by 35% this year. Other agencies around the world explicitly named by Iata for seeking to squeeze airlines post-pandemic were ANSP NavCanada (raising its charges by 30% over five years), Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands (desiring a 40% increase over the next three years) and London Heathrow Airport in the UK (seeking a 90% jump in its charges next year). Worldwide, aviation services and airport charges had already been increased by a total of $2.3-billion.
“A $2.3-billion charges increase during this crisis is outrageous,” asserted Iata director-general Willie Walsh. “We all want to put Covid-19 behind us. But placing the financial burden of a crisis of apocalyptic proportions on the backs of your customers, just because you can, is a commercial strategy that only a monopoly could dream up. At an absolute minimum, cost reduction – not charges increases – must be top of the agenda for every airport and ANSP. It is for their customer airlines.”
Regarding regions, Iata cited Europe as an example. Collectively, 29 of the member state ANSPs of Eurocontrol (which is not an agency of the European Union) were looking to impose extra fees on airlines totalling almost $9.3-billion. This was to cover the loss in revenues they experienced in 2020 and 2021, when airlines could not fly because of the pandemic. On top of this, they were planning a 40% increase in charges, during next year alone.
“Today I am ringing the alarm,” he announced. “This must stop if the industry is to have a fair opportunity at recovery. Infrastructure shareholders, governmental or private, have benefitted from stable returns pre-crisis. They must now play their part in the recovery. It is unacceptable behaviour to benefit from your customers during good times and stick it to them in bad times. Doing so has broad implications. Air transport is critical to support economic recovery post pandemic. We should not compromise the recovery with the irresponsibility and greed of some of our partners who have not addressed costs or tapped their shareholders for support.”
Other countries were taking a very different line on this issue, Iata noted. In India and Spain, regulators had intervened to veto increases in charges proposed by airports in their countries. And the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission had warned airports in that country that increasing their charges to make up for profits lost during the pandemic would be proof that they were abusing their market power, to the detriment of both airlines and consumers. Iata called on airports companies and ANSPs to emulate airlines and cut their costs (airlines have cut operating costs by 35% since the pandemic hit), seek support from their shareholders, access capital markets, and request aid from their governments.