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A group of airlines is to appeal a recent decision by the Dutch Authority for the Consumer and Market (ACM) to allow Schiphol Airport to increase its fees by up to 37% over three years.

Last year, Schiphol outlined plans to increase charges to airlines by 9% this year, 12% next year and 12% in 2024.

“The cumulative rise in charges is 37%,” said the airport at the time. “In the original proposal, this figure was 42%, but Schiphol made a downward adjustment after consultation with the airlines.”

“Our charges encourage sustainable aviation and are competitive,” argued Schiphol’s CFO Robert Carsouw at the time.

Ten airlines complained to the ACM, in particular because Schiphol wanted to use the fees to recoup losses it incurred in 2020.

But the ACM concluded: “The charge increases are not unreasonable, and that Schiphol has set the charges in accordance with the law.” The first increase went into effect on April 1.

The ACM argued that costs at Schiphol “work both ways”.

“Schiphol must pass on any windfalls to airlines through its charges, but, at the same time, it is also allowed to settle any setbacks through the charges,” explained Manon Leijten, ACM board member.

“Actual costs have been incorporated into the new charges, which follows from the regulatory framework. That is why the charge increases that are the result of that process are not unreasonable.”

Schiphol is owned by the Dutch state and municipality of Amsterdam, meaning that the losses would otherwise have to be borne by the taxpayer.

The ACM added that it had “not found any indication that Schiphol’s charges are unreasonably high, also considering the quality of Schiphol’s services”.

But Schiphol-based carrier KLM, along with sister carriers Martinair and Air France, said it was “extremely disappointed that the ACM has chosen to disregard almost all of the airlines’ objections and has missed an opportunity to further supplement the reasonableness of the Aviation Act, which could have resulted in a proportionate distribution of the pain of the Covid crisis”.

The airlines said the “extremely strict interpretation of the Aviation Act and an interpretation of the settlement mechanism that ignores its original purpose”, fails to protect users against “excessive charges by the monopolist Schiphol”.

They added: “Instead [it] shifts all of the monopolist’s business risks that have arisen during the Covid period, on to the airlines. There is no alternative airport infrastructure of this scale in the Netherlands. Airlines are therefore forced to purchase their services from Schiphol.”

The airlines said they would lodge an appeal. Air Cargo Netherlands, which has also criticised the increase in charges, said: “This is a major disappointment for airport users. We do not think it is right that Schiphol is putting the pain of the Coronavirus crisis on the airlines with these draconian rate increases.

“We are currently considering with the parties involved whether and how this case can be presented to the court.”

Meanwhile, Schiphol, which will continue to face a shortage of slots as airlines recover, is looking at a partnership with Maastricht Airport.

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