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IATA Warns of More Passenger Disruption if Airline Slot Rules Resume

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Wednesday expressed concern that a “premature return” to pre-pandemic slot use rules for airlines in the European Union this winter risks continuing disruption to passengers.

The association released a statement following the European Commission’s announcement that it intends after October 30 to return to the longstanding 80-20 slot use rule, which requires airlines to operate at least 80 percent of every planned slot sequence (‘use it or lose it’ rule).

It is reminded that due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Commission set the threshold at 64 percent until October 2022.

According to IATA, while airlines are keen to restart services, the “failure” of several key airports to accommodate demand, coupled with increasing air traffic control delays, means a premature return to the 80-20 rule could lead to further passenger disruption.

Delayed flights

“The chaos we have seen at certain airports this summer has occurred with a slot use threshold of 64 percent. We are worried that airports will not be ready in time to service an 80% threshold by the end of October,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh.

Evidence so far this summer is discouraging, says IATA

In its statement, the association said that airports had the 2022 summer season schedules and final slot holdings in January and didn’t evaluate how to manage this in time.

“Airports declaring that full capacity is available and then requiring airlines to make cuts this summer shows the system is not ready for reviving “normal” slot use this winter season (which begins at end of October),” IATA said.

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IATA’s director general stressed that it is essential for Member States and Parliament to adjust the Commission’s proposal to a realistic level and permit flexibility to the slot use rules.

“Airports are equal partners in the slot process, let them demonstrate their ability to declare and manage their capacity accurately and competently and then restore the slot use next summer,” Walsh said.

It should be noted that besides proposing to return to the standard slot use rate of 80 percent as of October 30, the Commission on Tuesday also suggested to prolong the possibility to make use of the ‘justified non-use of slots’ (JNUS) tool created during the pandemic.

According to the Commission, airlines would be able to use the tool, which would lower the slot use rate, in situations such as epidemiological emergencies, natural disasters, or widespread political unrest with a disruptive effect on air travel.

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