The pan-European ATM system is primarily financed through the collection of en-route charges. This continuous flow of revenue is ensured via the Route Charges System and managed by the EUROCONTROL Central Route Charges Office (CRCO) which is tasked with billing, collection and disbursement of route charges for the contracting Member States.
Between 2016 and 2019, on average, some €8.0 billion were collected through the EUROCONTROL Route Charges system annually. This changed dramatically in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the European aviation industry in an unprecedented way and the amount billed by the CRCO dropped by -59%. In 2021, traffic gradually recovered and charges billed subsequently increased, reaching just about half of the amount billed in pre-COVID years (some €4.1 billion).
While, as foreseen in the ANS cost recovery systems, the majority of “revenue losses” are expected to be recovered in the coming years, the carry-overs of these losses (under-recoveries) are expected to have a significant impact on the en-route chargeable unit rates. For the majority of the States, the 2022 unit rates may not yet fully reflect the impact of the COVID-19 crisis since, for States bound by SES regulations, the considerable losses in revenues for 2020 and 2021 are expected to be carried-over and charged starting in 2023. Additionally, future unit rates for these States will depend on the outcome of the RP3 performance plan assessment process. Therefore this implies that the first notable effect of the current crisis on the en-route unit rates for SES States will be seen later this year with the setting of 2023 unit rates which are expected to be significantly higher.
The financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis on ANSPs will lead to higher ANS charges that will be borne by airspace users, and ultimately passengers, in the coming years. For this reason, the PRC will continue monitoring the impact of this crisis on the pan-European ANS system in the next PRR and ACE reports.