A4E urges European regulators to extend airport slots waiver through winter 2020/2021 due to continued COVID-19 uncertainties

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  • Continued flexibility is needed for recovering aviation industry to respond to unpredictable passenger demand related to the health crisis.
  • Extended waiver should be granted no later than 31 July to provide much-needed certainty during critical recovery phase. 
  • Forcing airlines to operate flights in order to retain slots would be financially and environmentally irresponsible.

A4E today urged European regulators to swiftly extend the temporary waiver on the airport slots 80/20 rule through the winter 2020/2021 season (from 25 Oct. 2020 – 27 March 2021) to give airlines and airports flexibility to respond to unpredictable passenger demand due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, and to support the sector’s recovery.

European aviation remains in a severe and unprecedented crisis. Annual losses are projected to total €82 billion, globally – the worst year in aviation’s financial history. Europe’s airlines are projected to lose €19 billion and are among the top three worst-affected regions, globally.

All parts of the industry are facing a high uncertainty in planning operations, including airlines. Bookings are at historical lows and currently 59% below normal for the beginning of the winter season. Passengers are also booking closer to their intended date of travel than usual. This lack of visibility on future demand makes it extremely challenging for airlines to plan their schedules.

There are additionally no signs that travel will resume quickly during the summer or reach levels close to normal operations in the winter. Continued uncertainty about travel restrictions, quarantines, and the pandemic’s evolution will affect the market in the foreseeable future. In addition, mandatory health requirements may affect available capacity and the number of flights that can be accommodated.

Matching capacity and frequency of operations to actual demand will make the best use of available infrastructure in these difficult circumstances. Surviving a winter season that is challenging during the best of times — with lower demand and lower profits than in summer — will depend on airlines’ ability to remain agile.

Extending the slots waiver now to the winter season will give airlines the flexibility they need to build robust schedules, help slot coordinators at congested airports to manage capacity and allow airports to plan their operations with some predictability. This, in turn, will help achieve optimal use of available capacity and restore air connectivity in the most sustainable way.

This winter may be a make it or break it season for aviation. We urge regulators to grant the extension without delay and give European airlines the best possible chances to recover from this unprecedented crisis”, said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director, Airlines for Europe (A4E).  “Forcing airlines to operate flights in order to retain slots would be financially and environmentally irresponsible. Clarity is urgently needed by the end of July at the latest”, Reynaert added.

Airlines are already at an advanced stage of the slot allocation process at key airports and must return slots that they do not intend to operate during the winter season by 15 August – with the process concluding by the end of August.

A4E also urges EU authorities to support the competitiveness of European aviation given the current uncertainties. The winter slots waiver, combined with other supportive measures, including the suspension of ATC charges for 2020 and suspension of new aviation taxes, should be actioned as a matter of priority.

Brussels, 25  June 2020 

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