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The European Commission has rejected the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) request to suspend its “use it or lose it” slot rules at busy airports from the end of March to the end of October, as a result of the coronavirus.

The current rule is that airlines must use a slot at a regulated airport 80% of the time or lose it for the next period.

However, IATA argued that airlines were struggling with a loss of demand due to the coronavirus outbreak and needed the flexibility to cut back on flights.

European Commission rejects IATA’s request to suspend slot rules
Credit: Maria Tyutina

There is precedent for the move that IATA is lobbying for: the slot rule was suspended after the SARS outbreak in 2003, for example.

But Henrik Hololei, director general of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, responded that the material submitted by IATA as evidence of traffic decline did not constitute “solid data”.

The Commission did not see an immediate need for a blanket suspension, as airlines could already claim for protections in extraordinary circumstances for specific routes (such as those to China or Northern Italy); demand could potentially still return in the second quarter; and, Hololei said, airlines are not at risk of losing access to next year’s slots.

ACI Europe, the trade organisation representing airports, agreed with the European Commission’s decision.

Source: Aviation Week

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