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8 JANUARY 2018
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The European Commission has published guidelines interpreting the criteria used for operating public service obligation (PSO) air routes. Such subsidised services are deemed essential to help the communities involved. Even with Brexit, the UK is likely to follow the guideline principles as set out in Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008.
In a British context and with enhanced regional slots being considered for an expanding Heathrow, suitable mechanisms by which this can be achieved, such as PSOs, are important. The UK has PSOs between Newquay, Derry and Dundee to London, Cardiff and Anglesey, and to and between Scottish islands.
There are 179 PSO routes established in the EU in 13 member states (Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK). France has the largest number (40), with some 5.7m passengers annually, representing 20% of domestic traffic on a PSO route. There is significant variation in their use, and EEA countries also operate PSOs.
PSO routes are mostly domestic, with only seven linking airports located in two different states, and 136 of the current PSO routes are subsidised by the public authorities. The annual subsidies are estimated to be at least €300m.
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