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A review of environmental landing charges at airports, report by CAA

29th November, 2013

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a review in October of environmental landing chargesat the three designated airports for noise management (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) and three of the busiest airports in the UK  (Manchester, East Midlands and Birmingham).

The study examined whether differential landing charges for noise and air pollution – where noisier and more polluting aircraft are charged more than quieter, cleaner aircraft to land at a specific airport – could be used to encourage the take up of cleaner and quieter aircraft.

The main finding of the review is that environmental landing charges have some incentive effects but are unlikely to be the main financial driver for using quieter and less polluting aircraft. Currently, charging varies across the six airports with some offering greater financial incentives for better performing aircraft which limits the effectiveness of environmental charging.

Of concern is that certain airports (Gatwick for example) applied reduced landing charges for early morning and night flights which are classified as off-peak periods. This creates an incentive for airlines to fly at times when residents are more sensitive to aircraft noise, which could exacerbate the noise problem.

In order to improve the effectiveness of charging schemes, the report calls for charges to be better linked to environmental impacts, along with greater differentials between efficient and noisy or polluting aircraft, and an earlier introduction of higher charges as new standards of aircraft emerge.

Under current CAA regulations, increases in environmental landing charges at the regulated Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick would have to be counter-balanced by decreases in other aircraft charges. Yet environmental charges only account for 3% of landing charges at Heathrow meaning there is scope for raising environmental charges.

CAA make several recommendations on noise, including that charging categories should cover all aircraft using the airport and that there should be different charges for operations occurring at night. The review also recommends that NOx landing charges should be distinct to those for noise.

Our view is that environmental landing charges should include a differential to take account of the relative contribution of each aircraft, and the ability to raise revenue proportional to the impact (the external cost of the impact).

In this case, AEF welcomes the introduction of differential environmental charges but the use of an existing charge – in this case the landing fee – makes the overall scheme “revenue neutral”. This is a missed opportunity and is, in effect, subsidising aircraft that are less polluting than the average by discounting the landing fee.

Future schemes at UK airports should assess the cost of local air quality impacts and then charge airlines for their contribution (the differential would mean that the polluter pays more in addition to the existing landing charges). The environmental charges collected should not be retained by the airport but could be used to fund effective mitigation and avoidance measures.

The report, titled CAP 1119: Environmental charging – Review of impact of noise and NOx landing charges was released on the 15th October 2013 and is available by following the link below:

CAA Environmental Charging Review