Airlines May Face Tougher EU Slot-Use Rule, Gain Trading Right

Airlines would face a stricter European Union rule on the use of takeoff and landing slots and gain the right to trade them under EU legislation being drafted to boost competition.

Current EU law requires carriers to use airport slots at least 80 percent of the time in order to retain them the following year. Existing EU legislation is silent on the question of slot trading, a practice permitted in the U.K. and banned in some EU nations including Spain.

European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas intends this week to propose legislation that would raise the use-it-or-lose- it slot obligation to 85 percent, said his spokeswoman, Helen Kearns. The draft law would also open the door to EU-wide secondary trading of slots by airlines, she said.

“Because airports across Europe are facing a capacity crunch, it’s essential to optimize the use of existing slots,” Kearns said today by telephone in Brussels. The European Commission is due to approve the proposals in three days, after which they would need the endorsement of EU governments and the European Parliament in a process that can take a year or more.

With Europe’s share of the global aviation market set to fall next year from second behind the U.S. to third behind it and the Asia-Pacific region, the commission is stepping up a push for the industry to make better use of scarce airport space. The commission is the 27-nation EU’s regulatory arm.

Congested Airports

The number of Europe’s highly congested airports is due to rise from five, including London Heathrow and Paris Orly, at present to 19 major hubs over the next two decades without policy changes, according to the commission, which says this would lead to delays affecting half of all flights in the EU.

The draft legislation due this week will also seek to bolster competition in ground services including baggage handling by strengthening a 1996 EU market-opening law, according to Kearns. This element will also include stronger rights to protect workers in the field, she said.

In addition, the proposals will aim for more transparency on local decisions in the EU to ban allegedly noisy aircraft to ensure such curbs are based on objective considerations as well as for updated definitions of noisy planes to account for new technologies, Kearns said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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