Airport Charging Policies

Airport related charges levied on general aviation, landing and parking fees, permit operating authorities to provide safe and practical services to users. However, these fees may at time seem to be excessive, or used to exclude or discriminate rather than reimburse the airport for services rendered.

The important point to make to operating authorities is that fees should be set to cover anticipated expenses for the services provided in conjunction with the act of either parking or landing; these fees should not act a concealed access or peak hour funding. Importantly, a light aircraft imposes little maintenance burden on an airport from the standpoint of wear and tear on the runways and ramps. Further, the facilities and services required by light aircraft are slight when compared to those for airline aircraft.

Each State that has signed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Convention (currently 189 States) pledges to abide by the standards and recommended practices published by that organization, to the maximum extent practicable. One of those publications, ICAO'S Policies on Charges for Airports and Air Navigation Services, Doc 9082/7, 2004, contains recommendations and conclusions of the ICAO Council resulting from the organization's Conference on the Economics of Airports and Air Navigation and ongoing deliberations on the subject.

While each State is not required to abide by these recommendations they represent the collected practices of a majority of the States and are used as authoritative guidance by airport operators worldwide. Selected quotations from this document follow and may prove useful in dealing with airport authorities (italics applied for emphasis).

A key provision of the document for general aviation interests that IAOPA has strived to retain in its several revisions is:

Airport charges levied on international general aviation should be assessed in a reasonable manner, having regard to the cost of the facilities needed and used and the goal of promoting the sound development of international civil aviation as a whole.

"Other factors affecting the economic situation of airports and air navigation services

The Council observes that under these circumstances many airports and providers of air navigation services may find it necessary to increase their charges and in the case of airports place greater emphasis on further developing revenues from non-aeronautical sources. However, recognizing that users face restrictions with regard to their choice of particular airports and of routes to be flown, the Council recommends that caution be exercised when attempting to compensate for shortfalls in revenue and that account be taken of the effects of increased charges on air carriers which may need to adjust their tariffs to deal with increases in cost arising from higher charges. The Council also considers that there should be a balance between the respective interests of airports and providers of air navigation services on one hand and of air carriers on the other, in view of the importance of the air transport system to States and its influence in fostering economic, cultural and social interchanges between States. This applies particularly during periods of economic difficulty. The Council therefore recommends that States encourage increased cooperation between airports and providers of air navigation services and air carriers to ensure that economic difficulties facing them all are shared in a reasonable manner.

"Airport Charging Systems (excerpts)

  • Charges should not be imposed in such a way as to discourage the use of facilities and services necessary for safety.
  • Airport charges levied on international general aviation should be assessed in a reasonable manner, having regard to the cost of the facilities needed and used and the goal of promoting the sound development of international civil aviation as a whole.

"The cost basis for airport charges (excerpts)

  • The cost to be shared is the full cost of providing the airport and its essential ancillary services, including appropriate amounts for cost of capital and depreciation of assets, as well as the costs of maintenance, operation, management and administration, but allowing for all aeronautical revenues plus contributions from non-aeronautical revenues accruing from the operation of the airport to its operators.
  • In general, aircraft operators and other airport users should not be charged for facilities and services they do not use, other than those provided for and implemented under the Regional Air Navigation Plan.
  • The proportion of costs allocable to various categories of users, including State aircraft, should be determined on an equitable basis, so that no users shall be burdened with costs not properly allocable to them according to sound accounting principles.

"Consultation with users

  • When a revision of charges or the imposition of new charges is contemplated by an airport operator or other competent entity, appropriate notice should normally be given to users or their representative bodies at least four months in advance, in accordance with the regulations applicable in each State.
  • In any such revision of charges or imposition of new charges, the users should be given the opportunity to submit their views and consult with the airport operator or competent entity. For this purpose the users should be provided with transparent and adequate financial, operational and other information to allow them to make informed comments.

"Independent mechanism for economic regulation of airports and air navigation services

The Council notes that with the rapidly growing autonomy in the provision and operation of airports and air navigation services many States may wish to establish an independent mechanism for the economic regulation of airports and air navigation services. Such a mechanism, the establishment of which in such circumstances is recommended by the Council, would oversee economic, commercial and financial practices and its objectives could be drawn or adapted from, but need not be limited to, the following:

  • Ensure non-discrimination in the application of charges;
  • Ensure there is no overcharging or other anti-competitive practice or abuse of dominant position;
  • Ensure transparency as well as the availability and presentation of all financial data required to determine the basis for charges;
  • Assess and encourage efficiency and efficacy in the operation of providers;
  • Establish and review standards, quality and level of services provided;
  • Monitor and encourage investments to meet future demand;
  • Ensure user views are adequately taken into account.

"Landing charges (excerpts)

  • Landing charges should be based on the weight formula, using the maximum certificated take-off weight as indicated in the certificate of airworthiness (or other prescribed document) as the basis for assessment. However, allowance should be made for the use of a fixed charge per aircraft or a combination of a fixed charge with a weight-related element, in certain circumstances, such as at congested airports and during peak periods.
  • The ordinary landing charge should cover the use of lights and special radio aids for landing where these are required, since it is in the interest of safety that aircraft operators should not be discouraged from utilizing aids by the imposition of separate charges for their use. If separate charges are made for facilities of this kind, they should not be levied on the basis of optional use but should be uniformly imposed on all landings occurring during periods established by the airport operators.

"Parking and hangar charges

  • For the determination of charges associated with use of parking, hangar and long-term storage of aircraft, maximum permissible take-off weight and/or aircraft dimensions (area occupied) and length of stay should be used so far as possible as the basis.
  • The period of free parking time for aircraft immediately following landing should be determined locally by considering aircraft scheduling, space availability and other pertinent factors."
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