I was reading last week of the public listing of the Italian ATC provider.

In the article it is said that

If successful, the IPO would mark the first listing of a European national air traffic controller, although not the first privatisation.

and this got me wondering: how do they make money? Usually private companies are there to make a profit, do airlines have to pay the ATC providers?

It made me wonder also about possible impact on safety and security: I assume that this is in accordance to EASA rules, but is there any specific mention of "private ATC", or is it permitted simply because it is not forbidden?

  • $\begingroup$ Unlike the USA, many other countries have hefty fees for aviation, even general aviation which makes it even more expensive to fly. These fees pay for aviation services like ATC. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 13:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer That's true, but of course in the US the money still has to come from somewhere and the FAA does get income from fuel and passenger taxes (among other sources). ATC in the US certainly feels 'free' compared to other countries where they actually send you a bill, but operators are still paying; it's just in a different way than in other countries. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 16:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Very true, there have been proposed bills in the past to shift some of these fees to GA which luckily have been closed down before getting too far. A good search is "GA User Fees". They've come up a lot more recently since the FAA keeps running out of funding. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


In Europe, airlines pay so-called route charges for flying through national airspaces. EUROCONTROL, the European aviation organisation, collects route charges from their Central Route Charges Office, CRCO, and then distributes the money to the member states, who in turn will distribute them to the national air navigation service providers (ANSP's) - including private ones. The advantage of collecting route charges centrally, is that airlines only have to pay to a single organisation, in a single currency.

The charge for individual flights is calculated based on distance flown and aircraft weight, which are multiplied by a unit rate. The unit rates are determined by the individual countries - they are not the same across all of Europe. Unit rates are based on the actual costs for providing air traffic services, such as ATC, communication facilities, navigation equipment, meteorological information, aeronautical information service and so on.

Route charges do not apply to aircraft weighing less than 2 tonnes, state and government flights and search and rescue flights. Some states also exempt military flights, training flights, test flights, local flights, VFR flights, humanitarian flights, police flights etc.

You can read more about the CRCO here, and about how route charges are determined here.

Regarding your second question, I fail to see why a private ANSP should be any less safe than a government one.

  • $\begingroup$ NAV CANADA has been private since 1996, though it is run as a non-profit company. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 20:47

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