Covid-19 impact: Regulators may review airport passenger fees

Commission for Aviation Regulation confirms crisis likely to make it rethink ruling

The Commission for Aviation Regulation said it intended ‘to work with all stakeholders to review the 2019 determination in light of Covid-19’. File photograph: Colin Keegan

The Commission for Aviation Regulation said it intended ‘to work with all stakeholders to review the 2019 determination in light of Covid-19’. File photograph: Colin Keegan

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Covid-19’s devastating impact on air travel could prompt regulators to review a ruling that Dublin Airport cut passenger charges from this year.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation confirmed that the crisis was likely to make it look again at the ruling, as it announced yesterday that it would cut the charges slightly in 2022 and 2023 following appeals against its original decision.

The commission, which sets Dublin Airport’s charges, ruled in October that its owner, Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), should cut the levy that it charges airlines to an average of €7.87 a passenger over a period from this year to 2024.

Airlines will pay €7.50 a head this year and next. The commission said it would cut the proposed €7.88 price cap for 2022, to €7.75, and the proposed 2023 charge to €8.05 from €8.12. The ruling sets to 2024 maximum at €8.32.

However, its commissioner Cathy Mannion acknowledged that travel bans meant to combat the coronavirus pandemic had slashed passenger numbers at Dublin Airport by 99 per cent over the last three months.

She said this meant that many of the assumptions used to set passenger charges were no longer valid.

“We will revisit these assumptions in the coming months and years,” she said. “We intend to work with all stakeholders to review the 2019 determination in light of Covid-19.”

The commission intends to begin consulting on the “appropriate price-regulation response” to the pandemic with a paper it will issue to the airport, airlines and other interested parties this month.

DAA had wanted to be allowed keep the charges at €9.65 a head, the maximum it was allowed charge in 2018, over the next five years to aid it in funding a proposed €2 billion expansion.

Issues referred to regulator

It appealed the ruling on several grounds to a three-person panel appointed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross. Ryanair also challenged the ruling, the airline wanted the charges reduced further.

The panel, comprising chairman Eoin McCullough SC and experts Hannah Nixon and Andrew Charlton, rejected most of the points on which the airport and airline appealed the ruling. But it referred two issues to the regulator.

The commission decided to cut the proposed 2022 and 2023 charges on that basis. However, the panel did not take Covid-19’s impact on the airport into account and instead limited itself to considering the points raised in the appeals.

DAA has shelved most spending plans, barring construction of a new runway, which began last year, and installing new baggage screening systems, required by EU air travel safety rules.

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