MIAMI – The European Union (EU) has finally extended the ’80/20′ slot waiver, which was first adopted last March, until Autumn 2021.

The initial slot waiver, introduced in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, stated that “Airlines are now allowed to make financially sound decisions on whether to run flights, as well as avoid ghost flights. Nonetheless, the EU report also highlights certain problems with the current waiver, which are preventing airlines from using airport capacity efficiently.”

The initial waiver continued, “Slots are not always relinquished in time for other users or airports to plan operations as they would like; competition may also be distorted if airlines seek to benefit by increasing their market presence without using their slots and airport capacity correctly. Such behavior can hamper competition and can, therefore, harm EU passengers and freight customers. This must be remedied.”

The European regulator implemented this measure in March last year due to several concerns over “ghost-flight” operations by airlines, in order to retain their airport slots. The remained slot waiver, also known as ‘use it or lose it’, has been broadly welcomed by the majority of European carriers as well as airport authorities.

Air traffic at Terminal 2. Photo: Frankfurt Airport

Opposition of the Measure

However, a small portion of airlines, including the Budapest Airport-based (BUD) low-cost carrier Wizz Air (W6), has been opposed to the suspension of the rules.

The last extension of the slot waiver took place in September 2020 and this one will be modified through the summer. The new slot waiver requires airlines to use at least 50% of their take-off and landing slots in order to be able to maintain them for the following year. 

Both the European Union and Airlines for Europe (A4E) welcomed this outcome. On the one side, European officials stated that “This grants the necessary flexibility to adapt to different air traffic levels based on traffic data and forecasts and other indicators.” At the same time, the A4E announcement said that such decisions will help to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on European airlines and avoid the unnecessary operation of empty flights. 

Featured image: Air Traffic at FRA. Photo: Frankfurt Airport