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The European Commission has planned to implement new airport slot legislation to reduce the burden on airlines caused by the impact of Covid-19.

The aviation industry is being severely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, with passenger traffic expected to continue decreasing with the progression of the epidemic.

Last week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) requested aviation regulators around the world to suspend the rules overseeing airport slots for the year.

Compared to last year, air carriers have seen a reduction of 26% in their operations.

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The suspension of airport slots will benefit the environment, the aviation industry in Europe and, in particular, smaller airlines.

As a result, airlines will not need to operate ‘ghost flights’, nearly empty aircraft, in a bid to keep their slots.

According to the standard rules, airlines should operate a minimum of 80% allocated slots. If an airline doesn’t fulfil this condition, it loses its rights for the same slot for the next season.

The European Commission will now implement a proposal for the amendment of the EU Slot Regulation, which requires approval from the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “The temporary measure will allow airlines to adjust their capacity in view of the falling demand caused by the outbreak.

“Without such a measure, airlines would have to continue to operate flights, even if largely empty, to guarantee their current slots at EU airports, with a negative impact, both economic and environmental.

“Given the urgency, the Commission will in due course present a legislative proposal and calls on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly adopt this measure in co-decision procedure.”

In a statement regarding the EU’s decision, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said: “The European Commission today indicated it is in favour of a temporary relaxation of the ‘use it or lose it’ rule for flight slots at regulated airports.

“This is a positive step, but we urgently expect detail of these measures, and confirmation that alleviation will apply to all markets for the full summer season.

“Prompt publishing of the legislation will allow the UK slot co-ordinator to act, enabling Virgin Atlantic and other airlines to operate schedules more efficiently and avoid flying almost empty planes for the sake of retaining valuable slots, which in turn creates unnecessary carbon emissions.”