An agreement has been made between the European Commission and airline operators to extend the existing waiver on takeoff and landing slot rules. This comes amid concerns for the industry, as many carriers are struggling to stay afloat.
Airport slot rules are considered essential to businesses and airline operators’ profits. The rules state that airlines must use 80% of the slots given to them, otherwise they run the risk of losing them in the following calendar year.
However, during the pandemic, airline travel has taken a big hit. Even with the easing of travel restrictions and tourism, the number of people flying is much lower than normal.
Many travellers, especially those flying for non-business reasons, are, understandably, anxious about booking flights. The ever-changing rules and restrictions make it riskier than normal. Plus, there are concerns about the lack of social distancing on flights and at airports.
During the beginning of the pandemic, many airlines had to use “ghost flights” to continue meeting the administrative requirement of 80% usage. But, a waiver was finalised in March as a temporary measure.
Some operators were initially opposed to the waiver continuing in the winter months due to the potential impact on revenue.
Now, though, airlines have pledged to make sure unused capacity is redistributed to other companies. This will be a voluntary measure to begin with, but it may be official at a later date.
Reports show that air traffic will continue to be low in the coming months, and this could potentially continue for several years. In fact, some experts have warned that a recovery isn’t to be expected anytime in the near future.
As noted in a statement by EU transport boss Adina Vălean, “In this context, the lack of certainty over slots makes it difficult for airlines to plan their schedules, making planning difficult for airports and passengers.”
“Slots are not always relinquished in time for other users or airports to plan operations as they would like; competition may also be distorted if airlines seek to benefit by increasing their market presence without using their slots and airport capacity correctly.”
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