EC Proposes Four-month Suspension of Slot Rule

 - March 13, 2020, 2:13 PM

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

The European Commission on Friday proposed to 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 through June 30. The draft amendment to the EU slot regulation 95/93, seen by AIN, also proposes to retroactively waive the 80/20 use-it-or-lose-it rule to March 1 and to January 23 for slots used for flights between the EU and China/ Hong Kong. The EU waiver lasts one month longer than the one granted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday, though it falls short of requests by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airlines for Europe (A4E), which advocated a dispensation of 80/20 for the whole summer season. 

According to the commission, suspending the 80/20 slot use obligation through October 24 “could be disproportionate” should the situation return to normal in the intervening period. It does, nonetheless, recognize that the specifics of the pandemic make it difficult to predict when demand will return to normal levels. Therefore, the commission is proposing to empower itself to extend the period of the waiver via so-called delegated acts rather than having to draft new amendments, which each would need approval from the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

The temporary waiver marks a good first step, said A4E managing director Thomas Reynaert. But, he asserted, “for the sake of efficiency and predictability, and rather than seeking extensions on a rolling basis, a longer waiver would allow airlines to fly where the demand is and allow airports to adapt their services accordingly.”

IATA regional vice president for Europe Rafael Schvartzman described the proposal for the temporary waiver as “much needed and most welcome” but also he expressed disappointment the decision does not cover the full season. “Airlines are implementing emergency measures under severe cashflow conditions. Along with relaxing slot rules, governments must also consider other forms of emergency relief,” said Schvartzman.