Can airports block routes they don't want?

Member for

13 years 1 month

Posts: 1,006

I've seen a few instances where carrier A will announce a new service from C1 to C2, then immediately afterwards carrier B will announce the same service.

Everyone says 'Oh, B is just doing this to kill this route for A so they can't expand.'

And then sure enough, with 2 airlines on a marginal route, A can't make enough money and cancels the service. Then shortly afterwards, B cancels the service too, leaving the cities without that route.

So my question is: can/should airports do anything to block routes they don't feel are an honest attempt to establish service?

I saw some reference to airports that receive FCC funding can't discriminate, but it's not clear to me what the situation really is.

Original post

Member for

8 years 7 months

Posts: 212

An interesting question. I'm tempted to say that an airport couldn't prevent an airline offering a service (especially for a service within the EU), but I'm happy to be proven wrong by those with more knowledge.

About 20 years ago I led some work with the European Commission to deregulate ground handling services at airports as, at the time, there was a view that a number of member states were hampering competition by requiring airlines to use a monopoly provider of handling services. This provider was often the local airport authority or national carrier, who tended to favour some airlines over others.

If airports could have prevented airlines flying to them in the first place by blocking services, they would presumably have done so, rather than seeking to use poor ground handling services to limit new services.

So if there is nothing in 'aviation' law to prevent an airport blocking a service, what about in normal commercial law? No company is required to do business with another. There may be a requirement on airports to facilitate airline services, but what would be stopping them from imposing a high landing fee, or other charge?

No doubt in such a situation, the airline could take action against the airport on a predatory pricing / abuse of dominant position basis, and I have a feeling that our legal friends would end up making a lot of money out of it.

I would be interested in any other views though.

Just before pressing the 'submit' button, I noticed you asked if airports should (as well as can) be able to block services. No, I don't think they should - regulating competition is not the job of an airport management team, and established carriers could use their commercial clout to use such a provision to get airports to prevent new competitors.


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Member for

20 years 1 month

Posts: 4,887

They can if the airline does not agreed to reasonable terms. of course the definition of "reasonable" is wide enough for a A380 load of lawyers.

For argument sake, let's compare an airport with a car dealership. If you go to the dealer to buy a new car you get a list with packages to choose from. Do you want a Polo, a Golf or a Passat? Do you want the sports package or the comfy package? Do you want normal wheels or alloys? The list is endless. After you make your choices a certain price will show. At this point the dealership will have some negotiation space. This can be done to lower the price, or to increase service for instance with extended warranty or favourable financing.

The same happens with airports. They have price lists and optional packages. The price list are the default charges like landing charges, ATC charges and taxes. A good portion of those will be mandated by various legal autorities. Next to those the airport can offer various optional "packages". For instance for lounge access, fast turnaround, remote or terminal parking etc.

Now back to the dealership. You have choosen your car and yhe dealership has established you are financially able to buy one. At this point I don't think the dealer has the right to refuse the deal. After all, simply by advertising the dealer (or rather the importer but let's keep it simple) made an offer. In commercial law any reasonable* offer is binding.

*reasonable: there's that A380 load of lawyers again