The Strategist

European Commission to soften rules for airlines during COVID-19 epidemic

03/12/2020 - 08:55

EU authorities want to suspend the rules for receiving and maintaining slots at airports during the epidemic of the coronavirus COVID-19. Because of the rules, airlines are now forced to carry "ghost flights" with almost no passengers on board. This further worsens the situation in the face of a sharp decrease in passenger traffic due to the spread of coronavirus.

The European Commission is considering the possibility of helping airlines that are forced to operate flights even without passengers in order to keep their slots (the time allotted for the flight at the airport for arrival or departure on a specific day and hour) at airports. This was stated on Tuesday by the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Now the EU has a rule in accordance with which airlines must carry out at least 80% of the flights provided for by the slot allocated to them, so as not to lose it in the future.

For the duration of the epidemic, this rule can be suspended so that airlines do not have to carry out almost empty flights in a number of directions. Earlier, airlines have already complained that they have to launch such "ghost flights" in order to keep the slots.

“The outbreak of coronavirus has a major impact on the European and international aviation industry. We see that the situation is deteriorating every day and a further decrease in traffic is expected,” said Ms. von der Leyen at a press conference. “That's why the European Commission will very quickly prepare (new) legislation for the so-called airport slots.” “We want to make it easier for airlines to keep a slot, even if they don’t operate flights on this slot in conditions of reduced traffic.” According to her, this temporary easing of standards should help the aviation industry and at the same time reduce harmful emissions.

The coronavirus epidemic has hit the aviation industry hard. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has already stated that the loss of the airline industry due to coronavirus this year could range from $ 63 billion to - with a negative scenario - $ 113 billion. Many airlines have announced the cancellation of thousands of flights due to an epidemic: Lufthansa cancels 7.1 thousand flights in March, Air France-KLM - 3.6 thousand flights. Last week, the largest European independent regional airline, Flybe, filed for bankruptcy amid declining passenger traffic due to coronavirus.