Airports in South Africa have been singled out for harsh criticism by Iata DG, Willie Walsh at the Iata AGM in Istanbul this week.
While Walsh applauded the fact that airlines were on their way to a profitable, safe, efficient, and sustainable future, he said many of those with whom airlines do business were adding to pressures on those same airlines.
He named firstly, as a prime culprit, Schiphol in Amsterdam (“the worst in the world”) which is raising airport charges, and secondly airports in South Africa, (which are proposing a 38% increase in charges this year), along with South African Air Traffic Control (ATNS), which, he said, was demanding a 63% hike.
“With such bad behaviour on open display, calls for lighter touch economic regulation of our monopoly suppliers must not be taken seriously by any government. Considering these many challenges, that airlines are turning a profit at the industry level is truly impressive.”
Aviation players in South Africa have been quick to stress that they are not in agreement with Acsa and ATNS proposed fee hikes.
Aaron Munetsi, CEO of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (Aasa) said that: "Aasa, on behalf of its members, which comprise most of the SADC carriers, is in an ongoing engagement with both Acsa and ATNS and their respective regulators, in a bid to contain any increases.
“As an industry that plays such a significant role in the region's economic mix, we recognise how crucial it is that air transport remains affordable and accessible. Any major shock increases, such as the ones proposed, will act as a handbrake on domestic, regional and long-haul travel, tourism and trade in an already fragile economy," said Munetsi.
Rodger Foster, CEO and MD of Airlink, agrees that shock increases will only worsen the cost of air travel. “This comes at a time when airlines and other commercial players in the air transport value chain are doing everything to mitigate rising costs to keep fares affordable, and even more so in South Africa’s present high-inflation economic environment."
In February, the South African Department of Transport gazetted changes to airport tariffs for 2023, which include fee hikes for parking, landing, and passenger services.
Acsa refuted Iata’s claim, saying that the airport operator did not intend to raise charges by 38%.
It released a statement saying: “We have applied for a tariff increase in line with the regulatory framework which results in 17.5% in the first year, 17.5% in the second year and 0% for the rest of the FY2023/24 to FY2027/28 permission (period).
“The increases are driven by Acsa’s underlying costs and the independent traffic forecast that was approved by the Regulating Committee. It is important to note the increases are also coming off a low base caused by clawbacks in the previous permissions where Acsa saw tariffs reduce by 35.5% in FY2017/18,” said a statement by Acsa.