ACI Europe supports ETRC’s call for arrivals duty free sales at EU airports

By Andrew Pentol |

Jost-Lammers-ACIPresident

Jost Lammers, President, ACI Europe.

ACI Europe is supporting calls for arrival duty free sales at EU Airports, which would help generate much needed revenue during the recovery from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

As reported earlier this month the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) revealed it is lobbying for the opening of arrivals duty free shops at European Airports.

The ETRC said arrivals duty free shops would be fundamental for a sustainable recovery from Covid-19.

In the meantime, ACI Europe has called for various other relief measures to be enacted and stressed that the EU recovery plan should be used for a number of elements.

These include financial compensation to airports for the costs involved in remaining open during lockdowns and for the additional costs of sanitary measures. The European Commission, however, has confirmed that such compensation would not qualify as state aid, as it falls within the public remit.

TEMPORARY UNEMPLOYMENT SUPPORT SCHEMES

The recovery plan should also be used for the extension of temporary unemployment support schemes for airport staff — to limit layoffs and retain specialist expertise.

ETRC hero

The European Travel Retail Confederation recently revealed it has received support from ACI in lobbying for arrivals sales in EU airports.

ACI also suggests that an extension of the current slot waiver to the next winter season should be done under ‘strict and enforceable conditions’ which allow airports to efficiently plan their resource levels. This is crucial to ensuring unused slots are reallocated to other airlines during the recovery, thus allowing quicker restoration of air connectivity, according to ACI Europe.

In addition, airlines receiving government bailouts should pay airports to use their facilities, the association indicated.

ACI Europe outlined the dire financial situation of Europe’s airports, at yesterday’s (23 July) Aviation Summit organised by the German Presidency of the EU. It also called on EU Transport Ministers and the European Commission to ensure balanced and non-discriminatory relief for the entire air transport ecosystem.

Europe’s airports have lost almost 900 million passengers so far this year. Passenger traffic almost entirely disappeared (-98%) during April and May. While airports lost all revenues during that period, they still incurred significant costs to accommodate emergency flights and ensure essential supplies via cargo flights.

Covid-19 Health Safety Protocol

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency/European Center for Disease Prevention and Control were mandated by the European Commission to jointly issue more detailed technical operational guidance for the aviation sector.

Since then, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency/European Center for Disease Prevention and Control Aviation Health Safety Protocol and the lifting of some travel restrictions has allowed airports to restart. Their recovery, however, is proceeding at a slow and disappointing pace. Passenger traffic was down by -93% in June and remains at -80% this month.

As Europe’s airports have generally not benefitted from specific financial relief, this situation means they are continually burning cash reserves. Some are having to use loans, initially aimed at financing investments to maintain operations.

SLOW RECOVERY

Jost Lammers, President, ACI Europe warned: “The economic and financial situation of airports is disastrous and the recovery is proceeding at a much slower pace than we had hoped. Financial aid to airlines does not address and solve airports’ own financial issues and ongoing business continuity risk in the recovery.

“Such one-sided financial aid to airlines creates massive imbalances in the single aviation market and threatens its integrity. It will end up damaging air connectivity and consumer interest.”

While over €30 billion/$34.8 billion of financial aid has been extended to airlines, such aid is not flowing to airports and other suppliers. Airlines are putting relentless pressure on airports to further rebate or waive their charges. Some airlines receiving massive bailouts are not even paying airports for using their facilities, hence ACI’s call for this to change.

ACI Europe has also called on EU states to better coordinate and align travel restrictions and on the EU to take the lead in setting an international standard for passenger testing. Lammers commented: “We are grateful for the efforts of the European Commission to align EU States on travel restrictions.

“But EU states need to be consistent and follow through on what they have agreed to. We can not go on having states applying different requirements for the same destinations. This is not helping consumer confidence in travel and tourism and this is hurting the recovery.”

In separate news, ACI World has today (24 April) launched the voluntary Airport Health Accreditation Programme to help airports that have implemented new health and safety measures according to global standards.

The programme assesses health measures in line with International Civil Council Aviation Organisation Recovery Task Force (CART) recommendations and allows airport members to demonstrate to passengers staff, regulators, and governments that they are taking measured steps to prioritising health and safety.

Retail, food and beverage areas are among a number of passenger areas and services covered by the accreditation, with the programme open to all ACI airport members irrespective of size.

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