COVID-19 has affected airlines across the world, with many forced to ground the majority of their fleets and reduce operating capacity.

Rafael Schvartzman

The European Commission (EC) decision to grant a temporary suspension of the rules for airport slots does not go far enough, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

COVID-19 has affected airlines across the world, with many forced to ground the majority of their fleets and reduce operating capacity.

However, the 80-20 “use it or lose it” rule for airports slots means carriers are required to continue to operate a slot for at least 80% of the time to retain it the following year.

Given all the uncertainties, it is disappointing that the slots use decision does not cover the full season

The EC has granted a temporary suspension of the rule until June, but IATA, while welcoming the decision, noted that a longer extension is vital if European airlines are to survive the current crisis.

“Airlines are in crisis. The collapse in demand is unprecedented. And airlines are struggling to match capacity to the fast-changing situation,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.

“The Commission’s decision to suspend slot use rules until June means that airlines can make these critical decisions immediately—without worrying about the impact on future availability of slots. 

“This is much needed and most welcome. However, given all the uncertainties, it is disappointing that the decision does not cover the full season.” 

The Commission’s decision will benefit airlines, airports and passengers in numerous ways including:

  • Allowing airlines to plan schedules and redeploy aircraft and crew to where demand is highest
  • Improve economic and environmental sustainability by ensuring that flights for which there is no demand can be cancelled
  • Enable airlines more flexibility to plan for the recovery phase and re-introduce capacity where and when needed
  • Ensure that the industry can return to normal as quickly as possible once the crisis is over

In a statement, IATA said suspending the rules until June “is the very minimum the industry needs” and said it hopes regulators will decide on a full suspension until October to help airlines schedule accordingly.

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