The International Air Transport Association (IATA) yesterday said that Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport must maintain its competitiveness in airport charges for airliners, adding that there was a need to establish a strong, independent economic regulator to supervise the operation of the airport company.
“The airport charges at [Taiwan] Taoyuan International Airport are competitive with hubs in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. It needs to stay that way,” IATA director-general Tony Tyler said. “The airport was corporatized in 2010. If that brings a stronger customer focus and the flexibility to meet market demands more quickly, that’s great, but there is a need for oversight to ensure that the airport continues to balance many interests and does not take advantage of its natural monopolistic situation.”
Tyler made the statement during a meeting with reporters, which also marked the first visit of the IATA director-general to Taiwan since 2004.
Established in 1945, the association has 240 member airlines, including China Airlines, EVA Air and TransAsia Airways.
Members of the association account for about 84 percent of global air traffic.
While Taiwan launched the Taoyuan Aerotropolis Project last year to improve the airport’s infrastructure, which included constructing a third terminal and runway, Tyler said that it was critically important that the facilities meet the real requirements of the airlines operating at the airport.
He also urged the airport authority to engage airlines in consultations through IATA forums, particularly on airport charges.
“If an airport seeks to raise its charges too high, it will cause the airlines to reduce the flying they do to grow services in that airport. There are many examples where an airport increases the charges to unsustainable levels, so it’s important that in Taiwan we avoid making that mistake,” he said.
“We sometimes see this [raising the airport charges] when the airport goes from a government department to a corporate entity,” he said.
Tyler said the Asia-Pacific was a large aviation market and that there was room for several big hubs in the region.
Because Taiwan aims to become a hub in the region, he said that the nation was doing “the right thing” to invest in infrastructure to accommodate for flights.
“It’s also important to keep the costs down in the hub, encourage visitors to Taiwan by having efficient entry and exit processes and keep Taiwan an attractive place to do business,” he said.
IATA North Asia regional vice president Zhang Baojing (張保健) said the focus of improving the infrastructure in the airport should not be making a profit, but encouraging airlines to offer services at the airport.
“The airline companies not only bring passengers, they also bring job opportunities,” Zhang said. “Compared with those benefits, it is meaningless for the airport to increase airport charges.”
Statistics from the association projected that Asia-Pacific region would see international passenger numbers grow 5.8 percent annually over the next five years, adding that international freight is expected to grow by 2.1 percent annually over the same time period.
While the economy in China has slowed down, the association said that Taiwan remained a popular destination for Chinese tourists. With increase in weekly flights, the airlines involved in cross-strait flight services will benefit, the association said.
The association also projected that the global aviation would see a slight increase in profits this year to US$8.4 billion, up from US$6.7 billion last year, due to lower fuel prices and a better economic situation.