Airports need financial relief, evidence-based policies: ACI

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Airports Council International (ACI) World is calling for urgent government assistance and relief for airports to underpin operational restart and sustain the long-term industry recovery.

ACI estimates the global shutdown of the global airline industry from the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a drop of more than 4.6 billion passengers. This translates to a decline in total airport revenues on a global scale of more than USD 97 billion for 2020.

The global airport association notes that despite this, airports “remain important engines of economic growth, wealth creation and employment”. They employ – either directly or indirectly – more than 6.1 million globally which makes up 60 per cent of all employment in the aviation sector and provide direct societal and economic benefits to the local, regional, and national communities they serve.

As the commercial aviation sector in some regions, begins to cautiously reopen, ACI underscores that this recovery needs to be underpinned by financial assistance and relief to safeguard essential operations and protect millions of jobs.

ACI is urging the adoption of the following policy responses to help the industry as it recovers.

  • Protection of aeronautical revenues
    ACI notes operators need to protect revenues such as airport charges. Aeronautical revenues remain the sole source of funding for airports to continue to ensure the basic services required by airport passengers and users. To avoid impacts on the airport cost base, expenses related to new health-related measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic should be covered by governments, it adds.
  • Tax relief and concession fee waiver
    Urgent tax relief will provide much-needed financial oxygen to airports to ensure continuity of operations and safeguard airport jobs, ACI says. Additionally, airport rents and concession fees should be waived or postponed in the form of a one-time measure for a defined period.
  • Evidence-based, data-driven approach to slots
    Regulators worldwide should consider the needs of travelers and of the overall aviation ecosystem before deciding to extend airport slots waivers into the winter 2020-2021 season. Noting that several airlines have already announced fleet reductions, ACI is concerned that waivers could be used as a mechanism to isolate slots from market realities during the recovery period. In situations where waivers would be extended, strict conditions should be attached to incentivise airlines to return slots they will not use both to protect passengers and enable airports to plan operations safely and cost-effectively, the ACI says.
  • Continued support for air cargo operations
    Airports should continue levying charges on air cargo operations to maintain essential airside and cargo facilities as passenger operations continue to be slow.
  • Comprehensive financial relief
    This should include wage subsidy schemes to help restart operations and underpin recovery. Grants and subsidies, secured financing, loans at preferential rates, and bank guarantees should be made available. Financial relief should benefit all actors in the aviation ecosystem.

“Airports need urgent relief and assistance to help them as they begin to restart operations, weather the far-reaching economic ramifications of the crisis, and help lay the foundation of a balanced recovery,” ACI World director general Angela Gittens says.

“With the massive revenue shortfall, airports continue to face high fixed costs and rising costs related to health measures at airports coupled with creeping increases in the cost of capital are new challenges brought on by the pandemic. ACI World believes these costs need to be considered by governments and the impact they have on the airport cost base.

“Airports are keen to support traffic growth but the allocation of airport capacity also requires a balanced approach for all aviation stakeholders. Waivers on slots, or a suspension on the use-it-or lose rule, could potentially limit choice for travellers and weaken competition among airlines as part of industry recovery efforts.

“ACI World urges regulators to follow a data-driven and evidence-based approach to assess whether further blanket slot waivers are the appropriate measure in re-establishing local, regional and global connectivity.”

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