The waiver conditions agreed between airlines, airports and slot coordinators earlier in September will be applied immediately on a voluntary basis, said European commissioner for transport, Adina Valean.
The decision affects the roughly 100 slot-constrained airports covered by regulatory oversight – which is around half of such facilities worldwide. The move follows a vocal pro-waiver campaign from bodies including IATA and, in recent weeks, airports association ACI Europe.
Growing airlines, including Wizz Air, have, however, opposed the extension, branding it anti-competitive.
“Air traffic levels remain low, and more importantly, they are not likely to recover in the near future,” Valean stated.
“In this context, the lack of certainty over slots makes it difficult for airlines to plan their schedules, making planning difficult for airports and passengers.”
Valean cites, however, “certain problems with the current waiver,” which prevent efficient use of airport capacity.
The Commission is, therefore, consulting the public and stakeholders on how the industry will return to “a normal slot regime” once air traffic returns to “more stable levels”.
Proposals are expected before the end of the year.
A statement form the European Regions Airline Association welcomed the decision: “Adding to the pressures already felt by the aviation industry in the current pandemic climate, the recent lack of certainty over slots has made it exceptionally difficult for airlines to plan their schedules for the upcoming winter months.
“It is hoped that this agreement will allow for greater planning for not only airlines, but airports and co-ordinators, allowing them to maximise the use of capacity at a critical time and promote the recovery of air connectivity whilst still preventing anti-competitive behaviours.
“Additionally, this will allow for specific cargo needs to be addressed, ensuring that cargo operators can leverage additional short-term capacity.”