European Slot Coordinators Support Leniency of Slot Rules

 - March 9, 2020, 2:46 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

The European Airport Coordinators Association (EUACA) supports calls from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airlines for Europe (A4E) for regulators to temporary suspend the EU rule that requires air carriers to operate slots for at least 80 percent of the time to keep the entitlement in the next equivalent season. In a statement released on Monday, the EUACA said EU authorities should grant a waiver of the so-called 80/20 use-it-or-lose-it rule until the end of June 2020 "at the latest" as a first step to stem the effect of the Covid-19 outbreak on airlines' slot rights, “with a provision for a possible extension should the Covid-19 outbreak crisis continue.” The EU should base any decision to extend the waiver further on “supporting data,” it stressed.

The worldwide slot guidelines and the EU slot regulation 95/93 recognize reasons—force majeure events outside the air carrier’s control or extraordinary circumstances—for a justified non-use of slots. Slot coordinators in Europe working under EU 95/93—all EU countries, the UK, Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland—jointly agreed last month with the support of Brussels to grant a dispensation of 80/20 for flights to and from mainland China and Hong Kong. However, IATA and A4E now seek a longer—for the entire summer season—and more widespread suspension because of the serious effect the virus has triggered in most markets. Such a waiver would necessitate an amendment of the EU 95/93 slot regulation, as has been the case when the industry dealt with the SARS outbreak, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the global financial crisis.

According to the EUACA, EU regulators should “urgently initiate” an amendment of the EU slot regulation authorizing its members to consider a dispensation from the use-it-or-lose-it requirement.

The Dutch government has requested the European Commission for a waiver, the Netherlands’ airport coordinator ACNL, said on Monday.

In the UK, transport secretary of state Grant Shapps sent a letter on Monday to the EU Commission urging an end to the use-it-or-lose-it rule, arguing it has led to “ghost planes” during the Covid-19 outbreak. “Temporary relief now makes both environmental and financial sense,” said Shapps.

Europe’s airport trade body, meanwhile, has shown less sympathy for a prolonged and global suspension of 80/20. “Unlike airlines, whose aircraft are movable assets, airports can neither close nor relocate their terminals and runways to weather the storm,” said Airports Council International Europe director general Olivier Jankovec. “We support a partial relaxation of EU rules governing the use of airport slots use but do not consider at the moment that a blanket relaxation for all air routes is justified.”