With airports around the world planning to increase tariffs to fund expansion, global airlines lobby group the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said it was unfair that airlines and passengers had to pay for costs incurred by airport operators.

Iata said recently that infrastructure charges by operators were now the second-largest external cost to airlines, after fuel.

The association said airlines and passengers paid about $43,5bn a year to airports and air navigation service providers.

Airports Company SA (Acsa) said last week it would increase its passenger service charges on average 11% a year over the next five years to fund part of its R20bn expansion. Domestic passenger charges would increase by R12,27 to R38,59 a ticket.

Charges on tickets for regional flights would increase from R53,51 to R79,82 and international passengers would pay R105,26, up from R70,18.

Iata has called on governments to strengthen the capacities of airport regulators.

“Airport regulators are phantoms,” said Iata director-general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani. “While we are moving in the right direction with air navigation service providers, too many airports still operate as happy monopolies. Their financial results with earnings before interest and taxes up more than 40% prove that it is a dream world for airports and a nightmare for airlines.” Bisignani singled out Bangkok, London’s Heathrow and Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airports as the biggest cash-guzzlers.

“The three were responsible for $1,4bn of the $2bn of airport cost increases in 2006,” he said.

Iata said governments should give airport regulators teeth by incorporating cost-efficiency targets for airport regulators.

Travellers could benefit from even more affordable air fares if airport operators reduced their high landing, parking and passenger service levies.

Bisignani said the airline industry, which had invested billions of dollars in environmentally friendly aircraft, had managed to reduce their fares by at least a third in a decade.

“Now airports need to catch up with airline efficiency gains but instead of cost reductions, we see double-digit increases.

“Look at Heathrow, where we could face a 50% increase between 2008 and 2013, or France where the government approved a 27% increase in charges at Charles de Gaulle for 2006-2010. It’s a real problem.”

The Airports Council International (ACI), which represents 573 major airport operators that manage more than 1600 airports in 178 countries, said this year that the growth in passenger numbers had necessitated the expansion programmes.

ACI said passenger numbers would grow by an average of 4% a year in the next 20 years. If nothing was done now, airports would not be able to manage the extra billion passengers.