Spain to cut airport tariffs to boost traffic

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will cut the tariffs airlines pay to use the country's airports and remove the charge entirely in some cases in an attempt to boost falling traffic, the government said.

The cuts will reverse increases made over the past two years, which doubled tariffs at Spain's two largest airports in Madrid and Barcelona and prompted budget airline easyJet to close its Madrid base and Ryanair to reduce flights and routes.

The measure could increase traffic in Spain's 46 airports by about 2 per cent, or almost 4 million passengers, Public Works Minister Ana Pastor said.

Passenger numbers were down 4.9 per cent year on year in the first nine months of the year, or by 7.5 million travellers, on falling demand for domestic flights in the midst of an economic slump and the elimination of routes across Spain.

The reduced tariffs will take effect from Jan. 1, 2014, and will be applicable to new routes and for any moves by airlines aimed at increasing air traffic, Spain's airport regulator AENA said.

Rates charged per passenger on routes that carry additional travellers will be cut by 75 per cent and new routes will have the tariffs removed completely.