EU airports: MEPs reject further liberalisation of ground-handling services

8-11-2012 — / — The Commission’s proposal to boost competition to supply ground-handling services at major EU airports was rejected by the Transport and Tourism Committee on Tuesday. MEPs also agreed on new rules to ensure more efficient use of takeoff and landing slots, and on noise-mitigation measures to protect the public living near airports whilst ensuring smooth flight operations.

The Commission proposal to further open the ground-handling service market, by increasing the minimum number of independent handlers from two to three at EU airports with more than five million passengers a year, was rejected by small majority (22 votes against, 20 in favour, two abstentions).

Many MEPs feared that the proposal would lead to a deterioration of working conditions and safety and deplored the lack of evidence that the regulation would increase the overall efficiency of ground-handling operations. The Transport Committee’s recommendation that Parliament should reject the proposal will now be tabled for a plenary vote, together with the two other resolutions adopted today.

Fair and transparent allocation of airport slots

The proposed revision of common rules for slot allocation, so as to ensure optimum use of takeoff and landing slots and thus decongest Europe’s main airports, was approved with 39 votes in favour and 5 against. MEPs inserted provisions to strengthen the independent airport coordinator’s role in ensuring fair competition and to prevent secondary slot trading having adverse effects on regional airports and airlines.

The Commission proposal to tighten up the airlines’ obligation to use (or lose) 85% of a given slot (from the current 80%) was rejected. MEPs backed the idea of financial sanctions – rather than general fees – as an incentive for airlines to return unneeded slots to the pool as quickly as possible, to enable others to use them.

Noise reduction measures remain a local matter

Noise-related operating restrictions must obey the subsidiarity principle, said MEPs in their vote on the “Introduction of noise-related operation restrictions at EU airports” proposal, approved with 33 votes in favour, 10 against and 1 abstention.

The Commission must be notified of such restrictions, said MEPs, but should not be entitled to overrule local authority decisions to impose them, provided they take the “balanced approach” laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), to protect the interests of all stakeholders and local residents. The impact of noise on citizens’ health and the cost-effectiveness of new operating restrictions must be duly assessed, they added.

The new regulation will also provide for the phasing out of the noisiest aircraft.

Next steps

The first reading vote on the threefold airport package is scheduled for December (to be confirmed).

In the chair: Brian Simpson (S&D, UK)



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