With the global aviation community badly hit by the impact of the current coronavirus outbreak, airline regulators in the EU have agreed to temporarily suspend airport use-it-or-lose-it slot rules.
The rules, which require airlines to use 80% of their allocated slots or face losing them to a competitor, had resulted in an increasing number of “ghost flights,” whereby aircraft have been operating with very few or no passengers at all in a bid to retain their airport slots.
The temporary suspension will allow airlines to respond to market conditions with appropriate capacity levels without the risk of losing take-off and landing privileges in the future.
Industry bodies, including the European Regional Airlines Association (ERA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), have welcomed the regulatory decisions waiving airport slot rules. However, Airports Council International (ACI) World has urged for caution. It has issued a statement calling for a proportionate slot allocation that will preserve global airport connectivity.
“A global suspension of slot rules would jeopardise the ability for countries to stay connected with the world, which will in turn have knock-on effects to economies,” the statement read.
ACI World’s Director General, Angela Gittens, added: “Airports rely heavily on airport charges to fund their operating and capital costs and operators find themselves under intense pressure during periods of traffic decline. Airport revenues must be sufficiently protected to ensure safe and sustainable operations. Measures to limit the collection of airport charges would be ill-advised.”
Suggesting that a market-by-market review would be the best option when it comes to assessing slot usage requirements, Gittens stated: “An evidence-based review would examine infection rates, load factors, forward booking forecasts, and the impact on the environment of continuing certain services.”
These are unprecedented times and with the breaking news this morning that the US will ban all flights from mainland Europe (excluding the UK) to the US as of midnight on Friday 13 March, the need for the airports, airlines and regulatory bodies to pull together and strengthen co-operation has never been stronger.
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