STAFF REPORTER

MADRID
AIRPORT taxes in Spain may go up by between 4 and 5 percent next year, the Spanish National Airports Authority (AENA) said yesterday.
The President of AENA, Juan Ignacio Lema, described the move as “prudent” and confirmed that proposals will be put forward for approval by Congress at the end of this month.

Lema said at the six or seven largest airports in the country taxes could go up to between 6 and 7 percent whilst elsewhere in Spain they would come down. The combined figures would average out at an increase of between 4 and 5 percent. “We're talking about rises of two decimal points above inflation,” explained Lema who said he thought that the increase in taxes “should be much more aggressive.” “We can't aim to have the finest infrastructure in Europe if taxes are 200 to 300 percent below par,” he argued. “After a couple of years of having frozen the taxes and imposed very small increases, now is the time to put ourselves on a footing with the rest of Europe,” Lema furthered.

He claimed that the taxes that the airlines pay in Spain for each passenger are 56 percent lower than the average paid by other European airports. “If it's true that we used to impose the highest taxes in Europe for flying through our air space and that we took drastic measures to reduce them in line with everyone else's, it it also true that we have to raise our airport taxes accordingly,” the President added. “We need to bring them up, even if it is done gradually,” Lema said. “What we want to see is that the taxes which are imposed on Spanish airports are appropriate to the infrastructure in each case,” he explained. “We will have to look at what has been spent on improving services, what money is owing at the airports and then charge the airlines accordingly.” He gave assurances, however, that the tax hikes will be gradual and will be agreed in advance with the airlines using the facilities.
Lema spoke more widely about AENA's business plan. The Airports Authority apparently intends to save 750 million euros over 4 years. He said that AENA has had to confront forecast losses of 450 million euros this year, but if their austerity measures are introduced, the year could end with the company having under 350 million euros of losses.

The President said that if AENA was very “careful” by the time 2014 came round, and if Central Government opened more air routes, the company could be making a profit. He said the signs of recovery were potentially visible, even now.