Sept. 2, 2020

As expected, Sept. 1 brought the implementation of increased ATC service rates by Canadian air navigation service provider (ANSP) NavCanada – a development highlighting long-standing concerns expressed by NBAA and others about the fiscal stability of privatized systems, especially when confronted with larger crises.

Citing the steep decrease in air traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting decrease in collected user fees, NavCanada in May announced this week’s increase averaging – nearly 30% – to base service rates.

The rate hike follows a slew of other cost-slashing measures implemented over the past six months by NavCanada and other ANSPs to address unexpected revenue shortfalls. Cuts have included suspension of overnight services at ATC towers and flight service stations, and even outright closures of smaller airfields, as fee-based revenues become depleted with plummeting commercial and general aviation flight activity.

Earlier this year, the European Union resorted to a £1.1 billion support package for Eurocontrol and other ANSPs in Europe to help maintain operations following the temporary suspension of en-route charges for commercial users. The Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), representative body for ANSPs around the globe, has pushed for other member states to lobby their governments for similar relief measures.

“These fee hikes call to mind one of the major concerns raised about privatized ATC systems over the years: their reliance on user fees leads to fiscal instability during challenging times,” Bolen said. “As we saw with these systems following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and other challenges, operating fees today are appreciably escalating at a time when many industry stakeholders can least afford it.”