Commission's slot proposal will wipe out the most popular flights from the system
IACA has reacted with dismay today to the European Commission's proposal to revise the rules for slot allocation at EU airports, as part of the 'airport package'. Apart from the Commission's plan to legalise secondary slot trading, IACA is alarmed by further and unnecessary changes to the current slot system. These will have a severely detrimental effect on airlines, the flights they currently offer to passengers and the destinations they fly to.
IACA airlines are market driven i.e. they fly to destinations at times of the year when passengers want to fly. As a result, this makes them efficient airlines — serving the travel markets with large and very full aircraft, at the required frequency.
Particularly worrying for IACA airlines is the Commission's plan to redefine the term a 'series of slots' (2) which work well for airlines, as it allows them to match their offer of flights with seasonal demand.
However, if the Commission's proposal becomes law, the length of a block will be increased to 15 slots in a series in the summer and 10 slots in the winter. These longer series are less flexible and will result in an absurd and impossible choice for airlines: either fly the additionally required flights empty for several weeks in order to be entitled to grandfather rights or give up the highly efficient fully-loaded flights altogether.
As the first option is economically (and also ecologically) unsustainable, certain tourist regions, particularly in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal, will be deprived of some air services. These countries are already under pressure because of the current financial crisis.
In an attempt to avoid this, the Commission is suggesting local rules that would permit airports in tourist destinations to continue protecting grandfather rights with a series of 5 slots. However, as an air route has an origin and a destination, local rules are pointless without the same slot protection in the origin airports located in northern or central Europe.
Koen Vermeir, Director of Aeropolitical Affairs, IACA said:
“With this proposal, the European Commission is attacking an efficient way of flying and not analysing the consequences. Without today's legal certainty to maintain historical rights for a series of 5 slots, IACA airlines will no longer fly to tourist destinations that can only be served economically during the peak season. If IACA airlines are forced to give up these routes, no one else will pick these up.”
“If the Commission is not careful, they could effectively be wiping out the most popular flights from the system.”
“At this stage of the legislative process, we call upon the European Parliament and the European Council to consider the damage of these proposed changes on tourist destinations and on the airlines serving those markets”.
1. A slot is an authorisation given to an airline in order to land or to take off at an airport on a specific time on a given day of the week, for example an 8am departure slot on a Monday.
2. A series of 5 slots means 5 weeks of flights.