Allocation of slots at EU airports: common rules - recast

In “A Europe Fit for the Digital Age”

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The file is awaiting Council's position.

The aim of the proposal was to recast the EEC Regulation 95/93 on the allocation of airport slots with intention is to ensure optimal allocation and use of airport slots in congested airports, as well as the enhancement of fair competition and the competitiveness of operators, as current rules do not facilitate entry into the market by new players.

This proposal is part of the December 2011 Commission's Airports Package, including a Communication on 'Airport policy in the European Union and two other legislative proposals, one on groundhandling services and the other on noise.

The Council adopted its general approach in October 2012 and the EP adopted its first reading position in December 2012.

In this first reading position the EP introduced a number of additional measures to strengthen the independence of slot coordinators across Europe, and make slot allocation more transparent. It strengthened the demands on the coordinator's functions and on the independence of the coordinator's supervisory board. It rejected the proposals to raise the slot series usage rate to 85% and increase the minimum number of weekly slots for priority allocation. However, the EP supported penalties for the late hand-back of slots by airlines, stipulating notably that the system of penalties shall be revenue-neutral for the airport managing body and shall be aimed solely at increasing the efficiency of time slot allocation. In its resolution of 16 February 2017, the EP urged the Council and Member States to make swift progress on deadlocked dossiers including this one.

The European Commission in its 'Aviation Strategy for Europe' urged the Council and the EP to adopt the revised regulation. The proposal is at present waiting for Council's first reading position and remains blocked in the Council.

On 24 September 2019, TRAN Committee decided to enter into interinstitutional negotiations on this file after 1st reading in Parliament. The proposal was also among the priority files in the 2021 Commission Work Programme, classified under the priority 'A European Green Deal'.

The Commission launched between 31 August and 28 September 2020 a public consultation on airport slot allocation in light of the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, it published on 16 December 2020 a new proposal to amend the Slot Regulation as regards temporary relief from the slot utilisation rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While according to the Regulation (EEC) 95/93 airlines have to use 80 % of the slots awarded to them to secure their full slot portfolios for subsequent scheduling seasons, the new proposal reduces this threshold to 40 %. It also introduces a number of conditions, which aim to ensure that airport capacity is used efficiently and without harming competition after the COVID-19 pandemic. At the presentation of the proposal at the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) in January 2021 several TRAN Committee members questioned whether the new proposal doesn't go far beyond the need to react to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its initial discussions, the Council expressed its wish to reduce the time limit for the Commission to extend the period of validity of the new slot proposal by means of delegated acts and increase the minimum threshold to 50% of airport slot usage for the period from 28 March to 30 October 2021. In the final act, adopted on 16 February 2021, the threshold of 50 % was kept. The Commission has delegated powers for one year.  It may also adapt the use rate within a range of 30-70%. 

In July 2021, the Commission extended the relief measure to the winter scheduling season, running from 31 October 2021 until 27 March 2022, with a 50 % threshold for the “use it-or-lose-it” rule.

In the Commission Work programme for 2022 the common rules for the allocation of slots at EU airports  were listed as a priority proposal under 'A European Green deal'.

On 15 December 2021, the Commission extended the slot relief rules for the 2022 summer scheduling season, running from 28 March 2022 until 29 October 2022. Airlines had to use only 64% to retain historic rights in those slots during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The “justified non-use of slots” exception was also extended.

On 12 July 2022, the European Commission proposed  to allow the airline slot regime to respond more flexibly to unexpected developments in the near future. The Commission proposed to return to a higher slot use rate (80 %, as of 30 October 2022) reflecting the demand, but at the same time, to prolong the possibility to make use of the ‘justified non-use of slots’ (JNUS) tool created during the pandemic. On 12 September 2022, the committee referral was announced in the Parliament. The Parliament approved on  6 October the revision of the temporary rules on airlines’ take-off and landing slots in the EU. The new rules set the minimum slot utilisation threshold, as of 30 October, at 75%. The 80% threshold will again be in force for the summer period 2023. This rate may be lowered by the Commission if air traffic falls below 80% of the 2019 level.

According to the 2023 Commission work programme, a new proposal on the Revision of the airport slot Regulation will be published in Q3 2023 under the priority' An Economy that Works for People'.


Further reading:

Author: Jaan Soone, Members' Research Service,

As of 20/06/2024.