IATA warned that proposals by AENA to increase user charges at the 46 airports it operates across Spain could damage Spain’s economic and employment recovery from COVID-19.

The proposals presented to the DGAC for approval include a request to increase charges 5.5% over five years. They would also open the door for AENA to recover its lost revenues due to the COVID-19 crisis, for services which were never operated, or which airlines couldn’t access.

“The whole aviation industry is in crisis. Everybody needs to reduce costs and improve efficiency to repair the financial damage of COVID-19. Having analyzed AENA’s situation, airlines believe that AENA could reduce its charges by 4%. So, proposing to pass the burden of financial recovery on to customers with a 5.5% increase is nothing short of irresponsible. The DGAC should immediately reject the request and instruct AENA to work with the airlines on a mutually agreed recovery plan,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Pre-pandemic, AENA declared €2.59 billion of dividends over the 2017-19 period, and it has several options to cover its losses. “AENA can easily finance short-term losses without increasing costs to its customers. It has an excellent credit rating to access financing. Its shareholders have been well-rewarded and must now share some of the pain. And, like the rest of the industry, it must look at operational efficiencies to lower costs, which are by no measure the cheapest in Europe,” said Walsh.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the Spanish tourism and transport sector:

The number of destinations with direct links to Spain fell from 1,800 (2019) to 234 (2020) More than 1.1 million Spanish jobs have been lost or put at risk and over €60 billion of GDP has been lost. The contribution of travel and tourism to Spain’s economy fell from 12% to 4%.

“An early recovery in travel and tourism is vital for Spain’s economic success. But higher costs will delay a tourism rebound and keep jobs at risk. AENA should keep in mind the long-term interests of both its shareholders and the country. And both are better served with cost-efficient airport infrastructure. The Spanish government is actively looking to open borders and restart air travel. AENA needs to contribute to that effort, not erect a short-sighted and self-interested roadblock,” said Walsh.