Slot allocation rules for airlines under normal circumstances imply that 80% or more of the allocated slots must be operated. If failing, the airline is deprived of the right to use the slot for the next equivalent season - the so-called "use it or lose it" rule. Almost a half of all passengers worldwide depart from over 200 airports that operate through slot synchronization.
As COVID-19 virus is affecting air travel demand globally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is demanding leniency to the slot usage rules.
The European Commission has reacted by granting temporary suspension of the 80/20 airport slot rule - until June 2020. This decision is still to be reviewed by April 15, as such timeframe is the very minimum for the industry. Airlines need to plan their further schedules and therefore require a suspesion until October 2020.
“Airlines are in crisis. The collapse in demand is unprecedented. And airlines are struggling to match capacity to the fast-changing situation.
The Commission’s decision to suspend slot use rules until June means that airlines can make these critical decisions immediately — without worrying about the impact on future availability of slots.
This is much needed and most welcome. However, given all the uncertainties, it is disappointing that the decision does not cover the full season”, - as Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, concluded.
The rule suspension allowed by the EC is undoubtedly favourable for airlines, airports and passengers. Aircraft and crews can be redeployed wherever there is higher demand, and the industry will be able to return to its normal condition after the crisis much faster.
This decision is also beneficial for economic and environmental sustainability as unnecessary flights lacking demand can be cancelled.
The aviation industry already faced precedents of slot rules relief in the past: in 2002 after the 9/11 tragedy, in 2003 due to SARS and the war in Iraq and in 2009 when the financial crisis took hold.