A so-called Kiss & Fly area, located in the direct proximity of an airport terminal, enables outgoing and incoming passengers to be easily dropped off at or picked up from the airport either by friends or family or external taxi services. It has been a common practice to limit to the necessary minimum the time that the driver is allowed to park in a Kiss & Fly area free of charge, in order to ensure a smooth flow for all passengers.
However, several Polish airports have introduced even tighter rules, limiting not only the time of a single access but also the frequency of free entry. At Warsaw’s Chopin Airport one can access the Kiss & Fly area five times a day for a maximum of 7 minutes on each occasion. Warsaw-Modlin Airport allows two 10-minute entries a day. Kraków Airport has set a daily limit of 40 minutes, but a single free entry may last no longer than 10 minutes. Finally, Katowice Airport does not allow any free access and charges a relatively insignificant fee for each entry. The Polish competition authority – the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) – shall now check whether these rules restrict competition to the detriment of consumers. In a statement, the President of the UOKiK announced that the Office was going to review the rules of access to the Kiss & Fly areas so as to make sure that the airport operators were not abusing their market power to the disadvantage of other undertakings. At the same time, he emphasized that the preliminary proceedings were not being conducted against any particular undertaking. Still, the four airports were named as applying the least favorable rules, so it is rather apparent which undertakings should be on their guard.
Polish airports has come under scrutiny of the competition watchdog over suspicion that the entry limits on access to Kiss & Fly areas could foreclose the market to businesses offering car parking and airport transfer services which operate somewhat further from the airports. Such undertakings could be regarded as competitors by airport operators. Airport passengers, however, would not perceive such services as a substitute of a car park at the airport in the absence of a transfer service. Unlimited access to an airport’s Kiss & Fly area in terms of frequency seems therefore to be crucial for the provision of such services. Although the UOKiK press release stops short of detailing the issue, a limit on the number of entries could also give rise to claims of an unfair advantage that an airport’s official taxi services could have over external transport service providers.
On the other hand, the entry policies, that are currently under scrutiny, could prove to be indispensable for the effective functioning of the Kiss & Fly areas at the airports concerned. Unlimited access could potentially lead to hold-ups and deprive the passengers of the expected comfort of travel. According to media reports, the airport operators have complained of taxi drivers entering the areas to fish for customers and leaving just before the lapse of the time limit only to re-enter immediately and occupy the parking space yet again. Entry limits could therefore be objectively justified as necessary to ensure required service standards and prevent trickery. Furthermore, the UOKiK seems to assume that a Kiss & Fly area is the relevant market that constitutes the framework for the antitrust review in this case. This position might reasonably be challenged since external service providers could use more remote locations to pick up and drop off passengers. These points will have to be weighed by the competition authority.
Under the Polish competition act, preliminary proceedings shall not last longer than 4 months (or 5 months in more complex cases). Until then the UOKiK will have to decide if there is enough substance in its allegations in order for formal charges to be brought.