Environmental charges

Some airports levy environmental charges, either separate or integrated into other ones (e.g. landing charges), in order to incentivise the use of quieter or lower-emission aircraft by airlines or fund local mitigation measures (Figure 5.3).

A recent evaluation of Directive 2009/12/EC on Airport Charges [71], together with an analysis of publicly available information, revealed that approximately 60% of the busiest EU28+EFTA airports have implemented environmental charges. In line with ICAO guidance, these charges are focused on local noise and/or air quality (NOX) impacts and not global climate change impacts (CO2), and are dependent on numerous factors including the aircraft and engine type, the certified noise and emission levels and time of the day. The overall proportion of environmental charges relative to total airport charges is increasing, but remains small as of 2016 (approximately 4% for long haul and 1% for short haul flights). As airport charges represent 15-20% of low-cost carrier costs and 4-8% of network carrier costs, the evaluation report concluded that it is questionable whether those charging schemes influence the fleet operating at the airports.

Although there are significant differences in the structure of the environmental charging systems across Europe, the evaluation of the Airport Charges Directive concluded that it had provided a common framework for a transparent consultation on the charging setting process, remedies, non-discrimination and the establishment of independent supervisory authorities.

Environmental impact mitigation measures

Airports have been active in improving their environmental performance in various areas. This section provides an overview of some of these actions based on the 51 airport responses to the ACI EUROPE survey in 2018, which represent 60% of total EU28+EFTA passenger numbers.

Vehicle fleet

86% of the respondents reported that their vehicle fleet included electric vehicles, 47% have hybrid models and 35% have vehicles that run on sustainable alternative fuel. In addition, 18% of airports indicated that they provide incentives for taxis to also use these types of ‘green’ vehicles.


61% of survey respondents indicated that renewable energy is produced on site (Figure 5.4) while 40% have established an energy management system certified according to the ISO 50001 standard. 89% of these airports indicated that the renewable energy produced on site covers 1-20% of their energy needs, 3% stated the energy covers 21-40% of their needs, 5% stated the energy covers 41-60% of their needs and 3% stated the energy covers more than 61% of their needs. In addition, 65% of airports purchase electricity from renewable sources.

Airport infrastructure

The provision of Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) and Pre-Conditioned Air (PCA) to aircraft at the airport gate reduces emissions by allowing the pilot to obtain electricity direct from the local grid and use the airport’s air conditioning system to control the temperature on board. The aircraft Auxiliary Power Unit, which uses normal jet fuel, can then be kept switched off until just before the aircraft is ready to depart when it is needed to start the main engines. 82% of respondents provide FEGP to aircraft on-stand and 58% of respondents provided PCA.

Airport surface access

A large part of the indirect emissions at airports originate from surface access transport (e.g. the road access to the airport). The development of improved public transport systems to reduce the use of individual vehicles, and improve local air quality, is one of the key challenges for airports and the local authorities. While 98% of airports indicated that public transport was available, a majority of airports also reported that less than 20% of their employees actually use it to travel to work. In a separate analysis, on average, 36% of passengers travelled to airports by public transport in 2018, compared to 43% in 201616.

Environmental Management Systems

82% of surveyed airports, representing 53% of total EU28+EFTA passengers, were certified against an international standard to effectively monitor and manage their environmental performance (e.g. EU EMAS, ISO 14001) or energy management (ISO 50001).

16 2016 and 2019 data was based on airport reports representing 56% and 64% of European traffic respectively

Stakeholder actions

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

Environmental NGOs19 in Europe are actively involved in policy-making discussions to address the increasing environmental impacts of aviation. They communicate wider civil society views on concerns and positions associated with noise, air pollution, climate change and social justice.

Union Européenne Contre les Nuisances Aériennes (UECNA)

UECNA was created in 1968 and is a pan-European NGO representing citizens impacted from the nuisance of noise and air pollution associated with aviation. UECNA represents its members in expert work groups, mainly at the European level, and keeps them informed of new developments.

Aviation is growing and this trend will continue in the coming years. The consequences of noise and pollution on the health of populations overflown by aircraft are often not internalised within market prices. An awareness of these environmental challenges by all stakeholders, at the European, national and local level, is essential in order to identify and implement plans that will significantly reduce these impacts.

UECNA works continuously with this objective in mind. A constructive comparison process is an important element of progress that UECNA promotes. Through systematic benchmarking and positive comparisons of the solutions put in place at various airports, best practise solutions can be shared in order support general measures to reduce noise and air pollution. UECNA works closely with the European Aircraft Noise Measurement System (EANS) in this area.

Case Study: European Aircraft Noise Measurement System

The public can sometimes find it difficult to obtain information on aircraft noise in their area (e.g. noise levels, flight tracks). As a result, one such community near Frankfurt Airport decided to monitor aircraft noise itself. This led to the founding of the European Aircraft Noise Measurement System (EANS) as an NGO in 2002. Today, the EANS offers free online information about aircraft noise covering 54 airports with 697 noise monitoring stations in 8 European countries. The EANS system is financed by citizens and municipalities through membership fees and donations, and managed by Eidgenössische Materialprüfungsanstalt (EMPA) in Switzerland. It provides expert advice to technical working groups, and works closely with UECNA.

24 hours of flights at Frankfurt Airport on 13 July 2018

19 This includes Transport & Environment, Aviation Environment Federation, Carbon Market Watch and UECNA who are members of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation. There is also a range of national NGOs such as RAC (France), Bund (Germany) active in the aviation area as well as many local action groups.