BTN Europe presents an overview of business travel and MICE predictions for this year
ExCeL London - 24-25 February 2021
The European Commission has agreed to put forward
legislation to relax airport slot rules in order to alleviate pressure on
airlines as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Under current regulations, carriers must use at least 80 per
cent of their allocated airport slots in order to secure them for the following
equivalent flying season. However, as many airlines have cut capacity due to a
drop in demand owing to the Covid-19 crisis, some have admitted they are flying
near-empty planes and “ghost flights” in order to meet the requirement.
UK transport secretary Grant Shapps wrote to regulators
urging the “use it or lose it” rule to be relaxed during the outbreak, saying
empty flights are “bad news for the environment, airlines and passengers”.
Recent Skyscanner research also found that some carriers are
discounting fares by more than 80 per cent to manage the fall in passenger
The Commission’s proposal will need to be approved by the
European Parliament and the Council of the EU, but if it is adopted, the
Commission said the move will reduce emissions and take pressure on the whole
Commissioner for transport Adina Valean said: “The temporary
measure will allow airlines to adjust their capacity in view of the falling
demand caused by the outbreak. Without such a measure, airlines would have to
continue to operate flights, even if largely empty, to guarantee their current
slots at EU airports, with a negative impact – both economic and environmental.
Given the urgency, the Commission will in due course present a legislative
proposal and calls on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly adopt
this measure in co-decision procedure.”
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, which is one
of the airlines to admit it is operating empty flights, welcomed the news but
said the measures need to be put in place in time for the crucial summer flying
“Prompt publishing of the legislation will allow the UK slot
co-ordinator to act, enabling Virgin Atlantic and other airlines to operate
schedules more efficiently and avoid flying almost empty planes for the sake of
retaining valuable slots, which in turn creates unnecessary carbon emissions,”
Airlines UK CEO Tim Alderslade said the industry needs “clarity
that this will apply to all markets and for the duration of the summer season”.
Meanwhile, BTN's Michael B Baker reports that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is waiving minimum slot-use requirements at US airports, giving carriers more leeway to cancel flights as demand craters amid Covid-19 fears.
The waiver allows carriers through May 31 to operate below the 80 percent use requirement for airlines to keep their slots at New York's John F Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, as well as Washington's Reagan National airport. At the four other airports where the FAA has a formal review process - Chicago O'Hare, Newark Liberty, Los Angeles and San Francisco - the FAA simply is giving credit to airlines for cancellations related to the virus as if the flights had remained in operation.
FAA officials said they might extend the waiver if necessary and noted that it is contingent on authorities outside of the US offering the same leeway. Carriers in jurisdictions where slot rules remain enforced might not get the waiver, according to the FAA.