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Regional airports still proving difficult to finance

Regional airports still proving difficult to finance

 

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 from skyguide 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 previous cross-subsidisation of the country’s regional airports through its international airports was terminated in compliance with the relevant Europe-wide regulations. This created a funding shortfall of CHF 7 million, which needs to be covered by various other means.

 

Skyguide shall reduce this shortfall by CHF 3 million by making cost economies without service reductions. The regional airports, for their part, have undertaken to effect CHF 3.5 million in savings via a “Road Map” of their own. Air traffic services charges at the country’s regional airports have also been increased by 10%. But the adoption of cost-reducing measures at regional airports, such as an aerodrome flight information service (AFIS) to replace the existing air traffic services, has proved difficult, for operating reasons and in view of flight safety considerations.

 

A new definition of Switzerland’s regional airport landscape

As part of the above Road Map, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation has embarked on an analysis that is intended to define the Swiss regional airport landscape. The study should clarify which regional airports provide services on the country’s behalf and should thus continue to be entitled to subsidies. The FOCA’s work continued through 2019; but its first findings and conclusions on the future Swiss regional airport landscape are not expected before the second quarter of 2020.

 

Next steps

  • Financing for 2019 was covered by the FOCA to ensure that the regional airports continued to receive their air traffic services.
  • A long-term solution to financing air navigation services at Switzerland’s regional airports is still being sought. In a first step here, the FOCA is defining, by means of a comprehensive analysis, the benefits of the country’s various regional airports to the Swiss Confederation.
  • Skyguide expects this to be a lengthy process, and is prepared to guarantee the continuity of these airports’ air traffic services, provided the costs thereof are adequately covered.
  • Skyguide is evaluating various scenarios for the future provision of air traffic services at Switzerland’s regional airports, and will strive to continue to optimise the costs involved wherever it possibly can.
  • Skyguide will continue to promote the outsourcing of technical installations and the adoption of new and more cost-effective technologies at the regional airports concerned.
  • Those parts of the original Road Map that can still be implemented (such as the removal of certain navigation facilities) will be further pursued by skyguide to sustainably lower costs.