04 May 2010 Europe

Aena - Brief of the Spanish Law 9/2010 from 14 April 2010 on Air Navigation Services

4 May: Aena, the Spanish ANSP, issues press release on the passing into law of decree on Air Navigation Services
AENA, the Spanish ANSP, has issued a press release on the passing into law of the decree issued in February on the regulation of the provision of Air Navigation Services:

The high accrued deficit and the level of the air traffic fees - the highest in Europe due mainly to the high Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) costs - are putting at risk the financial sustainability of the company and the maintenance of its certificate according to the European Union Single European Sky (SES) Regulations. In addition, the inability to reach a new collective agreement with the ATCOs group after long standing negotiations since 2005, and the current economic crisis facing this sector led the Spanish Government to take the initiative and published a decree-law last February 5th 2010 which has been turned after the approval by the Spanish Parliament into Law for the regulation of the provision of Air Traffic Services and the obligations of the civil providers, including the labour conditions for the ATCOs.

The Law, which aims to ensure continuity in the provision of ATS services in a safe and cost-effective manner, speeds up the pace of liberalization in the sector and establishes for Aena an interim regime of three years after the date of the publication of the Law governing the working conditions of its ATCOs.

With a view to gaining cost-efficiency and reducing the structural deficit caused by air navigation cost the highest of Europe due to the ATCO salary gap, the Law carries on a set of liberalizing measures by opening the provision of ATC and AFIS services at some Spanish towers through a concession scheme to certified providers. Liberalization is also applied to initial training activities.

Aena will continue to provide en-route and approach air traffic control services in Spanish airspace. The Spanish Ministry of Development (Ministerio de Fomento) will be responsible for designating the certified service providers in charge of providing ATS services at the Spanish aerodromes. The designation of the tower ATS provider will depend on the proposal of the airport concessionaire who will specify the services required (AFIS, ATC or both). In this respect the Law establishes the integration of the ATS Tower service charges into the costs of the aerodrome concessionaire adapting these services to the characteristics of each airport.

In the above context, the Spanish NSA (National Supervisory Authority), AESA, is entitled to certify new air traffic control service providers by urgency procedure as well as the current air traffic control training entities as AFIS training entities. It is also envisaged the publication of a new bill in the next three months within the State Operational Safety Programme which integrates into the Spanish Legal framework a preventive approach of safety and the application of ‘just culture’’ principles.

Other complementary measures are to entitle AESA to approve as a matter of urgency training plans which allow for previous experience and knowledge validation so as to supply new licensed controllers in a shorter time.

The Law also provides for a gradual 15% reduction of the Spanish en-route fee between year 2010 and 2012 so as to be, by 2013, at the average of the 5 main European air navigation service providers. This will imply an annual saving estimated in 120 M€/year, which will positively impact on both the users and the flight ticket costs.

The three years interim regime established by the Law also governs the working conditions of its ATCOs and returns devolved powers to Aena´s management insofar as a new collective agreement is in place. The main temporary measures for Aena´s ATCOs address working conditions aspects such as the increase of the amount of annual ordinary worked hours and the limitation of the number of overtime hours a year. Likewise, Aena will accommodate the leave policies to the needs of the service, in order to guarantee the continuity of a safe and cost-effective service provision.

The new Law provides for sanctions according to the Air Safety Law for both the air traffic service provider and its staff, when failing to comply with the established regulations. In particular, staff could be disciplined or dismissed should the breach affect the safety, the efficiency or the continuity of the service provision.

The Government with this new regulatory framework nonetheless wants to keep open the path of social dialogue and agreement with air traffic controllers who considers "a basic element in air navigation" and will do every endeavor to facilitate the agreement of a new collective bargain, setting of new legal framework.
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