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Brussels, 27 July 2000

Commission acts against discriminatory landing fees at Spanish and Italian airports

The European Commission has ruled against a system of landing fees applied at Spanish airports which discriminates in favour of national airlines. The Commission has also sent a letter of formal notice to the Italian authorities informing them of its concerns about a similar system of landing fees which favours Italian airlines.

In its decision on the Spanish landing fees, the Commission finds that a system of discounts and different landing fees according to the origin of the flight, as prescribed in a royal decree by the Spanish government, discriminates in favour of national airlines. For all categories of planes, the royal decree provides for higher fees for intra-Community flights than for domestic ones. In addition, it provides for discounts which increase with the number of landings per month. The discounts increase from 9% up to 35%. De facto, this system favours national carriers, in particular Iberia, Binter Canarias and Spanair which receive average discounts of 20-25%. There does not exist an objective justification for such discriminatory treatment. The Spanish government has been given two months to report to the Commission on how it will abolish the criticised pricing scheme or face court action.

The letter of formal notice sent to the Italian authorities is a first step in the Commission's procedure, which could also result in a formal decision. As in the Spanish case, the Commission found that the Italian system discriminates against foreign carriers and in favour of Italian airlines, in particular Alitalia. Landing fees in Italy are fixed by the law. Under a decree of 27 October 1998 domestic flights benefit from rebates of between 57% and 64% of the standard landing fees which apply to international flights, depending on the type of airplane.

The Commission has been examining the landing fees at all European airports since 28 June 1995 when it ruled that the system of discounts operated at the main Brussels airport infringed EU law. Subsequently most Member States fell in line with the Commission's viewpoint and changed their system of landing fees. Most recently, the French, Irish and Swedish airport authorities agreed to carry out the necessary changes. Nevertheless, two further decisions were taken against the Portuguese and Finish airport authorities on 10 February 1999. While the Portuguese authorities are challenging the Commission's decision in the European Court of Justice, the Finish authorities have undertaken to respect the Commission's decision and change their system of landing fees by January 2001.

By asking the Spanish and the Italian governments to abolish their respective systems, the Commission has taken the final steps in eliminating discriminatory landing fees throughout the European Economic Area.

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