Last week, the European Commission adopted a proposal to allow the airline slot regime to respond more flexibly to unexpected developments in the near future.
Demand for air traffic is clearly back, and the time has come to return to normal slot use rates to ensure the efficient use of airport capacity, with fair and competitive access for airlines, to the benefit of passengers.Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Transport
1. Return to normal, but with more flexibility
The Commission proposes, on the one hand, to return to the standard slot use rate of 80% as of 30 October (from currently 64% under the for the summer 2022 scheduling season) – reflecting demand – but at the same time, to prolong the possibility to make use of the ‘justified non-use of slots’ (JNUS) tool created during the pandemic.
“The ‘Justified Non-Use of Slots’ clause has provided us with a particularly effective tool to manage crisis situations. Maintaining this tool will give us sufficient flexibility – an insurance – to act in case of a new deterioration of the public health situation, or indeed if we are faced with further fallout from the Russian war in Ukraine”, says Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean
Airlines would be able to use these exceptions in situations such as epidemiological emergencies, natural disasters, or widespread political unrest with a disruptive effect on air travel. In addition, and only as a last resort, the Commission would be empowered to lower the use rate if air traffic levels fall below 80%, compared to 2019 figures, for four consecutive weeks due to Covid-19, another epidemiological situation, or as a direct result of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.
“While the current rapid ascent in demand, as well as projections for future demand, point to an ongoing recovery of air traffic, recent experience has shown that the current slot rules are not sufficiently resilient to large-scale disruptions. The war in Ukraine also shows how air traffic – and airlines’ ability to meet normal slot use requirements – can be severely and durably affected by other unforeseen developments on specific routes”, reads the statement from the Mobility and Transport Directorate General.
The Commission is also proposing a number of specific measures to mitigate the consequences of Russia’s aggression and to restore air connectivity between the EU and Ukraine when the time comes. These include for example a 16-week recovery period before slot-use requirements become applicable again once Ukrainian airspace reopens, as well as the possibility to adopt a Delegated Act to lower the use rate on routes between the EU and Ukraine.
2. Airports eager to get back to normal
Airports Council International (ACI) Europe welcomes the European Commission’s proposal to finally reinstate standard airport slot usage rules for the upcoming Winter 22/23 season. Accordingly, airlines will be required to use airport slots they have been allocated for 80% of the time in order to keep them during the following corresponding season – putting an end to successive usage alleviation measures that have remained in place since Spring 2020.
Airports understood and accepted the need for slot waivers for airlines during the pandemic. But there is no question these waivers also came with forgone connectivity and forgone revenues for airports.Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe.
The return to the so-called 80:20 usage rule is consistent with the dynamic air traffic recovery under way. It reflects the need to shift from protecting the airport slot portfolios of incumbent airlines to promoting an effective use of airport capacity and the restoration of Europe’s vital air connectivity – now that Covid-19 travel restrictions have been largely eased or even abolished both within Europe and in most other world regions.
ACI Europe also supports the flexibility that the Commission proposed to extend through the ‘justified non-use of slots’ or JNUS provisions – which will still allow airlines to keep hold of airport slots they cannot use due to remaining travel restrictions on specific markets or to the war in Ukraine and related international sanctions.
“Going back to the normal slot usage rule while still giving airlines the flexibility and protection they need when faced with travel restrictions or the impact of the war on specific markets is the right thing to do now that air traffic is finally recovering. We urge the EU Council and the European Parliament to support this Commission proposal and expedite its approval”, says Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe.