Some of the temporary provisions introduced in May to ease the financial pressure on aviation operators and groundhandlers are to be extended into 2021, following recommendations in a new Commission report.
EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said: “The measures introduced in May provided much-needed relief for Europe’s aviation sector, so I am fully behind their extension where justified by the ongoing conditions. As we continue the fight against the pandemic and prepare the ground for recovery, a coordinated response will be essential. We do not consider flight bans effective in containing the pandemic, so will not be extending the derogation providing more flexibility to Member States on flight bans.”
In response to coronavirus measures that saw planes grounded around the EU, the Commission adopted rules amending parts of the Air Services Regulation in May. The amendments allow:
- airlines in temporary financial difficulty to keep their operating licence;
- groundhandlers whose contracts expire before the end of 2021 to keep them until 2022, making it easier for them to access loans;
- airports to urgently replace their groundhandling service provider should it suddenly go bankrupt;
- Member States to maintain flight restrictions if necessary.
The new report recommends extending the derogations linked to operating licences and the selection of groundhandlers, due to expire on 31 December 2020, by one year. This is justified by the ongoing pandemic and its impact on air traffic, which is likely to continue into 2021. The Commission does not consider at this stage that an extension of the current derogation allowing the lengthening of groundhandling contracts until 31 December 2022 is necessary, but will continue to monitor the situation.
Nor will the Commission extend the flexibility offered since May on the prolonged flight restrictions, as effective health and sanitary measures have been found to be more effective at controlling the spread of the virus.
The report, to be handed to the Council and European Parliament on 13 November, concludes that the Commission will continue to review the situation, and is ready to consider further measures when justified to help the sector weather the crisis and recover.