The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that increasing user charges at 46 airports in Spain could damage Spain’s economic and employment recovery from COVID-19. The proposal by airport operator AENA suggests increasing charges by 5.5 per cent over five years.

According to IATA, AENA declared EUR 2.59 billion of dividends over the 2017-19 period and has several other means to cover any losses. Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General commented: “The whole aviation industry is in crisis. Everybody needs to reduce costs and improve efficiency to repair the financial damage of COVID-19.”

“Having analysed AENA’s situation, airlines believe that AENA could reduce its charges by four per cent. So proposing to pass the burden of financial recovery on to customers with a 5.5 per cent increase is nothing short of irresponsible. The DGAC should immediately reject the request and instruct AENA to work with the airlines on a mutually agreed recovery plan.”

According to Walsh, early recovery in travel and tourism is vital for Spain’s economic success. However, higher costs will delay a tourism rebound and put jobs at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the aviation sector and the industry has seen passenger demand plummeting by 76 per cent in 2020, with the contribution of travel and tourism to Spain’s economy falling from 12 per cent to 4 per cent.

AENA can easily finance short-term losses without increasing costs to its customers. It has an excellent credit rating to access financing. Its shareholders have been well-rewarded and must now share some of the pain. And, like the rest of the industry, it must look at operational efficiencies to lower costs, which are by no measure the cheapest in Europe.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General

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