Europe’s vital air links under threat

The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) has warned that passengers and destinations could be the ultimate losers if the secondary trading of slots, currently being considered by the European Commission in its proposal to amend the existing slot allocation regulation, does not undergo a full impact assessment.

Speaking at the European Union Airport Coordinators Association (EUACA) seminar today in Amsterdam, ERA director of air transport policy, Andrew Clarke said: “Putting a price on slots creates a risk that they will be viewed as a more valuable asset than the service provided to a particular destination or region.  Regions may also lose out if an airline wishing to serve a route cannot afford to buy a slot which it might have been allocated under the existing regulation.”

The introduction of secondary trading in the allocation of slots has been under discussion for some time.  However, the European Commission is expected to present proposals to amend the existing slot allocation regulation(1) later this year.  It is possible that secondary trading will be included in the proposals.

“Changes to the slot allocation rules will not create more capacity but will cause changes to the markets served from congested airports.  The economic and social viability of Europe’s regions depends on good transport links to major centres for point-to-point and connecting passengers and freight. Only air transport can provide these links for the majority of Europe’s regions,” said Clarke.

Secondary slot trading will increase the number of slots that change hands each season, but Clarke says that aiming for more mobility of slots detracts from the key problem which is lack of capacity at Europe’s congested airports.

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“Businesses and regions benefit substantially from the certainty of continuation of service provided by the current stability of slots from season to season.  A forced mechanism which aims to increase mobility in slots will disadvantage these regions unless safeguards are in place.”
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