The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has condemned the latest announcement form the European Commission (EC) which has set the winter slot threshold at 50%, claiming that the EC is totally “out of touch with reality”. IATA has immediately argued that the EC has ignored not just advice, but also evidence that has been presented to it by EU member states and the airline industry itself which had presented a strong case for a much lower slot use threshold.
IATA reckons that international travel will recover to 34% of its pre-pandemic level by the end of 2021. Winter demand is always traditionally below that of summer demand. Worse still, current demand for long-haul flight stands at just 20%. Finally, while more people are now vaccinated against the coronavirus, there is still a great deal of hesitancy and changing of travel rules and regulations from various governments, making it virtually impossible for airlines to operate at optimum levels. The announcement from the EC means that from November 2021 through to April 2022, airlines must now use a minimum of 50% of their currently held slots, or lose them. To compound the issue, the EC has suspended the “force majeure” rule which suspends the slot rule in the event of exceptional pandemic-related circumstances.
“Once again the Commission has shown they are out of touch with reality. The airline industry is still facing the worst crisis in its history. The Commission had an open goal to use the slots regulation to promote a sustainable recovery for airlines, but they missed. Instead, they have shown contempt for the industry, and for the many member states that repeatedly urged a more flexible solution, by stubbornly pursuing a policy that is contrary to all the evidence presented to them,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.