IATA has slammed the European Commission as “out of touch with reality” after it ruled current airport slot rules would extend through the winter requiring carriers use half their allocated slots at major airports or lose them.
Airline association IATA condemned the EC decision to extend the current threshold of 50% use of slots at slot-constrained airports through the winter, claiming it ignored evidence presented by EU member states and the airline sector.
The decision means that from the end of October airlines must use or lose at least half the slots they retain.
Airlines have warned they could be forced to operate flights empty to maintain slots for use when demand returns.
The current restrictions, set in February, replaced a waiver due to the Covid19 pandemic of previous use-it-or-lose-it rules which required use of 80% of slots.
By contrast, the UK government simply extended its waiver of slot rules for this summer and has indicated it will do the same for the coming winter.
In a statement, IATA warned the EC decision “will restrict the ability of airlines to operate with the agility needed to respond to unpredictable and rapidly changing demand, leading to environmentally wasteful and unnecessary flights.
“It will further weaken the financial stability of the industry.”
IATA noted: “There is no alleviation to hand back slots at the start of the season allowing airlines to match their schedule to realistic demand or enable other carriers to operate.
“The rule on ‘force majeure’, by which the slot rule is suspended if exceptional circumstances related to the Covid pandemic are in effect, has been switched off for intra-EU operations.”
IATA added: “Winter demand always tracks below summer demand and forward bookings are trending well below levels seen last winter.
“Governments continue to be extremely cautious about opening borders. Their response to variants of concern is still to close borders or instigate quarantine measures which kill travel demand.
“Other regulators around the world have understood the arguments.
“Regulators in the UK, China, Latin America and Asia-Pacific have put much more flexible measures in place. Only the EU has insisted traffic will return at a rate far beyond any reasonable forecast.”
IATA director general Willie Walsh accused the EC of showing “contempt for the industry” and “stubbornly pursuing a policy contrary to all the evidence”.
He noted “a rich irony that only a week after the Commission released its carbon emissions plan, it publishes a slots regulation that may force airlines to fly regardless of whether sufficient demand for a route exists”.