The European Commission (EC) has granted a
temporary suspension of the 80-20 “use it or lose it” rule for
airport slots until June 2020.
While the decision reflects the
unprecedented situation facing the airline industry, IATA has said
that granting the suspension only until June is the very minimum
the industry needs, and a decision on a full suspension until
October will be needed within the next month to allow airlines to
plan their schedules.
The COVID19 virus has caused a collapse in global
air travel demand. Owing to the requirement to continue to operate
an airport slot for at least 80% of the time, airlines have been
unable to respond by adjusting their capacity. The suspension of
the slot use rules until June will allow airlines to begin putting
in place measures to cope with the unprecedented fall in traffic,
but it is a shorter period than airlines had requested. Airlines
need the suspension to be extended to cover the whole season (to
October), as other regulators worldwide have already agreed. The
EC will therefore need to review the extension request by 15 April.
“Airlines are in crisis. The collapse in demand is
unprecedented. And airlines are struggling to match capacity to
the fast-changing situation. 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,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.
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; and
- Ensure that the industry can
return to normal as quickly as possible once the crisis is over.
Airlines have been among the hardest-hit by the
COVID19 outbreak. IATA estimates that
airline revenues could fall
by $113 billion (19%) if the virus is not contained, and that estimate
was made before the announcement of the restrictions to travelers
inbound to the United States from Europe.
“Airlines are implementing emergency measures
under severe cashflow conditions. Along with relaxing slot rules,
governments must also consider other forms of emergency relief,”