British low-cost flights to France threatened by higher airport taxes – .

British low-cost flights to France threatened by higher airport taxes – .

Air travel is slowly returning to pre-Covid levels, but rising airport taxes – resulting in higher fares – are expected to endanger low-cost flights to regional airports, a French industry chief has warned.
Airports will increase taxes to reimburse the billion euros advanced by the state to help them cope with the loss of passengers during the pandemic, Nicolas Paulissen, executive director of the Union des Aéroports Français, told The Connexion ( UAF). .

“Airport taxes” are charges incorporated into the price of tickets and include a levy for passenger and baggage checks, fire and rescue, protection against risks from birds and animals and other measures. of security.

It is this tax, which can now represent around 29% of a low-cost ticket (easyJet figures) that airports will seek to levy to recover the losses.

Even small increases will impact the tight profit margins of low-cost companies, according to the UAF.

New checks for non-EU travelers are also expected to start next year and are expected to increase passenger wait times. France does not plan to install e-gates to compensate for this.

These elements mean that small airports such as Carcassonne, La Rochelle or Bergerac could become less attractive to airlines, Mr Paulissen said. “Low-cost airlines, especially British ones, may well consider that it is more profitable to fly to Spanish, Portuguese or Italian airports instead, which are our competitors for British travelers. “

He said these prospects were worrying, even though there has been a comeback in low-cost flights recently, compared to before, and “a certain dynamism on regional routes”.

A European air navigation body has said air travel in general could reach pre-Covid levels by 2023.

Eurocontrol said after an “encouraging” summer, it expects around 6.2 million flights in the skies of the continent this year, 44% less than in 2019, but at the higher end of the forecast recovery. The number of flights could reach 9.8 million in Europe next year, down just 11% from 2019, he said.

However, the news is clouded by an argument between airline representatives and airport operators.

Airline industry body Iata said confirmed increases in airport and air traffic control fees for airlines around the world have already reached $ 2.3 billion – and much of it. this amount will be passed on to travelers. “I’m sounding the alarm,” said CEO Willie Walsh. “This has to stop if the industry is to have a fair recovery opportunity. “

Airports association ACI Europe said the comments were unfair as the continent’s airports face a “dire situation” with many unable to recover financially without increased fees.

Waiting times will “double” in 2022

In France, the country with the most regional airports in the EU, another area of ​​concern for operators is the arrival, scheduled for the first half of 2022, of new EU rules for arriving non-EU travelers. in the Schengen area.

As part of the entry / exit system, passengers will have their photo and fingerprints taken and their passport details and dates of entry or exit to the area will be recorded in a database.

The EU said that once a person is in the system, countries could consider installing electronic gates to quickly scan foreigners on entry and exit. However, Mr Paulissen said there were no plans to introduce this in France. This will double the waiting times, according to the calculations of the UAF.

“We are very concerned because there are a lot of airports that work with UK customers, and what if instead of having to wait half an hour they have to wait an hour, an hour and a half or two o’clock ? “

He said more small airports could use the way to Dinard, Brittany, where commercial traffic ended this year when Ryanair withdrew. It is now reduced to occasional business flights and other less lucrative and less regular activities.

“The airports at risk are the local airports, with between 100,000 and one million passengers per year” who might struggle to have enough commercial traffic to recoup the costs, he said.

He cited as an example the southwestern airports such as Carcassonne, La Rochelle and Bergerac, which, before the pandemic, had approximately 350,000, 230,000 and 290,000 annual passengers respectively.

British airline Jet2, which flies to Bergerac and La Rochelle from the UK, played down the claims, telling The Connexion that it had already confirmed its French destinations as early as summer 2023.

A source from La Rochelle Airport said EasyJet, Jet2 and Ryanair have confirmed their UK routes for next year.

Bergerac Airport CEO Gwenvael Ronsin-Hardy said there was a “risk” of tax increases but that was not yet finalized.

If that happens, they will be minimal, he said, and they are unlikely to have a big impact. He added that the airport was working hard with the customs department to prepare for the new checks, which they said could mean around “one more minute per passenger”.

“In addition, these changes will not affect British holders of residence cards. Their controls will be more or less the same as now.

Etias, an online pre-approval system for foreigners entering the Schengen area which is expected to be in place by the end of 2022, is expected to increase efficiency, he said.

Regarding possible airline withdrawals, he declared that “for us, it is rather the opposite: the companies are back, as we would have liked”.

He said: “Jet2 has confirmed all of its UK flights and they are already on sale, to Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

“British Airways has reconfirmed its two flights for next year and even opened a route to Southampton this year, which has quite encouraging results and will continue next year.

“We also have Bournemouth as a new service with Ryanair next year, which has reconfirmed all of its other UK routes. “

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