ATM Financing

Air Traffic Management (ATM) is a set of services which every state must provide for the safe and efficient operation of air traffic. Today, it is almost entirely financed by user fees according to the ‘user pays’ principle. Until today, the ‘user’ has always been assumed to be the airspace user, normally an airline. This system is now coming under pressure. The current Single European Sky (SES) regulation is built on the assumption that air traffic in Europe continually increases. Therefore, the financing of ATM is secured by increasing revenue due to higher traffic volumes. Technological progress and efficiency gains should lead to a reduced cost and a lower environmental footprint of aviation while increasing safety and capacity. Two crises – the financial and banking crisis of 2008 and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic – show that the assumptions behind this regulatory framework are wrong. Additionally, there is the question of who the actual ‘users’ are. Does ATM only serve paying airlines or are there some services which are provided in the public interest? This issue of Network Industries Quarterly explores this last question by way of three original contributions.

The first contribution by Matthias Finger, from the European University Institute, discusses possible arguments that could be used when defining ATM in the public interest, notably when comparing ATM with rail and electricity infrastructure.

In the second contribution, Alex Bristol, Myriam Käser and Marita Lintener, from Skyguide, observe the ‘dual soul’ of Air Navigation Service Providers, providing both services to commercial airlines while simultaneously responding to domestic (national) objectives. Consequently, they explore core services of general interest (CSGI) as an option for financing portions of ATM activities.

In the third contribution, Kalman Seregelyes, from Hungarocontrol, asks whether the current EU performance scheme for air navigation services is still fit for purpose and argues in favour of a new traffic risk sharing scheme which could be better suited for traffic fluctuations such as were experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

                                                                                                                                    Matthias Finger

Publication Director