Allocation of time slots at European Union airports
Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 on common rules for the allocation of slots at European Union airports (slot regulation)
WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE REGULATION?
It aims to ensure that, where airport capacity is scarce, the available landing and take-off slots* are used efficiently and distributed in a fair, non-discriminatory and transparent way.
The regulation has been amended several times, most recently by Regulation (EU) 2022/2038. Often, these amendments have been designed to allow air carriers* and airports to adapt to the negative consequences arising from the global economic and financial crisis, the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the epidemiological situation (for example, the COVID-19 pandemic) or military aggression (such as the Iraq war or Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine).
The regulation lays down the objective criteria on the basis of which an airport can be designated as a coordinated airport* or a schedules facilitated airport* if its capacity is insufficient.
European Union (EU) Member States can designate any airport as a coordinated airport provided that:
a capacity analysis is carried out;
there is a serious shortfall of capacity that cannot be resolved in the short term.
Coordinator / schedules facilitator
The Member State responsible for a coordinated or schedules facilitated airport must appoint a qualified individual or legal body with extensive experience in planning the movements of aircraft as an airport coordinator or schedules facilitator.
The coordinator or schedules facilitator acts in a neutral, non-discriminatory and transparent manner and should be functionally separate from any single interested party.
The system of financing the coordinator’s activities will guarantee the coordinator’s independent status. The same coordinator may be appointed for more than one airport.
Airport slot capacity available for allocation is determined twice yearly by the competent authorities, according to the two programming seasons (winter and summer) in place in international aviation. The calculation of an airport’s capacity is based on an objective analysis of the possibilities of accommodating the air traffic.
Air carriers must provide any relevant information requested by the coordinator.
The Member State responsible must ensure that a coordination committee is set up at a coordinated airport.
The coordination committee makes proposals and advises the coordinator on all questions relating to the capacity of the airport, and in particular:
- opportunities to increase capacity;
- coordination parameters;
- methods of monitoring;
- local guidelines.
Membership of this committee is open to:
- air carriers using the airport;
- the managing body of the airport;
- air traffic control authorities;
- general aviation representatives.
Procedure for allocation of time slots
The general principle regarding slot allocation is that an air carrier having operated a particular slot series* for at least 80% of the summer or winter scheduling period is entitled to the same slot series in the equivalent scheduling period of the following year (known as grandfather rights). Consequently, slot series that are not sufficiently used by air carriers are returned to the slot pool for reallocation (the ‘use it or lose it’ rule).
Slot pools may be set up containing newly created time slots, unused slots and slots that have been given up by a carrier or have otherwise become available.
The coordinator also takes into account additional rules and guidelines established by the air transport industry and local guidelines proposed by the coordination committee and approved by the Member State or any other competent body responsible for the airport, provided the rules or guidelines are compatible with the slot regulation and EU law.
If a requested slot cannot be accommodated, the coordinator informs the requesting air carrier of the reasons why and indicates the nearest alternative slot.
Slots may be exchanged one for one between air carriers or transferred between air carriers in certain specified circumstances (for instance, between parent and subsidiary companies, in the event of a partial or total takeover, or transfer to a different route). In such cases, explicit confirmation from the coordinator is always required.
A Member State may reserve certain slots for regional services.
Temporary relief from slot utilisation rules
It should be noted that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ‘use it or lose it’ rule was suspended, giving temporary relief from the slot utilisation rules. Air traffic has seen a strong recovery since the 2022 summer scheduling period, and air traffic for the 2022/2023 winter scheduling period is expected to be approximately 90% of 2019 levels. Nevertheless, the situation in the aviation sector remains uncertain because of the risk of new COVID-19 variants appearing, along with the impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine on air traffic and air carriers’ ability to operate their slots since EU air carriers are prevented from entering the airspace of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
Amending Regulation (EU) 2022/2038 sets out rules to ensure that air carriers that fail to use their slots in accordance with the slot utilisation rate set out in Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 will not automatically lose the precedence in respect of the series of slots that they might otherwise enjoy.
Given that Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 seeks to ensure the efficient use of airport capacity and fair access for all air carriers to limited airport capacity, the adjustment of normal slot use requirements through a lower use rate, or extended justified non-use exceptions, should be strictly limited to situations where slot relief is necessary and should not lead to unfair competitive advantages for those air carriers holding historic slots. Amending Regulation (EU) 2022/2038 also lays down the conditions under which air carriers continue to be entitled to series of slots under Regulation (EEC) No 95/93, and sets the requirements for air carriers concerned to release unused capacity. The period concerned runs from 30 October 2022 until 28 October 2023, in line with the recovery forecast of the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation.
If, during the same period, an air carrier can demonstrate it has operated the series of slots allocated to it for at least 75% of the time during the scheduling period for which it was allocated, it will be entitled to use the same series of slots in the next equivalent scheduling period.
Amending Regulation (EU) 2022/2038 also permits the European Commission, by means of delegated acts, to lower the minimum utilisation rate for any scheduling period between 30 October 2022 and 28 October 2023 if weekly air traffic falls below 80% (compared to 2019 figures) for 2 consecutive weeks due to COVID-19, another epidemiological situation or as a direct consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
An air carrier’s flight plan may be rejected by the competent air traffic management authorities if the air carrier intends to land or take off at a coordinated airport without having a slot allocated by the coordinator.
If an air carrier repeatedly and intentionally operates air services at a significantly different time from the allocated slots or in a significantly different way, the coordinator may decide to withdraw the series of slots in question from that air carrier. Consequently, that air carrier may lose its grandfather rights.
Member States must ensure that effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions are available in order to deal with this type of situation.
FROM WHEN DOES THE REGULATION APPLY?
It has applied since 22 February 1993.
Following communications published in 2007 and 2008 on the application of the regulation, the Commission issued a proposal to recast the regulation in 2011. The proposal is under scrutiny in the legislative procedure between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
For further information, see:
Slots (European Commission).
Slots. A permission given by a coordinator to use the full range of airport infrastructure necessary to operate an air service at a coordinated airport on a specific date and time for the purpose of landing or take-off.
Air carrier. An air transport company holding a valid operating licence or equivalent at the latest on 31 January for the following summer scheduling period, or on 31 August for the following winter scheduling period. For the purpose of Articles 4 (the schedules facilitator and the coordinator), 8 (the process of slot allocation), 8(a) (slot mobility), 10 (slot pool) and 10(a) (allocation of slots in response to the COVID-19 crisis), the definition of air carrier also includes business aviation operators, when they operate according to a schedule. For the purposes of Articles 7 (information for schedules facilitators and coordinators) and 14 (enforcement), the definition of air carrier also includes all civil aircraft operators.
Coordinated airport. An airport with a high level of congestion where demand exceeds capacity during the relevant period and where, in order to land or take off, it is necessary for an air carrier to have a slot allocated by a coordinator.
Schedules facilitated airport. An airport with a potential for congestion at some periods and where a schedules facilitator has been appointed to facilitate the operations of air carriers operating or intending to operate at that airport.
Slot series. At least five slots requested and allocated for the same time on the same day of the week in a scheduling period.
Council Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 of 18 January 1993 on common rules for the allocation of slots at Community airports (OJ L 14, 22.1.1993, pp. 1–6).
Successive amendments to Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the application of Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 on common rules for the allocation of slots at Community airports, as amended (COM (2008) 227 final, 30.4.2008).
Communication from the Commission on the application of Regulation (EC) 793/2004 on common rules for the allocation of slots at Community airports (COM(2007) 704 final, 15.11.2007).
last update 14.12.2022