ACI EUROPE has published a rebuttal of recent claims by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showing that travellers in Europe are benefiting from air fare increases that are undercutting inflation.

The European airport trade body said that while IATA states air fares only increased by +16 per cent as of June this year compared to 2019, “independent and authoritative data from RDC shows such increase actually standing at +38 per cent over the peak Summer months (Q3) – nearly two times the increase in the average consumer prices index (+20.8 per cent)”.

ACI EUROPE also said that “IATA’s assertion that airport charges have been continuously increasing above inflation also does not stand scrutiny”.

The body said that this assertion relies on “flawed data” from just two airports (London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol), and claimed that in fact airport charges in Europe this year have increased by +13.6 per cent, below both inflation and the increase in air fares.

Finally ACI said that it was “puzzling to hear IATA asserting that the recovery of the European aviation market is bringing even more competitive conditions, with more airlines and more routes to choose from”.

The body said that “The reality is that air connectivity has recovered at a slower pace than passenger volumes”, with connectivity from European airports remaining -17 per cent below pre-pandemic levels in June, while passenger traffic was at -5.9 per cent.

This week IATA published its latest figures showing that global airline passenger traffic reached 97.3 per cent of pre-Covid levels in September, with domestic traffic faring particularly well, exceeding pre-pandemic September 2019 levels by 5 per cent.

Global airline passenger traffic reached 97.3 per cent of pre-Covid levels in September

“Confronted with inaccurate and misleading data, it is crucial to set the record straight about how air fares and airport charges have actually evolved,” said Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI EUROPE.

“Not only have airlines been able to reflect inflationary pressures in what they charge consumers, but they have been able to exert significant pricing power thanks to supply pressures and capacity discipline. Good for them!

“Conversely, many airports have yet to fully reflect inflationary pressures in their user charges, with regulators often oblivious of these pressures and of how debt accumulated through Covid is hurting their investment capabilities.”

“The market has structurally changed through the pandemic and the recovery, and it is crucial that policy makers and regulators now see though these changes and what lies ahead.

“In particular, the acceleration of airline consolidation coupled with airports reaching capacity limits will challenge our Single European aviation market and air connectivity developments.

“This is where economic regulators should step back, as the dominance of airlines today makes price regulation of airports obsolete. This is also where the 30-year-old EU regulation on airport slots requires urgent review.”

Business Traveller contacted IATA for a response to ACI EUROPE’s statement, but the association said it would not be commenting.,