The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Friday branded the European Commission’s decision to set the slot use threshold at 50 percent for the 2022 winter season as “out of touch with reality”.
The association argues that the Commission had ignored the advice and evidence presented by EU member states and the airline industry, which had made the case for a much lower threshold.
According to IATA, the EC’s announcement means that, from November to April, airlines must “use or lose” at least half the slots they hold. The Commission’s argument is that the intra-EU traffic recovery this summer justified a 50 percent use threshold with no alleviation.
“There is no alleviation to hand back slots at the start of the season allowing airlines to match their schedule to realistic demand or enable other carriers to operate,” IATA said.
Additionally, the association pointed out that the rule on “force majeure”, by which the slot rule is suspended if exceptional circumstances related to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic are in effect, has been switched off for intra-EU operations.
IATA warned that the result of the changes will be to restrict the ability of airlines to operate with the agility needed to respond to unpredictable and rapidly changing demand, leading to “environmentally wasteful and unnecessary flights”.
According to the association, it will also further weaken the financial stability of the industry and hinder the recovery of the global air transport network.
“Once again the Commission has shown they are out of touch with reality. The airline industry is still facing the worst crisis in its history. The Commission had an open goal to use the slots regulation to promote a sustainable recovery for airlines, but they missed. Instead, they have shown contempt for the industry, and for the many member states that repeatedly urged a more flexible solution, by stubbornly pursuing a policy that is contrary to all the evidence presented to them,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
IATA underlined that regulators in the UK, China, Latin America and Asia-Pacific have put much more flexible measures in place.
“Only the EU has dogmatically insisted that traffic will return at a rate far beyond any reasonable forecast,” IATA noted.