LONDON – On July 12, the European Commission proposed some new changes to its airline slot procedures to make the adjustments of airline slots a lot more flexible to the current economic situations, including the relief of slots.
The proposal made by the European Commission is from October 30, to return to the standard slot use rate of 80% as opposed to the current 64% for this summer season.
The new 80% would be a reflection of the major growth in demand for air travel.
Only as a last resort can the Commission lower the 80% usage rate, if air traffic levels fall below 2019 figures for four consecutive weeks but only due to COVID-19, another epidemiological situation or as a result of Russia’s military aggression in their ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
On the flip side to this, the Commission also wants to prolong the possibility for airlines to be able to use their JNUS (Justified Non-Use of Slots) tool in order to adjust to the current global situations.
Some of these situations include epidemiological emergencies, natural disasters, or widespread political unrest that has a disruptive effect on flights.
As well as all of these, the Commission wants to implement further specific measures in order to alleviate the consequences of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine and will restore air travel between the EU and Ukraine when the time comes.
These specific measures include a possible 16-week recovery period whereby slot usage requirements would not come into effect until after that period has ended.
As well as this, they also want to implement a Delegated Act that will enable these usage rates to be lowered on routes between the EU and Ukraine.
The Commission has also said that this proposal comes from lessons learned during the Covid pandemic, including transparency being enhanced and strengthened cooperation with the EU Member States so that they are more consistent with granting JNUS relief.
Of course, this entire proposal is still subject to the approval of the European Parliament and the Council.
But if these proposals are adopted, they will come into effect from October 30, 2022, and run until March 26, 2024, which is when current expectations believe the air traffic will have fully recovered.
Commenting on their new proposals, Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, has said, “Demand for air traffic is clearly back, and the time has come to return to normal slot use rates to ensure the efficient use of airport capacity, with fair and competitive access for airlines, to the benefit of passengers.”
“But we must make sure we are better prepared for the unexpected. The ‘Justified Non-Use of Slots’ clause has provided us with a particularly effective tool to manage crisis situations.”
“Maintaining this tool will give us sufficient flexibility – insurance – to act in case of a new deterioration of the public health situation, or indeed if we are faced with further fallout from the Russian war in Ukraine.”
It is evident from these new proposals from the European Commission that air travel demand is swimming back to its pre-pandemic rates and, in some cases, growing.
It will be interesting to see how the European Parliament and Council react to the changes, especially given the current airport situation of understaffing that is resulting in many hours of delays and, in some cases, even cancellations.