Europe’s aviation sector has expressed concern over the European Commission’s proposal to amend airport slot use regulation claiming that it does not “sufficiently address” the impact of the (Covid-19) pandemic on air transport, the rate of recovery in summer 2021 and the required level of airport slot relief measures that would best support aviation’s return to health.
In an effort to restore essential air transport connectivity, airlines and airports have called and negotiated the adaptation of more flexible slot rules for next summer. However, the measures introduced by the Commission differ from the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) recommendations.
“In contrast to the industry’s recommendations, the European Commission’s proposal does not allow for sufficient early planning opportunities for airports and airlines alike – which risks hindering recovery and adding costs,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe Director General.
In its proposal, the EC suggests airport slots should be handed back three weeks prior to operation on a rolling basis, but offers no ability for airlines to return slots in bulk without risking future access to airports, said sector representatives in a statement.
At the same time, the proposal does not support airlines seeking access to airport slots in summer 2021, because they will not get the opportunity to plan for a full season or series in one go.
“We appreciate the EC’s efforts to make a timely proposal for summer 2021 slot relief, but unfortunately it falls short of what is needed. The industry is now looking to the Council and the European Parliament to make the necessary changes. We need a practical, simple and implementable solution – not one that creates additional complexity for an ailing industry devastated by Covid-19,” said Thomas Reynaert, managing director of Airlines for Europe (A4E).
The WASB recommendation includes offering incentives to carriers to return their full series of airport slots in February – well in advance of the peak summer 2021 season, in return for alleviation from airport slot usage requirements altogether, facilitating in this way the early reallocation of those airport slot series and their ad hoc use throughout the season whilst enabling carriers to optimize their schedules under challenging conditions.
The statement adds that this is an essential measure which would allow the industry to cater to demand when and where it materializes.
European air transport has been among the hardest hit sectors from the pandemic. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) projects Europe’s 2021 recovery to be the slowest of the major regions with international services from major hubs impacted the most.
“We believe that the full package of balanced airport slot relief measures proposed by the industry should be implemented in full to ensure European aviation has a fair and level playing field to recover,” said Jankovec.