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State aid: EC on the possibility to grant operating aid to certain regional airports

It prolonged it until 4 April 2027 due to exceptional circumstances

The European Commission (EC) has prolonged the possibility of granting operating aid to certain regional airports under the 2014 Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines until 4 April 2027. The rest of the Guidelines remains applicable, without further changes.

The approved prolongation

The 2014 Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines allow Member States to grant, subject to certain conditions, operating aid to regional airports with less than 3 million passengers a year, with a view to becoming cost-covering. The Guidelines set a ten-year transition period during which such aid can be declared compatible with the internal market. The transition period was set to expire on 4 April 2024.

The Guidelines also allow Member States to grant operating aid under a more favourable regime (i.e. with higher aid intensities) to airports with up to 700,000 passengers per year, which face more difficulties in becoming cost-covering. This possibility, initially foreseen for 5 years, had been extended in 2018 until the end of the transition period, in April 2024.

Since the adoption of the Guidelines in 2014, the European aviation sector has faced a major crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the health and travel restrictions adopted to contain its spread. The energy crisis that followed Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine further impacted the sector, notably by significantly increasing the energy costs of airport operators. In particular, regional airports have been facing lower revenues and higher costs, which had an adverse impact on their profitability. This could lead to closures of certain regional airports, which in turn may negatively affect connectivity across the EU.

In view of these exceptional circumstances, the Commission has decided to prolong by three years the transition period during which Member States can grant aid to cover the operating costs of regional airports, until 4 April 2027. This will allow Member States to support regional airports to become cost covering and profitable. The specific regime for airports with annual passenger traffic of up to 700,000 passengers is also extended until 4 April 2027.


In 2022, the Commission launched a call for evidence inviting all interested parties to comment on its intention to address the situation of regional airports. Most of the respondents to the consultation pointed out that a prolongation is necessary to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the ability of regional airports to become cost-covering. 

Between May 2023 and June 2023, the Commission carried out a public consultation inviting all interested parties to comment on its draft proposal to prolong the application of the 2014 Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency