Allocation of time slots at EU airports
Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 on common rules for the allocation of slots at EU 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 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 a coordinated airport provided that:
a capacity analysis is carried out;
there is a serious shortfall of capacity which 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 of the coordination involved in planning the movements of aircraft as airport coordinator or schedules facilitator.
The coordinator or schedules facilitator acts in a neutral, non-discriminatory and transparent manner and should be functionally separated from any single interested party.
The system of financing the coordinator’s activities will be such as to 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. 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 which 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 which 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.
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.
The original regulation has been amended eight times.
In 2002, following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, to allow air carriers to maintain slots allocated to them for 2001 during summer 2002 and winter scheduling season 2002/2003 (Regulation (EC) No 894/2002).
In 2003, to take account of the war launched against Iraq and the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, to ensure that the non-utilisation of slots allocated for the 2003 season did not cause air carriers to lose their entitlement to those slots (Regulation (EC) No 1554/2003).
In 2004, to clarify the application of the existing system on a number of different points, including the independent status of coordinators and the functioning of slot-allocation procedures (Regulation 793/2004/EC).
In 2009, in view of the global economic and financial crisis, to ensure that the non-utilisation of slots allocated for the summer 2009 scheduling period did not cause air carriers to lose their entitlement to those slots (Regulation (EC) No 545/2009).
In 2020, in view of the COVID-19 crisis, to ensure that the non-utilisation of slots allocated for March 2020 (and for routes to China and Hong Kong from 23 January to 29 February 2020) and those allocated for entire summer 2020 scheduling period did not cause air carriers to lose their entitlement to those slots (Regulation (EU) No 2020/459). In October 2020, these measures were extended until 27 March 2021 in order to release the pressure on the whole aviation industry and decrease emissions by avoiding airlines flying almost empty aircraft (Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/1477).
In February 2021, Regulation (EU) 2021/250 amended Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 to give further temporary relief from the slot utilisation rules at EU airports due to the COVID-19 crisis. Due to the decline in passenger demand, air carriers have had to make major changes to their schedules since 1 March 2020. These have resulted in a slot utilisation rate at coordinated airports falling far below the 80% threshold imposed by the slot regulation. The amending regulation permits airlines to return 50% of their slot series before the start of the 2021 summer season without losing grandfather rights to them, but airlines will have to use at least 50% of the remaining slots if they want to keep them. Airlines can justify their non-use of slots in case measures adopted by public authorities severely impede air travel on a route (the ‘justified non-use of slots’ exception). Airlines will have to return any slot they do not intend to use at least 3 weeks before the planned flight, so that other airlines have the possibility to take up this unused capacity. The European Commission has the power to set an appropriate utilisation threshold for the winter 2021/2022 and summer 2022 seasons with delegated acts.
In October 2021, Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/1889 amended Council Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 to extend measures for temporary relief from the slot utilisation rules (including the justified non-use of slots exception) due to the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on air traffic. Since a significant number of cancellations are expected over the winter 2021/2022 scheduling period (running from 31 October 2021 to 26 March 2022) as a result of the pandemic, the slot use rate for the period is set to 50% . The possibility for airlines to hand back a percentage of their slots before the start of the season without losing their grandfather rights in them was not extended, as it is beyond the scope of the Commission’s powers.
FROM WHEN DOES THE REGULATION APPLY?
It has applied since 22 February 1993.
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.
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 24.11.2021