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NMa rejects easyJet's complaint

After an extensive investigation under the Dutch Aviation Act, no evidence has been found to support the assertion that Amsterdam Airport Schiphol discriminates by charging higher tariffs for passengers that start their journey at Schiphol (so-called 'o/d-passengers', where 'o/d' stands for 'origin-destination') than for passengers that transfer at the airport ('transfer passengers'). The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) therefore rejects the complaint filed by British airline easyJet.

EasyJet, which only offer flights to o/d-passengers, had filed a complaint with the NMa claiming the difference in tariffs between o/d-passengers and transfer passengers to be discriminating, and that it was put at a competitive disadvantage because of that difference. Airlines catering to both types of passengers have cost advantages as a result of those transfer passengers, easyJet argues, because Schiphol charges those airlines the lower tariff. Those cost savings can subsequently be used to reduce ticket prices for o/d-passengers.

According to the NMa however, the Aviation Act allows for different tariffs for different types of passengers, as long as competition is not impeded. The mere fact that an airline is charged a higher tariff, because of the type of passengers it carries, than other airlines that also carry other types of passengers does not automatically mean it is discriminated against. First, the NMa points out that easyJet has made its own choice of solely focusing on o/d-passengers at Schiphol or at any other airport. Having such a business model has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. Schiphol cannot be held accountable for easyJet's own choice. The reason Schiphol charges different prices is that transfer passengers appear to be more price-sensitive to price increases than o/d-passengers are. A price increase will lead to transfer passengers no longer choosing Schiphol as their transfer airport of choice. So in order to maximize the number of passengers, Schiphol charges a lower tariff for the price-sensitive passengers and a higher tariff for the price-insensitive passengers. Schiphol thus tailors its tariffs, within legal boundaries, to the different types of passengers, just as airlines, including easyJet, do so too with their ticket prices.

EasyJet also complained that the tariffs for o/d-passengers would be unreasonable. The NMa has therefore examined the reasonableness of these tariffs in three different ways. The Schiphol tariffs for o/d-passengers are average compared to other, international airports. The Schiphol tariffs for security are somewhat high, compared to other airports, but making a sound comparison is difficult. A number of airports used in the benchmark cover their security costs, partially and completely, from other sources, including government funds – something which is not the case at Schiphol. Also, a number of airports charge other, additional security tariffs, for example, for freight, unlike Schiphol does. The NMa has also looked into the costs and quality of the facilities and services, but the tariffs for o/d-passengers thereof do not appear to be unreasonable either.

Finally, the NMa looked into the complaint about the lack of transparency, since Schiphol does not offer the airlines any insight into the underlying costs of each tariff. However, under the Aviation Act, Schiphol is not required to disclose the make-up of every single tariff. Schiphol meets all the requirements set by the law with regard to this topic.

EasyJet simultaneously filed a second, separate complaint with the NMa, which was filed under the Competition Act, whereas the first one was filed under the Aviation Act. In its second complaint, easyJet asserts that Schiphol abuses its dominant position. Taking into account the results of the investigation under the Aviation Act, the NMa is currently contemplating how it will handle this second complaint.