Brussels Airlines files complaint against 'unlawful state aid' for Charleroi Airport
Brussels Airlines has lodged an official complaint with the European Commission against the "unlawful state aid" it claims Charleroi Airport receives. Dorothea von Boxberg, the CEO of Brussels Airlines, announced this on Monday.
The complaint concerns the terminal navigation charge, which Belgian air traffic controller company Skeyes receives for each aircraft taking off. Regional airports like Charleroi have full government funding, while at Brussels Airport, airlines must pay a part of that amount.
"The regional airports and Brussels Airport are not treated in the same way," says von Boxberg, who has been head of Brussels Airlines since mid-April. "It is not fair that the federal and regional governments pay that tax in full at regional airports like Charleroi's, which compete directly with us when we have to pay most of it ourselves."
This puts Brussels Airlines at a disadvantage compared to the low-cost airline Ryanair which has a large presence at Charleroi.
There has been some informal discussion about the matter, "but now we feel that this is hurting us too much", said von Boxberg.
The objection from Brussels Airlines is directed against Charleroi Airport because it is the most direct competitor. "These are the same passengers who travel to an airport from Brussels, so that has a direct impact on us," said von Boxberg.
She also argued that Charleroi had long ceased to be a regional airport. "On a European level, a regional airport is an airport with less than 3 million passengers per year," she said. Charleroi received more than 8 million people in 2022. "There's no reason why that airport should be treated any differently."
The airline hopes the European Commission's investigation will lead to a "level playing field". "Either the state pays the levy in full for everyone, or the airlines everywhere pay their share," von Boxberg said. The investigation has no deadline; von Boxberg expects it could take a year.
© BELGA PHOTO MATHIEU COLINET