By Regulation (UE) No. 139/2014[17] (the “Regulation”) – implementing Regulation (EC) No. 216/2008, commonly referred to as the “Basic Regulation”, several innovative and complex aspects are expected to hugely affect European aerodromes, both from a management and technical-and-operational perspective and from a statutory-and-regulatory one.

Article 1 of the Regulation sets out the terms and conditions for issuing certificates for aerodromes and for the organisations responsible for their operation as well as the conditions for operating an aerodrome and the responsibilities of the holders of certificates, setting 31 December 2017 as the deadline for the implementation of the new rules.

The purpose of the above provisions is to ensure high levels of safety and environmental compliance as well as the free movement of goods, products and services. 

As far as Italy is concerned, ENAC – the Italian Authority committed to oversee the national air transport system – issued a document named “Road Map”, identifying four macro-topics [i.e. i) Regulatory Management; ii) Certification and Conversion of Certificates for Aerodromes; iii) Communication; and iv) Training] and specifying, for each of such fields, the activities to be carried out in implementing the Regulation. 

The addressees of the above regulation are:

  • Aerodromes falling within the scope of Article 4, paragraph 3 bis, of the Basic Regulation;
  • Aerodrome Operators;
  • AMS (Apron Management Service) Providers.

In a nutshell, each aerodrome (excluding those with low traffic volume) needs to be certified.

The issue of certificates by the Authority in conditional upon the applicant proving that the aerodrome operated by it meets the certification requirements and has no particular characteristics that may endanger safety of operation.

The certificate has as its subject the aerodrome, the relevant operational procedures and safety equipment, in addition to the operator’s organisational structure.

For already-certified aerodromes falling within the scope of the Regulation, the relevant certificates will have to be converted by 31 December 2017.

Under the Basic Regulation, Member States are also entitled to issue a separate certificate, attesting only compliance of the aerodrome operator’s organisation with applicable statutory requirements.

ENAC opted, however, for a single certificate, with a view to emphasising the absolute uniqueness of the aerodrome structure and its operator as an indivisible entity.

The Basic Regulation, stressing the central role of the aerodrome operator in supervising the safety of the aerodrome and its operation, in Annex V bis (paragraphs B.1(a) and B.1(f)) requires the operator to conclude specific agreements with the organisations providing air navigation services, rescue services, etc. in the aerodrome.

The Regulation has confirmed and set appropriate instruments for the implementation of the provisions of the Basic Regulation. More specifically, when applying for a certificate, an aerodrome operator must give evidence of the agreements in force with other organisations.  To this end, ENAC has already taken initiatives for the preparation of template Framework Agreements aimed at facilitating demonstration of compliance with the requirements of the Basic Regulation and the Regulation.

The above is clear evidence of the intention to give more weight and enhance the figure and tasks of airport management companies, which are primarily and directly responsible for the operation of the relevant structure and system.

All this occurs precisely at a time when the Italian Government is about to launch the port reform, however widening the existing gap between airport management companies and port authorities.

The tasks of a port authority are, indeed, very similar to those of an airport management company: basically, they are both responsible for the appropriate functioning of their respective areas of competence, the management of State-owned maritime and aviation property, the regulation of services ancillary to navigation and, more generally, to the Port/Airport Enterprise organised complex.

Nevertheless, while under Article 2(1) of Ministerial Decree 521 - 12/11/1997 airport management companies must be incorporated as corporations, under Article 6(2) of Law No. 84 of 28/01/1994, a Port Authority is a legal person governed by public law, which is prevented from carrying out port operations and any activities strictly related thereto, either directly or by holding interest in companies.

The above two business models, totally similar and embedded in the context of national carriage of cargo and passengers, are therefore expected to expand side by side but at different speeds even being prevented from interfacing each other by sharing their organisations and structures. This is certainly a real pity and a lost opportunity.