By Helen Massy-Beresford
Eurocontrol’s member states have agreed to let airlines defer the payment of up to €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) in air traffic control fees in the coming months.
The move aims to ease the pressure on carriers that have seen operations grind to an almost complete halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eurocontrol said the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a 90% decline in the number of flights operating daily in European airspace.
The coronavirus has led to travel restrictions and lockdowns across the globe, leaving only cargo flights and a few other passenger services operating.
“This dramatic reduction in operations is likely to continue for a number of weeks to come and therefore the airline industry had sought the support of Eurocontrol member states to help it deal with its sudden and significant cash flow crisis," Eurocontrol DG Eamonn Brennan said, adding that the move to allow payments to be deferred “will provide much needed liquidity support."
Brennan continued: "Many airlines contacted Eurocontrol to confirm that they would not be in a position to facilitate their next payments. With traffic down 90%, our member states have clearly recognized the shared challenge. This payment deferral will ease the immediate burden on airlines and it provides certainty on financial planning to both airlines and the Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) on when payments will be made after the crisis has abated.”
IATA applauded the move. "This is exactly the kind of solidarity which the industry needs to show during this period of deep and unprecedented crisis. Once the COVID-19 restrictions start to be lifted, Europe will need its airlines to be in good enough shape to be able to jump-start the economy. This charges delay will help make a big difference in that cause,” IATA regional VP-Europe Rafael Schvartzman said.
Photo credit: Eurocontrol