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Regional airports: solutions still sought

Regional airports: solutions still sought

 

Under Article 30 of the Swiss Federal Ordinance on the Provision of Air Navigation Services (VFSD), responsibility for the costs of air navigation services at Switzerland’s regional airports was to have passed to the operators of these airports at the beginning of 2017. Such transfer is still being contested, in a process that also involves the FOCA and the DETEC.

 

Since 2017 Switzerland’s regional airports have been required to collect their own air traffic services charges, and have been entitled to apply for certain subsidies in return. The cross-subsidisation from the country’s international airports to its regional airports was terminated in compliance with the relevant Europe-wide regulations. This created a funding shortfall of CHF 7 million. Skyguide has since reduced this to CHF 3 million by making cost economies without service reductions. The regional airports, for their part, undertook to effect CHF 3 million in savings via a “Road Map” of their own. Air traffic services charges at the country’s regional airports were also increased by 10%.

The savings envisaged by the regional airports have only been achieved to a minor extent. The projects with the greatest savings potential here – the adoption of an AFIS airport information system for Grenchen and Buochs airports – have not been implemented to date for safety, operational and/or political reasons. The coverage of the interim costs to skyguide, and the further issue of value-added tax, remain unresolved for the longer term.

Skyguide concluded agreements with all the regional airports in 2017, albeit with certain provisos on the airports’ part. This proved impossible for 2018. And since skyguide and the regional airports were unable to reach agreement for 2019, either, the process has now been referred to the next-higher authority, in accordance with Article 2, Paragraph 6 and Article 29, Paragraph 6 of the VFSD. The FOCA and the Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy & Communications have now assumed the lead role in finding solutions for Grenchen, Bern, Buochs and Les Eplatures airports.

 

A new approach
On the basis of this procedure, a new approach has since been resolved:

  • The financing for 2018 and of the shortfall in 2017 will be provided in full by the FOCA in the 2018 financial year. (It is therefore incomprehensible that the regional aerodro-mes, with two exceptions, have failed in any way to meet their financial obligations towards skyguide.)
  • A sustainable solution will be sought for the future financing of Switzerland’s regional airports. In a first step here, the FOCA should define the Swiss Confederation’s interests in the country’s regional airports. The so-called Grimsel Workshop has been created to this end.
  • Under the FOCA’s lead, a study has been commissioned to underpin the workshop’s findings.
  • Skyguide expects this to be a long process, and is prepared to guarantee the continued provision of its services, as long as the costs thereof are covered.
  • Skyguide is evaluating various scenarios airports with the air traffic services required.
  • Skyguide will continue to advocate and promote the outsourcing of technical installations to the regional airports, along with the introduction of new lower-cost technologies in the network and radar fields.
  • Those parts of the Road Map that can still be implemented, such as the removal of certain navigation facilities, will continue to be pursued by skyguide to further reduce costs.