In order to ease the economic and environmental impact of the COVID-19 outbreak outbreak, the European Commission decided on 10 March to put forward very rapidly targeted legislation to temporarily alleviate airlines from their airport slot usage obligations under EU law.

A so-called “use-it-or-lose-it” rule has forced European airlines to run near-empty flights in order to retain valuable airport slots. This has drawn sharp criticism from climate activists as airlines operate ‘ghost flights’ emitting CO2 even though the coronavirus has dramatically reduced demand.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that aviation is one of the sectors suffering from the coronavirus outbreak and needing EU help. “The Coronavirus outbreak has a major impact on the European and international aviation industry. We see that the situation is deteriorating on a daily basis. Traffic is expected to decline further. This is why the Commission will put forward, very rapidly, legislation regarding the so-called ‘airport slots,’” she said announcing the measure. We want to make it easier for airlines to keep their airport slots, even if they do not operate flights in those slots because of the declining traffic. This is a temporary measure and this temporary measure helps both our industry, but it also helps our environment. It will relieve pressure on the aviation industry, and in particular on smaller airline companies. But it will also decrease emissions by avoiding the so-called ‘ghost flights’ – when airlines fly almost empty planes, simply to keep their slots. Again, this is just one example of a sector where help is needed and we are ready to act,” the European Commission President added.

EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean added that the temporary measure will allow airlines to adjust their capacity in view of the falling demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak. “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,” Vălean said.

The Commission will shortly adopt a proposal to amend the EU Slot Regulation. This amendment will then need to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

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