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What rules govern the ownership of airports (both public and private)?

French airports are mostly owned by state or regional authorities – with the exception of Paris’s airports, which have special status – and constitute the public aviation domain. As such, airports are protected by the General Code applicable to public property (CG3P) and must be for public use (L.2111-11, L.2111-16 and L.2121-1 of the CG3P) and use of the public domain is temporary, precarious and revocable (L.2122-2 of the CG3P).


What is the authorisation procedure for the operation of airports?

The operation of airports under state control and which are open to public air traffic are subject to a formal agreement between the state and the airport operator responsible for the airport’s planning, management and maintenance (Article L. 6321-1 and thereafter of the Transport Code).

Further, airport operators must hold an airport safety certificate for the operation of a civil airport which handles commercial traffic (Article L.6331-3 of the Transport Code). The threshold level of traffic where a certificate is deemed necessary has been set at 10,000 passengers per annum during the previous three years (the Decree of April 2 2012, setting the threshold of forecast traffic in the Transport Code).

Articles R. 211-8 and thereafter of the Civil Aviation Code provide details of how to obtain an airport safety certificate, which is granted for a maximum of five years.

All certification applications must be accompanied by an airport operating manual, which must be kept up to date by the operator and follow the template detailed in the Decree of July 10 2006. Airport operators must draw up a safety management system, as detailed in the Decree of April 19 2011 (Article R. 211-10 of the Civil Aviation Code) and ensure compliance with the legal technical norms regarding airport installations, services and equipment.

A process to convert nationally awarded airport safety certificates into EU certificates has been instigated in accordance with EU Regulation 139/2014, which establishes the requirements and administrative procedures relating to airports. 

What ongoing operating requirements apply (including obligations relating to safety, security and facilities maintenance)?

The regulations applicable to aviation safety and security are covered by the Transport Code and the Civil Aviation Code with reference to the relevant EU regulations (ie, EU Regulation 300/2008 regarding the implementation of EU regulations in civil aviation security and EU Regulation 185/2010, which sets out detailed measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security).

Maintenance requirements are detailed in various technical specifications set by the decree of July 10 2006 relating to the technical specifications of certain airports used by fixed-wing aircraft. 

Airport charges

What airport charges apply and how are they regulated?

Public airport services are subject to airport fees for the services provided to aircraft operators and their service providers pursuant to Articles L.6325-1 and thereafter of the Code of Transport and R.224-1 of the Code of Civil Aviation, which cover services linked to landing, take off, parking and passenger and freight handling.

Airport charges are set according to capital invested, infrastructure investment or projected new installations and can be adjusted:

  • in the general interest;
  • for environmental reasons;
  • to create new routes; or
  • to meet other needs in terms of business continuity or development.

These charges cannot exceed the cost of the service provided.

Charges for Paris or state airports, which welcome more than 5 million passengers a year, are set within the framework of term contracts, known as economic regulation contracts with a maximum five-year term. Charges are approved by an independent oversight authority. For the remaining airports, charges are approved by the minister of transport.


What regulations govern access to airports?

Access to airports and movement therein is regulated by Article L. 6342-2 of the Transport Code.

These regulations were established pursuant to EU Regulation 300/2008 concerning the implementation of common rules in civil aviation security and EU Regulation 185/2010, which sets out detailed measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security.

Slot allocation

What regime governs the allocation of airport slots (including slot transfer, revocation and disputes)?

The allocation of airport time slots is covered by EU Regulation 85/1993, as amended, setting common rules for the allocation of time slots at EU airports, slot mobility and appeals. The parameters for time slot allocation are decided by the state twice a year.

For some French Airports (Paris-Orly, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Lyon Saint-Exupéry and Nice-Côte d’Azur), slots are allocated by a coordinator (COHOR), which is an independent association.

Grievances relating to time slot allocation are brought before the Airports Coordination Committee, which provides mediation between the relevant parties if no solution to the problem is found.

Ground handling

How are ground handling services regulated?

Pursuant to Article L. 6326-1 of the Transport Code, ground handling services are provided by airline companies, airport operators and approved companies in airports that process more than one million passengers.

The conditions for the operation of ground handling services are contained in Articles R.216-1 and thereafter of the Civil Aviation Code, specifically with regard to approved support and the authorisation for activities required for support operations.

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