COVID-19: Council of the EU Publishes Slot Waiver to Help Airlines

March 31, 2020

The Council of the EU announced on March 30 that the European Union has suspended the airport slot requirements until October 24. The slot requirements require airlines to use at least 80% of their slots in order to be guaranteed usage of those slots in the following year.

The waiver of the EU slots regulation is designed to help air carriers cope with the drastic drop in air traffic caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, help mitigate the severe economic impact on airlines, and give them certainty of access to slots for the 2020 summer season. It will reduce the risk of “ghost flights,” where airlines might have flown empty aircraft in order to maintain slots.

The waiver will apply from March 1 to October 24. It will also apply retroactively from January 23 to February 29 for flights between the European Union and China or Hong Kong. January 23 was when the first airport was closed by the authorities in China.

The Council of the EU stated that if the current serious situation persists, the measure can be extended quickly by means of a European Commission delegated act. The European Commission will monitor the situation and report back by September 15.

This initiative comes as part of a set of broader measures by EU member state governments to assist and stabilize the airline industry during the COVID-19 turbulence, including state aid in the form of loan guarantees, equity stakes, and tax relief, among others.

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