Stricter European Slot Rule for Airlines Opposed by EU Nations

European Union governments opposed a proposal for airlines to face a stricter EU rule on the use of takeoff and landing slots, potentially undermining draft legislation meant to tackle a “capacity crunch” at airports.

EU transport ministers defended current European law requiring carriers to use airport slots at least 80 percent of the time in order to retain them the following year. The European Commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm, last year proposed to raise the use-it-or-lose-it slot obligation to 85 percent.

“We are not too happy,” European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told reporters after the ministers from the 27- nation EU reached a preliminary accord on the matter today in Luxembourg. The outcome is still open because the draft legislation is also going through the European Parliament, which has yet to give its verdict.

The number of Europe’s saturated airports is due to rise from five, including London Heathrow and Paris Orly, at present to 19 major hubs over the next two decades without policy changes, the commission said when proposing the legislation in December 2011. The commission said this would lead to delays affecting half of all flights in the EU.

In its draft law, the commission also proposed to permit EU-wide secondary trading of slots by airlines. Current EU legislation is silent on the question of slot trading, a practice permitted in the U.K. and banned in some EU nations including Spain.

At their meeting today, the transport ministers endorsed this provision while adding conditions that could restrict trading in practice, Helen Kearns, a spokeswoman for the Brussels-based commission, said by phone.

The EU Parliament is preparing to vote on the draft legislation in coming weeks. After that, national governments will make their position formal and any differences with the Parliament would have to be resolved through negotiations.

The Cypriot minister for communications and works, Efthymios Flourentzou, who chaired the Luxembourg ministerial meeting because Cyprus holds the EU’s rotating presidency, told reporters that today’s result “is far from being the end of the story.”
Bloomberg, October 29, 2012