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Brussels, 28 October 2010

Air transport: Commission asks Hungary to ensure fair access to ground handling at Budapest airport

The European Commission has requested Hungary to ensure fair access for providers of ground handling at Budapest Airport. The Commission considers that Hungary is failing to fulfill its obligations under Directive 96/67/EC, whereby any service provider should be able to compete to provide ground handling services – baggage handling, catering services, fuel and oil handling, and passenger transport. Hungary is required to comply with the request which takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures, within two months, failing which the case may be referred to the EU's Court of Justice.

The EU rules

Directive 96/67/EC requires Member States to ensure that the market in ground handling services is open, so that any service provider can supply such services at any European airport handling more than two million passengers or 50,000 tons of freight a year. The market for ground handling services includes all the activities carried out at the airport to enable airlines to carry out air transport activities. In addition to the services mentioned above, they also include ticketing and baggage handling at the check-in desks. The purpose is to ensure that airlines can benefit from the most competitive ground handling services, with knock-on benefits for passengers. Member States can however decide to limit the number of providers – to a minimum of two – in four categories of services: baggage, ramp, freight and post, as well as fuel and oil handling.

The reason for this formal request

In Hungary, only Budapest airport deals with more than two million passengers or 50,000 tons of freight a year.

The Commission considers that Hungary fails to meet its obligations under European Union law by:

  • failing to organise the appropriate selection procedures after the decision to limit the number of providers at Budapest airport

  • infringing the rules relating to the issue and withdrawal of the approvals that the providers must hold, and

  • unduly and unfairly restricting market access at Budapest Airport.

The Hungarian authorities must now adopt within two months all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the requirements of Directive 96/67/EC.

The practical effect of non-implementation

The end result of the incorrect transposition of the EU rules is that fair competition is not ensured, resulting in airlines and passengers possibly having to pay more than they should.

For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/10/530.

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