Regional Gateway editor Chloë Greenbank summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.

Against a background of generally lagging investments in transport infrastructure, Europe is facing a €12.3 billion investment gap over the next five years. That was the message at the 3rd Airport Investment Symposium, which took place in Brussels this week, organised by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe in partnership with the Global Infrastructure Investor Association (GIIA).

Europe already accounts for more than half of the world’s most congested airports (51%) and the lack of airport investment will not only compromise the competitive position of the EU, but it will also threaten economic convergence and the full benefits of the single market.

Perhaps most crucially with Europe’s airports committed to achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, the investment shortfall will also impact the ability of airports to decarbonise.

Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s director-general, commented: “Retrofitting existing passenger terminals and developing new ones to the highest energy efficiency standards will alone require at least €25.9 billion in additional investments.” While implementing these changes will generate significant savings over time in terms of operating costs, Jankovec added, “these savings will only materialise if and once investments have been made.”

Airport investment has more or less been left to the corporate and private sectors over the past two decades, as governments are either no longer able or willing to finance airport development and EU state aid rules limit their ability to do so.

Inadequate airport regulation is one of the factors attributed to the lack of investment, as are unpredictable trading conditions and increasing competitive pressures. And with airline carriers seeking to protect their own market positions, incumbent airline opposition to airport investments was also cited as a factor.

Acknowledging the “critical role” that airports play across Europe in delivering sustainable economic growth,  Jon Philipps, director corporate affairs of GIIA, said investors were ready to deliver funding to meet customer, capacity and environmental projects. However, he also concluded that to fill this financing gap “policymakers and regulators need to ensure the right framework is in place to facilitate this essential investment.”

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