European airports’ association ACI Europe has called on the EU for “urgent relief”, claiming airlines in receipt of billions of euros in state aid are refusing to pay airport charges.

ACI Europe president Jost Lammers warned many of Europe’s airports are in a “dire financial” state having lost 900 million passengers so far this year.

And he complained of “one-sided financial aid” to carriers creating “massive imbalances” in the aviation market.

Lammers pointed out airports sustained “significant costs” in accommodating emergency flights and cargo operations through April and May despite passenger traffic “entirely disappearing”.

The partial lifting of travel restrictions in June and July had allowed airports to restart, he said, but the recovery was “slow and disappointing”.

ACI Europe reported passenger traffic across Europe’s airports was down 93% in June and remains 80% down in July.

Lammers said: “Airports are burning cash reserves, with some having to use loans aimed at financing investments.

“The economic and financial situation is disastrous and the recovery is proceeding at a much slower pace than hoped.”

He noted more than €30 billion in aid has been extended to airlines, but said: “Aid is not flowing down to airports and other suppliers.

“Airlines are putting relentless pressure upon airports to rebate or waive charges – with cases of airlines in receipt of massive bailouts not even paying airports for use of their facilities.”

France has agreed a €7 billion aid package for Air France, and the Netherlands to €3.4 billion in aid for KLM, while Lufthansa secured a €9 billion package from the German government.

ACI Europe demanded that some of the €750 billion in Covid recovery funds agreed by EU leaders this week to go to airports.

It called for financial compensation to airports for the costs of remaining open during the lockdown and for implementing health measures, and urged that unemployment support schemes for airport staff be extended.

The association demanded airlines in receipt of government bailouts be required to pay airport charges and asked for duty-free sales on arrival at EU airports to be allowed.