Airlines for Europe (A4E)* welcomes the swift agreement by the EU institutions to grant European airlines relief from the “use it or lose it” airport slots rules for summer 2021 in light of the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on aviation.
The agreed proposal will help to mitigate the economic impact of the crisis on European airlines, preserve future connectivity for EU citizens, and avoid the unnecessary operation of empty flights and associated emissions in order to maintain take-off or landing slots.
A4E has continuously urged full alignment of the European Commission’s proposal with the Worldwide Airport Slot Board’s recommendation on slot relief measures for summer 2021. Consistent global rules are essential for the airline industry, and several non-EU countries have either adopted the WASB recommendation in full, such as Turkey, or granted full slot waivers for the summer period, such as the United States. A4E welcomes many of the improvements that have been made to the initial proposal, notably the ability for airlines to return slot series prior to the season, although the outcome falls short of the full alignment A4E has advocated for and will create complexity for EU airlines.
Quick and effective implementation of the amended rules is now a priority, as is the need to ensure reciprocity between EU and non-EU countries. Some of these third countries will grant slot relief to foreign carriers on the condition that this relief is reciprocated for their home carriers. With the EU now taking a different approach than other parts of the world, it is vital that the European Commission ensures EU carriers are eligible for relief in important markets such as China, Japan and the United States.
Additional slot relief measures should not be ruled out for summer 2021 in case of a severe deterioration in operating conditions, such as a further tightening of travel restrictions to tackle new COVID-19 variants. Slot relief beyond the summer period may also become necessary given the ongoing uncertainties associated with the pandemic.
*Note that A4E member Ryanair does not share this position and will communicate its view separately.