The European Commission (EC) is planning to make its airport slots regime more flexible to better handle disruptions, such as the Ukraine conflict and Covid-19 pandemic.

The EC noted that the existing slot rules are not robust enough to cope with large-scale emergencies.

Prior to the pandemic, airlines had to use their slots at least 80% of the time to retain them for the next season. However, the threshold has been cut to 64% for the 2022 summer season due to the impact of the pandemic.

The EC has proposed a return to the standard rate of 80% from 30 October.

At the same time, it would look to extend the ‘justified non-use of slots’ (JNUS) exemption set up during the pandemic.

Airlines can make use of this slot flexibility during epidemiological emergencies, natural disasters or widespread political unrest that affects air travel.

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The EC would also be able to reduce the rate of slot use again if air traffic levels dropped under 80% versus 2019 levels for four consecutive weeks.

European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Demand for air traffic is clearly back, and the time has come to return to normal slot use rates to ensure the efficient use of airport capacity, with fair and competitive access for airlines, to the benefit of passengers. But we must make sure we are better prepared for the unexpected.

“The ‘Justified Non-Use of Slots’ clause has provided us with a particularly effective tool to manage crisis situations. Maintaining this tool will give us sufficient flexibility – an insurance – to act in case of a new deterioration of the public health situation, or indeed if we are faced with further fallout from the Russian war in Ukraine.”

Additionally, the EC is proposing new measures to lower the consequences of Russia’s invasion and restore air connectivity between the EU and Ukraine at an appropriate time.