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easyJet urges EU to withstand state aid calls by legacy carriers

5th March 2009 - 09:49 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


In a letter to all 27 European Commissioners, easyJet has called on the European Union to “avoid narrow-minded protectionism by a few legacy airlines appealing for state aid through the back door”.

easyJet points out that the Association of European Airlines (AEA) is asking the European Commission to consider a suspension of the rules governing slot usage at Europe’s major airports, which easyJet sees as an attempt to prevent other European airlines from using scarce slots that would be freed-up by cutbacks expected for this year. It is understood that the Commission is preparing a proposal to suspend existing rules on slot allocation.

On 27 February, the AEA publicly called on the EU to allow airlines to keep their slots for one year even if they do not use them. Under the EU’s so-called ‘use it or lose it’ rule, airlines must use their slots for at least 80% of the time or return them to the slot pool, so that other airlines can make use of them.

“This is not about protecting the industry; it’s about propping-up a few poorly-run, inefficient network airlines with out-dated business models that cannot adapt to the demands of modern consumers,” declared Andy Harrison, easyJet's chief executive. “This idea does not have the support of the industry, and it is not consistent with the objective of supporting the industry. If unused slots are in demand they will be taken up by other airlines, helping consumers and local communities in the process, and the industry as a whole. However, if unused slots are not in demand they will remain available to be used by airlines.

“A slot freeze helps inefficient, legacy airlines to hoard scarce resources from European airlines that are ready and willing to use them,” added Harrison. “Implementing such a measure would lead to fewer flights, and higher fares, thereby exacerbating the economic situation, not helping it. We must resist this lurch back to the stone age of protectionism.”

The Shephard News Team


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