Study: EC Slot Rule Changes Would Hurt Regionals

AIN Air Transport Perspective » January 30,2012
Siim Kallas, EC vice president of Transport
Siim Kallas, European Commission vice president for Transport, on December 1 unveiled the “Better Airports” package, aimed at increasing capacity and reducing delays at airports in Europe. (Photo: European Commission)
January 24, 2012, 11:48 PM

A study commissioned by the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) contends that changes to slot allocation rules proposed by the European Commission would penalize regional carriers, regional airports and business aviation operators and lead to job losses in Europe.

The January 23 study, conducted by consulting firm Mott MacDonald of Croydon, UK, said key areas of the EC’s impact assessment of the rule changes “are inadequately analyzed or include miscalculated or inaccurate economic and social benefit data.”

On December 1 the EC unveiled a “Better Airports” package of legislative measures on slot allocations, ground handling and noise designed to increase airport capacity and reduce delays. The commission said five European airports—Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, London Gatwick, London Heathrow and Milan Linate—now operate at capacity. At the current pace, 19 airports would reach capacity by 2030, leading to delays on 50 percent of all flights.

Under a 1993 EC regulation, slots are allocated to airlines for winter and summer seasons. Five slots allocated at the same time on the same day of the week during a season represents a series. If airlines use a series of slots 80 percent of the time they can retain it for the next season. The revised slot regulation would allow secondary trading of slots between airlines, increase the slot utilization threshold to 85 percent, and extend the length of the slot series from five weeks to 10 during winter and 15 during summer.

The EC said the revised regulation would allow the system to handle 24 million more passengers a year by 2025, pump up to €5 billion ($6.5 billion) into the European economy and create 62,000 jobs from 2012 to 2025.

But the Mott MacDonald study argues the revised rules would “clearly lead to a severe decline in air services and business aviation connectivity between the regions and major hub airports.” It said the changes are designed to increase throughput at a handful of congested airports located in more prosperous parts of the EU. Estimated net economic benefits of €2.8 billion to €5 billion “are considerable overestimates, as they fail to take account of disbenefits generated by the reduction of regional and business services,” it added.

The EC proposals must win approval from the European Parliament and member states before they become adopted. The ERA and EBAA said they have called on the EU government to reconsider some of the proposals. The associations said they will take their message to regional and national representatives across Europe “to ensure that the negative aspects of the proposed regulatory amendments are removed.”

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