The European Commission intends to extend the waiver of its so-called “80-20 use-it-or-lose it” slot allocation rule for the winter period running until March 27, the EC announced Monday. However, in a written statement, EC transport commissioner Adina Valean expressed concern that, despite the positive effects of the waiver, some airlines have taken advantage of the system to the detriment of airports and competitors.
Valean also stressed the importance of reinstituting the previous rules as soon as traffic returns to a stable level, adding that she hopes to present a proposal for doing so by the end of the year.
Under the slot allocation rules, which the EC first waived on March 30, air carriers must use at least 80 percent of a slot series allocated to them or lose historical precedence for the slots. The amendment aimed to protect the financial health of airlines during the Covid-19-related traffic disruptions and avoid the environmental effects of empty or largely empty flights operated solely to maintain underlying airport slots.
However, a commission report released Monday to the European Parliament and Council admitted to certain “shortcomings,” such as the failure of the waiver rule to set a specific time limit for carriers to temporarily hand back their unused slots for use by other carriers while maintaining their historic rights to them.
“The initial slot waiver—adopted in the early days of the crisis—has allowed airlines to make financially sound decisions on whether to run flights, as well as avoid ghost flights,” said Valean. “Nonetheless, our report also highlights certain problems with the current waiver, which are preventing airlines from using airport capacity efficiently. Slots are not always relinquished in time for other users or airports to plan operations as they would like; competition may also be distorted if airlines seek to benefit by increasing their market presence without using their slots and airport capacity correctly. Such behavior can hamper competition and can, therefore, harm EU passengers and freight customers. This must be remedied.”