Use-it-or-lose-it - EU Commission extends suspension of Slot Regulation


Normally, airlines must actually operate slots allocated to them for arrival or departure at an airport for at least 80% of the time in order to be able to maintain their slots in the following year's scheduling period. This arrangement is based on an EU Regulation.

Since all airlines had to massively reduce their flights in recent months, they will not be able to use their slots as allocated to them in the foreseeable future. Business and environmental associations in particular warned that the airlines would be forced to perform mass "ghost flights" without passengers in order to keep their slots.

In order to prevent this, the EU Commission had already decided in March to suspend application of the so-called Slots Regulation initially until 24 October 2020.

However, since the volume of air traffic is still low, the EU Commission has now announced that it intends to extend the suspension. In order to give airlines further planning security, the suspension of slot rules will continue until 27 March 2021. For the airlines, this means that they will not lose their previous arrival and departure slots at airports until then - regardless of whether they operate flights or not.  According to the EU Commission, the extension is also intended to avoid unnecessary environmental pollution.

In this context, however, the European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, also pointed out to the problems associated with it. Available slots would not always be released on time and some airlines could thus abuse the exemption "to increase their market presence". This must be countered, she said.

German airports fear for their existence

On the occasion of World Tourism Day on 27 September 2020, the German Airports Association (ADV) again warned of the serious consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for German airports, stating that the economic situation was becoming more and more acute. German airports fear for their own existence and that of their partners and service providers. The General Manager of ADV, Ralph Beisel, speaks of the "worst crisis since the beginning of civil aviation" and again calls on the political decision-makers to approve rapid financial aid. Without them, many airports would be threatened with insolvency. In order to maintain operations at German airports, they are dependent on state aid, he says, which has not been granted to them to a sufficient extent.

With a passenger volume of only 20 percent of the pre-coronavirus figures, the air and travel industry is effectively in a second lockdown. According to the association, the expected decline in income for the current and coming year together will amount to more than six billion euros, with total sales of 6.5 billion euros in 2019.

Cash and cash equivalents at almost all locations only lasted into the second half of next year. This has dramatic consequences, especially for the employees of German airports, he stated. One in four of the total of around 180,000 jobs is directly threatened. This would affect around 45,000 employees.

As early as the beginning of May this year, Ralph Beisel called on the German Government to reimburse the airports at least the costs of around 740 million euros that they needed during the initial lockdown to maintain their infrastructure.

The next air traffic summit is planned for 6 November with Andreas Scheuer, the Federal Minister of Transport who has announced new coronavirus aids for the aviation industry. He promised a new support scheme for all segments of the industry. Scheuer emphasized that the entire air transport industry had to be taken into account. It was necessary to discuss a support scheme intended specifically - but not exclusively - for airports. Aircraft manufacturers, airlines, air traffic control, handling services, shops in airports and ground handlers were also affected and had to be taken into account. 

According to Scheuer, air travel will continue to change in the future. This was okay, he said, but it also has its consequences, for which solutions must be found.