The airport trade body ACI Europe reiterated its support for the European Commission’s current usage thresholds of 50% for airport slots, expressing dismay at “the escalation of industrial and political rhetoric around so-called flights ghosts ”.
A statement from ACI Europe said: “This is, as the European Commission has just reiterated, a much lower threshold than that set by the applicable 80/20 ‘use it or lose it’ principle. normally. It is designed to reflect the uncertainties of a hard hit market and a fragile aviation recovery. “
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Due to the lingering uncertainties posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is also a specific provision for what the global airport location guidelines call ‘justified non-use of locations’ (JNUS). Under this rule, airlines can at any time seize their slot coordinators for the application of this provision, which allows them to efficiently use the airport slots allocated to them less than 50% of the time. This provision is designed to address the Covid-19 pandemic and covers outright travel bans, movement restrictions, quarantine or isolation measures that affect viability or ability to travel or travel demand on specific routes.
ACI Europe therefore argued that with a significantly reduced slot utilization threshold and specific provision for changing circumstances, such as that presented by the Omicron variant, airlines are very well protected against current uncertainties.
Therefore, the organization argues that it is not clear why the issue of “ghost flights” (flights operated voluntarily by airlines exclusively for the purpose of retaining historic rights to their slots) is currently under discussion. Ghost flights are not offered for sale, carry no passengers, and do not generate income for airlines; whereas flights offered for sale carrying passengers and generating income for airlines cannot be considered ghost flights. Low load factors have of course been a reality throughout the pandemic, but maintaining vital air connectivity for economic and societal imperatives is well documented.
Olivier Jankovec, Managing Director of ACI Europe, said: “Some airlines say they are forced to carry out large volumes of empty flights in order to retain the rights to use airport slots. There is absolutely no reason for this to be reality. As the European Commission made clear at its press conference yesterday, the rules for the use of slots must achieve two objectives in the current circumstances. First, to protect the airlines from the worst unpredictability that is out of our hands. Second, and this is essential, also to ensure that airport capacity is always used in a pro-competitive manner.
“The pandemic has hit us all hard. Balancing commercial viability with the need to maintain essential connectivity and protect against anti-competitive consequences is a delicate task. We believe the European Commission is right. Talking about ghost flights and their environmental impacts seems to hint at an apocalyptic scenario that has no place in reality. Let us stick to the vital task of recovering and rebuilding together.