Competition and trade law: Groundhandling monopoly at Frankfurt Airport and Dusseldorf Airport

United Kingdom

The Commission has reached three important decisions relating to groundhandling services, such as baggage handling, runway operation, refuelling, handling of freight and postal services, cleaning, and the provision of catering services.

The Commission has made a decision in response to complaints by several airlines that Frankfurt airport was 'abusing its dominant position' by not granting to airlines the right to provide groundhandling services themselves nor giving access to other companies to provide such services. The Commission upheld the complaints and rejected Frankfurt airport's arguments that constraints on space and capacity justified the monopoly.

In 1996 the Council issued a Directive on liberalisation in the groundhandling market. The German authorities requested a derogation for Frankfurt airport from this Directive, aimed at safeguarding the current monopoly until the year 2000. The Commission rejected that application save only for the grant of a partial exemption for terminal one because of heavy construction work in that terminal.

The Commission has also decided on a German request for a derogation from the Directive in the case of Dusseldorf airport. The Commission has approved the request for a derogation until the end of 1999 in view of space and capacity constraints created by the consequences of a fire in 1996. The space requirements of provisional alternatives to the buildings destroyed by the fire and of the reconstruction works make it impossible to implement the Directive timetable.