Dubai: The head of IATA (International Air Transport Association) said that some airports and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) were “abusing their position” by charging airlines more for using their services. Airlines usually pay airports rent for counter and gate space, training facilities, storage facilities, hangars, offices and maintenance facilities.
They additionally pay for landing and parking fees, and to hold a lease on ticket counter and gate space to occupy an exclusive area. With the pandemic leading to a grounding of commercial fleets, airports lost their main source of revenue.
During the IATA annual general meeting – one of the aviation sector’s biggest stages – Willie Walsh said airports and ANSPs were looking to shore up their finances by recovering lost revenue from their airline customers. “Some of our so-called partners want to increase charges to recover the money that airlines could not spend with them during the crisis,” said Walsh.
Walsh, referring to London Heathrow’s move to increase charges over 90 per cent in 2022, said: “Are you kidding me? Do they honestly expect us to believe that a 90 per cent increase in charges is going to help the airline industry? 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 supplier could dream up. Reducing costs, not increasing charges must be the top of everybody’s agenda.”
Airports fire back
The head of ACI (Airports Council International) called Walsh’s comments “disappointing” and said that airports had not received the same level of support that airlines did during the pandemic. “After a period that saw unprecedented collaboration and unity of airports and airlines in surviving this crisis and rebuilding passenger confidence, it is disappointing to hear this tone of statements coming from IATA,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, ACI World Director-General, in a statement.
“Claims made about the airport industry are out of context and don’t reflect the efforts made by airports to support the aviation ecosystem during the pandemic,” he added.
Oliveira argued that airports are ‘infrastructure-intensive’ and therefore require higher revenue to keep facilities running. “Airports have also experienced enormous financial stress and had to make drastic cuts to keep afloat and in many jurisdictions, airports did not receive the same level of support compared to air carriers,” said Oliveira. “Fundamentally, airports will always remain infrastructure-intensive businesses—this translates into a high ratio of fixed costs.”