EC proposes 'more flexible' slots; easyJet scorns decision
The European Commission is putting forward an amendment to the 'slots' regulation to the European Parliament and the Council for “urgent adoption". This temporary measure would allow airlines to keep their rights over slots. easyJet has moved quickly to slam the proposal.
The “use it or lose it" rule means that an airline has the right to keep its slots from one season to the next provided 80% of them were taken up. But in the economic and financial crisis, in order to prevent airlines maintaining their capacity and operating purely in order to keep their slots, the Commission is proposing a temporary freeze of the 80-20 rule during the 2009 summer season (April to October) just as it did in 2001-2002 and 2003, in order to allow airlines to reduce their activity without losing their slots. Carriers will thus have access during the 2010 summer season to the same slots they had in summer 2009, regardless of whether or not they used them.
This measure is planned for only one season (summer 2009), though depending on how serious the situation appears as the 2009-2010 winter season approaches, the Commission may decide, on the basis, it claims, of a thorough impact study, to renew all or part of the scheme, which would then also have an effect on the 2010-2011 winter season.
easyJet has slammed the move, viewing it as the EC agreeing “to allow inefficient, poorly-run airlines to horde valuable airport landing slots, rather than allowing unused slots to be returned to the many European airlines that are ready, willing and able to operate them”
Andy Harrison, easyJet's chief executive, declared, “The Commission has today proposed a badly thought-through plan that will lead fewer flights, and higher fares, thereby exacerbating the economic situation, not helping it. Protectionism is not the answer; it will simply make the crisis worse.
“The Commission’s proposal is anti-consumer and only in the narrow commercial interest of a handful of ailing flag-carriers. We call on the European Parliament and EU Member States to reject a piece of legislation that has been written by the Association of European Airlines, the unrepresentative club of former state-run airlines.”
“This proposal does not have the support of the industry and 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.”