EU extends waiver until March of rule requiring airlines to use slots

FILE PHOTO: European Commissioner for Transport Adina-Ioana Valean speaks during a news conference on the strategic orientations of the European Tourism and Transport Package at European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, May 13, 2020. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union announced on Monday it will extend until March 27 a waiver of the requirement that airlines use 80% of their take-off and landing slots, to help an industry still suffering from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The waiver was put in place to avoid airlines operating empty “ghost flights” to keep their slots. European Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said a study showed demand was not likely to pick up fast enough to lift it.

“Today’s report shows that air traffic levels remain low, and more importantly, they are not likely to recover in the near future,” she said in a statement.

“In this context, the lack of certainty over slots makes it difficult for airlines to plan their schedules, making planning difficult for airports and passengers.”

Valean also urged airlines to start thinking about a return to a normal slot regime once air traffic picks up again, and said she hoped to present a proposal on this before the end of the year. She noted that the requirement that airlines use their slots was important for efficiency and fair competition.

“Slots are not always relinquished in time for other users or airports to plan operations as they would like; competition may also be distorted if airlines seek to benefit by increasing their market presence without using their slots and airport capacity correctly,” she said.

Reporting by Marine Strauss; Writing by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Peter Graff