The four largest leased federal airports are subject to regulation and oversight in relation to prices of aeronautical services and facilities, car parking, ground transport and quality of service. Annual monitoring is conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in accordance with the Airports Act 1996 and Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Information on airport regulation from the ACCC is available on the ACCC website.
Prior to 1997, Australia's major airports were operated and managed by the Federal Airports Corporation (FAC), a self-regulated Government-owned business enterprise. Between 1997 and 2003, the Australian Government sold long term leases over the 22 FAC-operated airports to the private sector (50-year leases with options to renew for a further 49 years).
In privatising these airports, the then Government recognised that some had significant market power. Hence, it also introduced price regulation, though the number of airports covered and the nature of the regulation has changed over time. The regulatory framework was initially put in place for a five year period, with various reviews completed since then.
From July 1997 to June 2002
The privatisation of airports from 1997 was accompanied by price regulation measures under which increases in aeronautical charges were capped for the first five years. Increases for certain aeronautical charges were limited to a notified percentage less than the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI-X regime encouraged efficiencies in airport operations. Applications for annual price increases were assessed and agreed by the ACCC before becoming effective. The price cap did not apply to Government mandated security requirements (where direct costs were passed through) and ACCC agreement could be sought for additional charges to fund necessary new investment.
The ACCC also monitored the quality of services at airports as a complement to the price caps that assisted in deliberations on proposed price increases.
From July 2002 to June 2007
In response to the 2002 Productivity Commission report into price regulation of aviation services, price capping was replaced by price monitoring at the seven major airports (Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney Kingsford-Smith).
From July 2007
Price monitoring of the five major airports (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne (Tullamarine), Perth and Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airports) continued from 1 July 2007 in response to the Productivity Commission's 2007 report, Review of Price Regulation of Airport Services. Implementation of this regime included the amendment of the Airports Regulations 1997 to slightly expand the definition of aeronautical services and facilities. In 2008 the range of airport services monitored by the ACCC were expanded to include short-term and long-term car parking services at the major airports.
In December 2009, a second tier of economic regulation to be implemented in the four next largest leased federal airports was announced. Under the self reporting arrangements, Canberra, Darwin, Gold Coast and Hobart Airports disclose various pricing, quality of service and complaints handling procedures and outcomes through the airports' websites.
From July 2012
A Productivity Commission Inquiry into airport economic regulation was released on 30 March 2012 and is available on the Commission's website.
The Inquiry found that Adelaide Airport had limited market power and the airport was removed from mandatory price and quality of service monitoring by the ACCC, effective 30 June 2012. Adelaide Airport reports on its pricing and quality of service outcomes under the second tier reporting system alongside Canberra, Darwin, Gold Coast and Hobart.
Prices and the quality of services at the four major leased federal airports—Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth—continue to be monitored annually by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in accordance with the Airports Act 1996 and Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Information and annual reports are available on the ACCC website.
As part of its Inquiry, the Productivity Commission recommended that quality of service monitoring continue until June 2020, with a further review to take place in 2018. It also recommended that the objective criteria should be reviewed and updated by June 2013. The ACCC completed its review and released its revised Guideline for quality of service monitoring at airports in June 2013. The ACCC Guideline can be accessed on the ACCC website.
From June 2018
On 22 June 2018 the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and the Treasurer jointly announced the Productivity Commission Inquiry into the economic regulation of airports.
The Productivity Commission investigated whether the economic regulation of airport services promotes the efficient operation of airports and related industries. The focus of the inquiry is the provision of passenger and freight services at the main passenger airports in Australia's major cities.
Members of the community and stakeholders from industry and government were able to make submissions during the conduct of the inquiry. Submissions were invited on an Issues Paper released on 9 July 2018 and on the Draft Report released on 6 February 2019. Public hearings were held in March 2019 in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne.
The Productivity Commission handed its Final Report on the inquiry to the Australian Government on 21 June 2019 for the Government’s consideration. The report was tabled on 22 October 2019 and the Government’s response to the Final Report was released on 11 December 2019.