The Mayor of Faro said today that the application of €17 fee for each car hired at Faro Airport jeopardises the survival of some rent-a-car jobs and companies.
Many car hire companies have signed binding contracts to supply rental vehicles at a fixed price which, with the new tax to be imposed by French-owned airports operator ANA, part of Vinci, may be hired out at a loss, said Rogério Bacalhau, noting that one company has over 33,000 confirmed bookings and its customers may simply refuse to pay the extra €17.
The dozens of car hire companies operating at the airport have been told that the new fee will be charged as from April 1st 2014 and they have been given less than 30 days notice.
Bacalhau is disgusted with this new fee because, "there is no provision of a service and no justification for the amount charged.”
"I see no reason to charge that rate ... because it does not result in the provision of any airport services," said the Faro mayor, adding that the car rental companies already pay for the space they use in which to park their rental cars.
Rogério Bacalhau wants to see a new negotiation started between ANA and the car hire companies and ANA should give an explanation of the new rate. He suggested that as a last resort the Competition Authority should examine the situation.
“There are two ways to earn money, one is to create wealth, the other is to be ANA” according to local Faro MP Cristóvão Norte.
Other Algarve MPs requested the intervention of the Competition Authority to try to avoid what Norte considers 'an abuse of a dominant position' on the part of ANA.
To Norte, who already has accused ANA of a “predatory attitude,” “this is the kind of move that serves to kill the economy.”
The additional cost this year to the car hire sector is estimated at over €10 million shared between the companies operating at the airport. The response by ANA management to complaints from car hire bosses has been that it is their problem.
"We talked with our European counterparts and they all told us that there is no such fee. Even in France, where ANA's holding company Vinci is based" said Empresas de Rent a Car do Algarve (ARA) spokesman Armando Santana.
“This is €10 million that will not be spent in the regional economy. This fee will harm the competitiveness of tourism” said Santana who added that there is no other airport operator in Europe which has imposed this sort of unilateral tax.
“This measure may have the consequence that tourists choose not to fly to Faro. The tourism industry is extremely delicate,” concluded Santana.
The government has been respectfully quiet as it lets ANA get on with its job of making as much money as legally possible from its new airport assets. Pre-privatisation the government could control ANA's operations and charging structure but those days are long gone and the €1 billion+ paid by the French company for ANA allows it to do as it pleases within the law.