Two New European Directives on Airport Charges: Airport Charges between Competition Law and Sector-Specific Regulation

By Jochen Meulman

In the past year, the European Communities’ legislative adopted a Directive regulating airport charges; meanwhile, a proposal for a Directive on airport security charges was submitted for approval by European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Although in many economic sectors in which third-party access to infrastructure is essential, access charges have been regulated at the EU level, airport tariffs had so far escaped direct and general European legal scrutiny. Indirectly, and on a case-by-case basis however, airport charges have been the subject of the EU’s attention, mainly in cases in which such charges were suspect from the view of European competition law. Now, finally, a common legal framework for setting airport charges has been devised, which will – at the very least – render such charges and the procedures leading up to their determination more transparent. Whether lower tariffs for the use of airport-related services will ensue from this new regulation, will be discussed in this contribution. After a brief description of the background to airport tariffs and their regulation under EU competition law hitherto, this contribution will identify denominators common to both mentioned directives. Next, both directives and their impact on airport charges will be discussed, with a focus on their overlap with EU competition law. Finally, two questions will be answered; (1) to what extent do EU competition law and the new Directives overlap? (2), will the new legislation lead to lower charges for airport users?

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