This summer, prepare “to arrive earlier” at the airport than before, warns the main European association of these facilities which, for some, are struggling to regain their efficiency after the health crisis, long queues at the key.

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In an interview with AFP on the sidelines of the annual congress in Rome of the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI Europe), its director general, Olivier Jankovec, also defends the increases in airport charges denounced by the airlines, and warns against the ability of its members, with finances weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic, to meet their environmental objectives.

QUESTION: Several European airports are already experiencing serious operational problems, with passengers waiting for hours, even before the peak in July and August. What is your message to travelers for this summer?

ANSWER: Airports, together with their partners, are doing everything possible to address this issue. A much faster (than expected) recovery, combined with an extremely tight job market, is causing a lot of problems throughout the aviation ecosystem, from airports, airlines, ground handlers, police and border controls…

But it should also be stressed that the system has not collapsed. We are having difficulty at some airports, in some countries more than others, but the system is still working.

For passengers, it is important that they contact the airlines in advance to find out when they should arrive at the airport, and prepare to arrive earlier than usual to ensure they have time to pass. (the formalities), in particular if they have to register luggage.

The airports have taken many measures and I think they will start to produce their effects around mid-July. Staff reinforcements will arrive, facilities and infrastructure will be reconfigured.

It will be tight, there will be disruptions, longer wait times, but in a vast majority of airports traffic will flow, people won’t miss their planes and hopefully everyone can arrive at destination as scheduled.

Q: In this context, the airlines, represented by their international association, Iata, denounce the increases in charges planned at many airports on the Old Continent…

A: Airlines everywhere are increasing fares…airports are facing the same challenges and inflationary pressures. Airlines have to pay more for their fuel, but we also incur energy and personnel costs, which together represent 45% of our operating budgets. And of course, inflation drives up the price of materials. Today, we have suppliers telling us “sorry, but the price of your work will increase by 50 or 80%”.

Looks like Iata thinks money grows on trees at airports, it doesn’t. Europe has chosen to see airports run as businesses in their own right, and this means that they are financed by their users, ie airlines and passengers. Iata dreams of a time when airports were still used to indirectly subsidize companies. This is no longer the reality in which we live.

Q: Like all European companies, you have embarked on the path of decarbonisation, but you are emerging from the pandemic in very high debt. Is your ability to finance this transformation assured?

A: A question mark hangs over our ability to finance these projects. We want to get there, the teams and managers of the airports have very clear objectives, they must answer to the shareholders, we must have access to financing and these objectives (of reducing emissions) are part of the conditions of this financing.

But we must be able to finance our transition from an economic point of view. And we are not getting the necessary help from Europe. The European Union has put in place a recovery plan of 750 billion euros to help the sectors most affected by the crisis and which must decarbonise. And that completely excluded European airports, which is very difficult to accept.

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