Belgian air traffic control system too expensive, says European Commission

Belgium's air traffic control system, run by the autonomous public company Skeyes, is too expensive. So says the European Commission, which expects the country to remedy the situation, L'Echo reported on Wednesday.

Skeyes is the air navigation and traffic services provider for the civil airspace for which the Belgian State is responsible. In Belgium, it operates up to flight level 245 (7.5 km), including the control of Brussels, Charleroi, Liège, Antwerp and Ostend airports. In the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Skeyes operates between flight level 145 (4.4 km) or 165 (5 km) and flight level 245.

Airlines pay Skeyes a fee to use its services in this territory. It is these charges that the European Commission says are too high. In fact, the fees that air navigation service providers like Skeyes charge airlines are regulated in Europe.

Highest charges in Europe

For 2024, the unit price in the Belgium-Luxembourg zone is set at 89.9 euros, the highest of all the charging zones in the EU countries, Norway and Switzerland. For the period 2020-2024, the Commission notes that the cost increase in this zone ( + 2 per cent) appears to be twice as fast as the EU-wide trend ( + 1 per cent). The European Commission has identified an "unjustified difference" of around 30 million euros for the entire Belgium-Luxembourg zone and is calling for corrective measures.

The Commission notes that "the economic efficiency of Skeyes is heavily influenced by the cost of its early retirement scheme", allowing controllers to end their careers five years before the statutory retirement age.

Johan Decuyper, CEO of Skeyes, is now turning to the Belgian government for financial support. He says this has happened elsewhere. "In the past, the unit costs were too high for Germany, and the German government decided to pay part of the costs", Decuyper says.

Discussions are underway with the cabinets and the administration to prepare the Belgian response to the Commission's request, due on 15 September.



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