Airports: groundhandling rules need further debate, say MEPs

Posted: 12 December 2012 | European Parliament | No comments yet

New rules governing decisions on how best to protect local residents against aircraft noise…

New rules governing decisions on how best to protect local residents against aircraft noise and allocate take-off and landing fairly and flexibly were approved by MEPs on Wednesday. A proposal to further increase competition among groundhandling service suppliers at key airports was referred back to the Transport and Tourism Committee for further discussion on how to improve the efficiency of airport services.

Rather than reject the European Commission’s proposal on groundhandling services, as recommended by the Transport Committee, the European Parliament asked the committee to pursue its work on it, so as to boost their efficiency and quality in airports used by more than 5 million passengers per year.

“The main aim of this proposal is to prepare the sector for global competition and to introduce minimum standards of quality”, said rapporteur Artur Zasada (Poland) in the debate preceding the vote.

Said El Khadraoui (Belgium) called for its rejection. “We should leave it up to the member states to decide on further opening of the market”, he said, echoed by Wolf Klinz (Germany). “It’s not the mere numbers of companies, but the local particularities, the qualifications of workers and the working conditions which are decisive“, Mr Klinz added.

Protecting local residents against aircraft noise

Specific noise abatement objectives will have to be set for each airport, but common rules will have to be followed to achieve them, according to a new regulation on noise-related operating restrictions, adopted by 501 votes to 155 with 8 abstentions.

To enable local authorities to choose the most cost-effective noise mitigation measures, MEPs inserted a requirement that they take account of health, economic and social aspects and follow the “balanced approach” established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The European Commission should be enabled to evaluate proposed operating restrictions, but “it would be the wrong way to let the Commission suspend member states’ decisions”, said rapporteur Jörg Leichtfried (Austria) before the vote. MEPs left it up to local authorities to decide whether to take the Commission’s opinion in account.

Allocating slots fairly for best use of airport capacity

The European Parliament also approved landing and take-off slot allocation and exchange rules (secondary trading) designed to ensure that unused slots are made available to interested operators as soon as possible and in a transparent way, but without prejudice to connections between regional airports and major hubs.

MEPs rejected the European Commission’s idea to increase the “Use-it or Lose-it” threshold of 80% to 85 % of allocated slots and instead opted to strengthen the penalty system in order to dissuade air carriers from holding slots without using them or taking too long to return them to the pool.

“Allocation must be impartial”, insisted rapporteur Gioammaria Uggias (Italy), explaining that “we therefore provided for slot coordinators to be completely independent from airport and airline operators”.

The Uggias report was adopted by 565 votes to 69 with 26 abstentions.

*Procedure: Co-decision (ordinary legislative procedure), 1st reading

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