Airport slot relief proposal due to COVID-19

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Udvalgets udtalelse: Airport slot relief proposal due to COVID-19

Key points: 

The EESC commends the European Commission on its initiative to extend the temporary relief from the slot regulation rules of the European Community, and supports the proposal to mandate the Commission to adapt the threshold until the 2024/2025 winter season. However, in order to create a truly flexible response mechanism, the proposal should also contain airlines' entitlement to return to a full series of slots in combination with a variable utilisation threshold.

The EESC urges the European Commission and the Co-Legislators to reconsider the Commission's proposal in light of the recommendations developed by the World Airline Slot Board (WASB), which is composed of airlines, airports and slot coordinators, and which published its recommendations for slot relief for the summer 2021 scheduling season on 20 November 2020. The recommendations consist of a combination of (i) a full waiver of the "use-it-or-lose-it" rule for full slot series that are returned to the pool before the start of the season and (ii) a utilisation threshold of 50% for slot series that airlines retain. It also contains certain conditions and provisions on the justified non-use of slots specific to the COVID-19 situation.

The EESC believes that it is imperative to maintain a balance between the need to avoid measures that negatively impact the aviation sector's ability to recover from this crisis, the long-term objective of airlines to maintain costly slots at airports, and the need to ensure an appropriate level of competition for such scarce slots.

Finally, the EESC regrets that the EC seems focused on addressing the relief measures from the EU slot allocation rules without bearing in mind that such measures will be mirrored globally by other parts of the world. It is therefore preferable to pursue modifications that are operationally feasible and agreed globally – such as the WASB recommendations.