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Bumpy landing Lower Zurich airport fees provoke mixed reactions



Zurich airport is a major transport hub in Switzerland

Zurich airport is a major transport hub in Switzerland

(Keystone)

The Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) has lowered the fees for Zurich airport, following a row between the transport hub and airlines. The airport said it was happy with the deal, but airlines and the price watchdog were less satisfied.

Carriers have long complained that the charges are too high at the hub, with Swiss International Airlines saying they are among the steepest in Europe.  It had even mooted building its own terminal at the airport. The price watchdog had also complained that the high fees were a barrier to competition.

“[The fees] are overall lower than  before, but are not along the lines demanded by the airlines,“ the aviation office said in a statement on Friday.

The charges are scheduled to go into operation on February 1, 2014 until the end of 2017, if no objections are made, it added.

Matters came to a head in August when negotiations on fees broke down between the airport and airlines, leading to intervention by the aviation office and a resubmitted fees proposal by the airport. The airport had wanted to increase the fees which are used to cover its running and infrastructure.

Passenger fee changes

The FOCA ruling means fees charged to airlines for each passenger will fall from CHF41.40 ($45.1) at present to CHF37 next year before rising again to CHF38.50 by 2017.

Despite being forced to lower overall fees, Zurich airport said it was pleased with the outcome as the standard passenger fee will rise from CHF21 currently to CHF24.70. The savings in the overall charges will be made by cutting out a CHF5 noise pollution tax and reducing security related charges.

“The basic passenger charge is most important to us because we use this money to invest in upgrading infrastructure at the airport,” Zurich airport spokeswoman Sonia Zöchling told swissinfo.ch.

The noise pollution charge, that was adopted after a referendum vote in Zurich in 2007, has now filled the coffers of a special fund set aside to pay for installing better windows in neighbouring houses and to cover legal costs. A reduction in security charges has been made possible by organisational efficiencies, Zöchling added.

Mixed reactions

But Swiss International Airlines, which has a hub at the airport, said that the changes meant higher not lower fees for the airline. Doing away with the noise pollution fee had nothing to do with the airport running costs, it said.

In a statement it welcomed the aviation office’s intervention but bemoaned that “our point of view [was] not adequately considered”

Swiss said that it, along with other airlines, would be considering the effects of the deal in detail before making any decision about whether to challenge the move.

The price watchdog, Stefan Meierhans, told swissinfo.ch that his positive reaction to the lowering of the fees was “mitigated”.

“Overall the fees are still too high in Zurich,” said Meierhans. “This is an obstacle to competition for consumers and airlines.”

Change, he said, would only come by amending the legal ground rules that govern airport charges. Even Transport Minister Doris Leuthard had recently stated that they were too ‘airport-friendly’ and should reconsidered, Meierhans added.

Zurich airport local passenger tariffs in CHF

2013:

Passenger charge: 21

Security charge: 14.50

Noise charge: 5

Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM) charge:  0.90

Total: 41.40

2014:

Passenger charge: 23.20

Security charge: 12.80

Noise charge: 0

Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM) charge:  1

Total: 37.00

2017:

Passenger charge: 24.70

Security charge: 12.80

Noise charge: 0

Passengers with Reduced Mobility (PRM) charge: 1

Total: 38.50

(Source: Zurich Airport)

end of infobox

swissinfo.ch


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