July 15, 2020

The Government makes airline slots more flexible to avoid “phantom flights” due to the coronavirus



The Executive also enables an ICO credit line of 400 million for airlines. The airline sector describes the measures as “insufficient”

The government has started taking measures to alleviate the delicate situation facing the air sector due to the coronavirus. The Chief Executive, Pedro Sánchez, has announced after the Council of Ministers that they are going to make the slots more flexible so that airlines “do not have to use them to avoid losing them”, a measure that has the support of the European Commission.

Slots are the take-off and landing permits that airlines have to operate at airports. According to current legislation, if they do not use 80% of them, the air authorities can withdraw them and auction them among other airlines. With the expansion of the coronavirus, demand for flights has plummeted, forcing airlines to reduce their capacity. However, in order to comply with the minimum percentage of flights necessary to keep their “slots”, many have been operating “phantom flights” for weeks, with few or no travelers, allowing them to retain these permits. The European Commission already said a couple of days ago that it would take measures to make this regulation more flexible and prevent planes from continuing to fly empty, burning tons of kerosene and thickening CO2 emissions.

Along with the flexibility of the “slots”, Sánchez has announced that he will make available to airlines an ICO credit line for an amount of 400 million euros to help support the finances of companies and freelancers in the tourism, transport and hospitality sector. In addition, it has announced that The Social Security bonuses of permanent-discontinuous workers in the sector will be expanded between the months of February and June.

This very morning the employer group that groups 80% of the airlines operating in Spain, ALA, had requested aid from the Government to overcome the difficult situation the sector is going through. According to their calculations, the companies have been forced to cancel 4,400 flights in the second half of March due to the dramatic drop in demand caused by the coronavirus. Once known, the association has ensured that they are “Completely insufficient given the seriousness of the situation in the tourism sector, and in particular the air sector”. ALA has ensured that the sector expects “forceful and decisive” measures from the Sánchez Executive and recalled that, after the closure of Thomas Cook, the lines of credit offered amounted to 700 million, compared to the 400 positions now above table.

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