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EU Eases Airport Slot Rules for Summer 2021

Photo source: © European Union – EP

Photo source: © European Union – EP

Aiming to support the transport sector, which continues to be heavily impacted by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the European Council on Monday adopted a set of temporary rules to provide relief to airlines from airport slot use requirements.

According to the Council, the relief will protect airlines and prevent the environmental harm that would be caused by running empty flights (ghost flights) merely for the sake of keeping the slots for the next year.

Under the general EU airport slot requirements, airlines must use at least 80 percent of their take-off and landing slots in order to keep them the following year. The regulation is referred to as the “use it or lose it” rule.

What changes for summer 2021

Under the approved temporary rules, airlines will now be granted the possibility to return 50 percent of their slot series before the start of the 2021 summer season, but they will have to use at least 50 percent of the remaining slots if they want to hold on to them.

The Commission will be empowered to adopt delegated acts for one year to cover the following two seasons. With such acts, the Commission may change the minimum utilisation rate to between 30 percent and 70 percent in order to respond flexibly to different air traffic levels.

The possibility to hand back 50 percent of the entire slot series only applies to summer 2021.

Photo source: Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA)

Photo source: Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA)

However, airlines will have to return any slot they do not intend to use, no less than three weeks before the planned flight, so that other airlines have the possibility to take up this unused capacity. This three-week rule will also apply if the measures are extended by delegated acts.

According to the Council, the rules on handing back slots are an example of the measures to start relaunching the industry and encourage competition that are included in the regulation.

“The swift adoption of the regulation gives the industry a stable legal framework to plan their operations for the coming seasons,” the Council said, adding that it also means that the new rules will be in place in time for the start of the 2021 summer season on 28 March 2021.

The slot relief follows on from a full slot waiver applicable in summer 2020 and winter 2020-2021.

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