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PR(05)45: New State Aid Guidelines for financing of airports and start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports

21.12.2005

The EFTA Surveillance Authority has adopted new guidelines on the application of the state aid rules to:

  • Financing of airports; and
  • start-up aid to airlines departing from regional airports.

The new guidelines clarify the principles applied by the Authority when it assesses state aid cases in this sector and provide guidance to public authorities and operators. The airports concerned are mainly those with an annual passenger volume of less than 5 million.

The new guidelines will:

  • Establish a legal framework for agreements between airports and airlines;
  • increase transparency and prevent any discrimination in the agreements concluded by regional airports and airlines on start-up aid; and
  • guarantee equal treatment for publicly owned and privately owned airports.

If an airport decides to grant aid to an airline which is not justified on purely commercial grounds, such aid can be accepted if it covers not more than 30-50% of the additional costs incurred in starting up the new service, including marketing costs and setting up costs at the regional airports concerned. The service benefiting from the aid must ultimately prove profitable. For this reason, such aid must be degressive and limited to a maximum of three years (or five years in the case of sparsely populated areas).

In addition to start-up aid to airlines, the new guidelines clarify the framework for the public financing of airports, in particular investment in airport infrastructure. Airport infrastructure provides the basis for the economic activities of the airports themselves, but in some cases also helps meet regional economic development, land-use planning and accessibility objectives. The guidelines spell out how the state aid rules apply to the economic activities of airports, while taking account of any general interest tasks assigned to them.

The EFTA States are asked to agree to bring their existing aid schemes into line with the Guidelines within 1 June 2007. The EFTA States are asked to communicate such an acceptance within 1 June 2006. The acceptances will be published in the EEA Section of and the EEA Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Rolf Egil Tønnessen, Deputy Director, Competition and State Aid Directorate,
tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 56; or
Mr. Espen Bakken, National Expert, Competition and State Aid Directorate,
tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 18.

21 December 2005




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