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Dolores Utrilla
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16th March 2020
Covid-19 Internal Market

Commission’s Proposal to amend allocation rules for airport slots in response to the Coronavirus outbreak

In response to the problems that air carriers are facing due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the European Commission has issued a Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation 95/931, which sets the rules on the allocation of slots at EU airports – ‘the EU Slot Regulation’.

The proposal concerns Article 10 of Regulation 95/931, which contains a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ rule. Such a rule implies that air carriers must use at least 80% of their allocated slots within a given scheduling period (summer or winter) in order to keep their ‘grandfather rights’, that is. their right to be allocated the same series of slots within the corresponding scheduling period of the next year.

The Commission proposes to replace this provision with a new article to oblige the slot coordinators to consider that, for the purposes of assessing accrual of grandfathering rights, slots allocated for the period from 1 March 2020 until 30 June 2020 have been operated by the air carrier to which they had initially been allocated. An additional, earlier period is included in respect of slots used for flights between the EU and People’s Republic of China or between the EU and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (from 23 January 2020). As a condition, in respect of cases following the entry into application of the proposed Regulation, any such slots have to be returned to the slot coordinator. Returned slots which are subsequently reallocated to other air carriers would not be eligible for grandfathering rights for the air carrier operating them.

The proposal includes also a provision empowering the Commission to extend the period during which the measures are applicable, by way of delegated acts, if the crisis linked to the outbreak of COVID-19 is not resolved and continues to have a negative impact on air transport, including on the slot grandfathering rights. The Commission should base any such decisions on the latest available information, published by the EU Network Manager at the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (‘Eurocontrol’), and on relevant scientific advice. Given the rapidity of the development of the outbreak, it is necessary that the delegated acts are adopted through an urgency procedure.

This Commission expects that these amendments would mitigate the effects of the current crisis and provide legal certainty to the air carriers for the relevant parts of the scheduling periods.

The Proposal is available here.

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