EC missed opportunity on state aid rules to Europe’s airports and airlines

- Brussels, Belgium

The European Commission’s (EC’s) proposed rules on state aid to Europe’s airports and airlines, published today, are detrimental to ERA and its members.

While the EC has a declared objective to protect regional development and accessibility in Europe’s more remote regions, this is at odds with its intention stated in the new guidelines to phase out some elements of aid for airports over a 10-year period. “Regional operators and airports are crucial to the economic prosperity of Europe’s regions. In some cases aid plays a vital role in supporting regional communities and air services. It is essential that this is done fairly and transparently to avoid distortions of competition but simply banning aid does not address the problem. What is needed is more transparency on where aid is granted so that distortions of competition are avoided. The launch of some new routes could be impacted by today’s announcement, as will the future viability of some existing routes to, from and between the regions of Europe.

McNamara continues: “The European Commission has historically failed to enforce fair and consistent rules for the allocation of state aid to Europe’s airports and airlines. The revised guidelines published today are a missed opportunity to address this failure and to provide more clarification and transparency.”

“In addition, the proposed guidelines do not establish an efficient complaint-handling procedure that would allow operators or airports to challenge guideline breaches.”

ERA’s Director General also highlights the fact that the guidelines do not address intermodal competition in the EU. “The guidelines do not consider the disproportionate difference in treatment of rail and air when it comes to state aid. The rail sector in Europe has always been hugely subsidised and yet this seems to be accepted as the norm - where is the level playing field when it comes to air and rail competing?” 

“ERA has consistently defended its members’ position to support growth in the regions and will continue to lobby the EC on their behalf for a fair and transparent system,” concludes McNamara.

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