The EU has pledged to ease the burden on airlines owing to the coronavirus by temporarily suspending their airport slot usage obligations under the so-called “use it or lost it” rule.
Carriers risk losing slots if they do not operate 80% of scheduled flights under normal circumstances, and have in the past operated “ghost flights” to circumvent the issue.
Several UK airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, have called on regulators to suspend the rules, which prompted a formal appeal by transport secretary Grant Shapps to UK’s independent slot coordinator Airport Coordination Limited.
President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Tuesday (10 March) the commission would put forward “very rapidly” legislation on airline slots to make it easier for airlines to keep their slots “even if they do not operate flights because of declining traffic”.
She said the commission acknowledged the coronavirus was having a “major impact” on European and international aviation, and that the situation was deteriorating on a daily basis with traffic expected to decline further.
Her comments were reinforced by an EU Commission statement, which confirmed the commission would put forward “targeted legislation” to alleviate airlines from their airport slot usage obligations under EU law.
“This measure will help both the European industry and the environment,” the statement read. “It releases pressure on the whole aviation industry and in particular on smaller airlines.
“It also decreases emissions by avoiding so-called ‘ghost flights’ where airlines fly almost empty aircraft to keep their slots.”