Eurocontrol abandons new ATC pricing formula

 - May 19, 2008, 11:45 AM

Eurocontrol has dropped plans to reform its formula for en route charges for air traffic control services. On June 26, the agency’s top management overturned recommendations from its possible pricing mechanism task force (PPMTF) to proceed with a formula based on a fixed-cost factor that would not take into consideration aircraft size or journey length. This would have resulted in substantially higher charges for any aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 737.

The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) has welcomed the termination of the PPMTF project, arguing that the proposed new formula would have resulted in serious fare increases and job losses among its member carriers. In early June, the PPMTF team insisted on advancing the plans even after failing to reach any consensus on the issue after 14 meetings. According to ERA statistics, the introduction of the fixed-cost factor in the charging formula would have resulted in an increase of as much as 97 percent in en route fees for operators of aircraft such as the twin-turboprop Fokker 50 .

Economists advising the PPMTF made no secret of their intention to use the new charging formula as a way to drive “smaller aircraft,” including regional airliners and business jets, out of European airspace to increase capacity for larger operators. The UK authorities were among the leading proponents of this strategy and Eurocontrol’s decision to drop the plans shows that no headway had been made in convincing the majority of member states to back it. The move was overtly opposed by France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Norway and Romania.

“The whole thing is an expensive farce, albeit not a very funny one for those whose jobs and businesses could be lost,” protested ERA director general Mike Ambrose. “At a time when state air traffic providers should be concentrating on providing more capacity to reduce delays, the waste of scarce personnel resources associated with the work of the task force is unforgivable.”