Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) has welcomed the European Commission’s (EC) decision to set the slot-use threshold at 50% for the upcoming winter 2021 season, calling it ‘pragmatic and proportionate’.

The non-profit organisation called the decision an important step in the restoration of slot usage rules as air traffic rebounds.

ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said: “The aviation sector, having been brought to its knees by the pandemic, can and must now embrace and build upon the green shoots of recovery.

“And whilst a return to 2019 passenger levels remains a distant vision, our ‘new normal’ does increasingly come with growing levels of stability, thanks to vaccination, certification, and testing protocols.

“This means that a gradual return to slot usage rules, following much needed temporary relief in a time of crisis, is now appropriate.”

EC’s 50% slot usage threshold revises its previous temporary relief regulation.

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However, Jankovec explained that the threshold set by the EC could even have been at a higher level.

He added that the agreed solution for W21 is a ‘solid first step’ with a further rise for the Summer 22 season and an expected return to the 80/20 usage rule in Winter 22.

Additionally, ACI Europe reiterated its call for a wider review of the slot regulation, which is more than two decades old and inadequate for the present market scenario.

Jankovec added: “As we pick up the pieces after this systemic shock, planning certainty and the ability to invest have never been more crucial nor have they ever been harder to achieve.

“Ensuring that mechanisms like the EU Slot Regulation, which should guarantee the optimal use of airport capacity, are fit for purpose should be the highest of priorities.”

Earlier this month, Gatwick Airport (LGW) in the UK reportedly raised its concerns over the plan that will allow airlines to hold their unused airport slots over the upcoming winter season.

According to a Bloomberg report, the airport criticised the move saying that it would further delay the recovery of the aviation sector.