ERA calls for longer-term solution to slot dilemma

 - February 6, 2007, 5:04 AM

Europe is facing a shortage of 3.5 million airport slots by 2025, according to the latest projections by Eurocontrol. At the October Airport Operators Conference in Brussels the ATC management agency confirmed that 20 years from now demand for flights will significantly exceed airport capacity.

The reaction of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) to the announcement is that European Commission (EC) officials should now abandon their plans to reform slot allocation rules and focus instead on creating additional airport capacity. Earlier this year, the EC’s transport directorate issued a consultation paper aimed at formulating a process for allocating slots on a commercial basis, perhaps through the use of slot auctions.

Apart from its concerns that any such process would disadvantage smaller regional carriers in favor of major airlines with more spending power, ERA has demanded that the EC tackle the core problem of capacity shortage, arguing that there is a need for slot allocation only because demand exceeds supply.

“Revision of the slot allocation regulation should have a far lower priority than the urgent need to establish, at the EC level, a determined program to create additional capacity at congested airports and action to ensure land-use protection,” ERA director general Mike Ambrose told the Airport Operators Conference on October 28. “The current arrangements work. Revision of the regulation will not increase capacity; it will only alter the mix of airlines using airports without providing any benefits to Europe’s citizens and air-travel consumers.”