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EU Extends Slot Relief Rules for Airlines Until October 2022

The upgraded airport on the Greek island of Zakynthos. Photo source: Fraport Greece

Photo source: Fraport Greece

The European Commission recently adopted an extension to the airport slot relief rules of the 2022 summer scheduling season, running from March 28 until October 29.

Accordingly, airlines operating out of congested EU airports will be required to effectively use 64 percent of their allocated slots to keep them, up from the 50 percent threshold currently applied but instead of the normal requirement to use at least 80 percent.

The continued application of the force majeure provisions will provide airlines with full flexibility and protection from the usage requirement in case of disruptive new travel restrictions.

According to Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, the progress in vaccination campaigns and the EU Digital COVID Certificate have helped to restore traveller confidence and air connectivity in the EU, putting the industry in a stronger position to deal with short-term shocks.

“Even if we are not there yet, we can take a step further towards the return to normal airport slot management next summer. The decision we adopt today is a sign of that, as we increase the requirements for slot use,” Vălean said.

Photo source: ACI Europe

Photo source: ACI Europe

The progressive increase in the minimum slot usage threshold is backed by data from both Eurocontrol and airports across Europe which points towards a good level of recovery in the summer season.

Eurocontrol’s most likely traffic forecast estimates that annual air traffic in 2022 will be 89 percent of 2019 levels.

The Commission said the new slot use rate will ensure the efficient use of airport capacity while benefiting consumers.

In addition, the “justified non-use of slots” exception, protecting airlines’ historic rights to slots when state-imposed Covid-19-related measures severely impede passengers’ ability to travel, will also be extended.

The ACI Europe association, which represents over 500 airports in 55 countries, welcomed the decision by the Commission to set a 64 percent minimum airport slot usage threshold for the summer 2022 season.

Photo source: © European Union 2011 - EP

Photo source: European Parliament

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE referred to a “fully justified step” in progressively restoring normal slot usage rules, which should be fully reinstated for winter 2022.

“The Commission’s decision reflects the new reality of the aviation market, where some airlines have downsized structurally while others are looking at expanding. There is no doubt this will facilitate the continued restoration of air connectivity and at the same time allow for a more effective use of airport capacity,” Jankovec said.

On its part, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) thanked the Commission for providing confirmation of the slot rules for next summer.

“The extended slot alleviation provides certainty of the rules when the demand environment remains unpredictable, allowing airlines to build sustainable schedules that respond to demand,” said IATA Director General Wille Walsh.

“Until demand growth stabilizes, it is essential slot rules are restored gradually and continue to maintain provisions for reasonable exceptions when conditions change—such as a rapid clamp down on travel with the emergence of a new variant like Omicron. Only with sustainable and predictable global travel rules can connectivity recover and remove the need for slot alleviation,” he added.

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