Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-First Report


ALLOCATION OF SLOTS AT COMMUNITY AIRPORTS


(23145)
5360/02
COM(02) 7

Draft Regulation amending Council Regulation (EEC) No. 95/93 on common rules for the allocation of slots at Community airports.


Legal base:Article 80 (2) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated:11 January 2002
Forwarded to the Council: 15 January 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 4 February 2002
Department:Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration: EM of 13 February 2002
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (22519) 10288/01: HC 152-ix (2001-02), paragraph 6 (5 December 2001)
To be discussed in Council: Unknown
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared



Background

  13.1  Council Regulation No. 95/93[27], regulates the landing and take-off rights, or slots, at Community airports with the aim of producing an efficient allocation of slots in a transparent and open manner. In December, we left uncleared a proposal to revise the Regulation. Under that proposal, the Commission is seeking to introduce 'technical' modifications into the Regulation in order to address the problems of inefficiency and lack of competition. At a later stage, the Commission will be concerned with the introduction of specific market-access mechanisms. We decided to leave the initial proposal uncleared, pending further information, especially relating to the outcome of the consultation with interested third parties; publication of a regulatory impact assessment; and a list of measures that the UK would be advocating to improve the proposal.

The document

  13.2  The Commission is now proposing an amendment to the existing Regulation in order to provide a temporary suspension of the "use­it­or­lose­it" rule following the exceptional events of 11 September 2001 and their effects on demand for air travel, especially transatlantic travel.[28] The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr David Jamieson), in his Explanatory Memorandum of 13 February 2002 states that:

    "The proposed amendment to Regulation 95/93 enables airlines to retain slots allocated to them for Summer 2001 and Winter 2001/2 during the following equivalent season, even if they have not been able to use the slots for 80% of the time.

    "The proposal provides for the insertion of a new Article I0a into the Regulation, which is designed to:

  • take into account the effects of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent steep decline in demand, especially on transatlantic routes;

  • prevent airlines from having to use slots inefficiently, for example by flying empty or smaller planes in order to retain grandfather status for their slots;

  • provide airport slot co­ordinators with legal certainty about the suspension of the rule, so freeing them from the possibility of legal action;

  • bring the EU in line with the American authorities who have already agreed a waiver of the slot usage requirement similar to the 'use­it­or­lose­it' rule for the Winter season."

The Government's view

  13.3  The Minister supports suspension of the "use-it-or lose-it" rule for the Summer 2001 and Winter 2001/2 seasons, but would not support further suspension beyond Winter 2001/2. He states:

    "The Government agrees with the European Commission's conclusion that the closure of American airspace between 11 and 14 September and the subsequent changes to services (suspension, reduced frequencies) constitute exceptional circumstances.

    "In normal times, the Government would welcome an increased turnover of slots at congested airports and the greater opportunities that this would offer to airlines wishing to provide services in competition with incumbents. The Government considers that a properly functioning 'use-it-or-lose-it' rule is an integral part of an efficient slot allocation system.

    "But the 11 September terrorist attacks and their aftermath had severe ramifications for the aviation industry. The proposal aims to prevent airlines' usage of slots from being affected by these exceptional circumstances. To assist airlines through their difficulties, the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions supported suspension for the Summer 2001 and Winter 2001/2 seasons at the October 2001 EU Transport Council.

    "However, not all airlines support suspension and some have advocated a stricter application of the usage requirement so that they can improve their slot portfolio and prevent other airlines from hoarding slots that they are not using. The Government has some sympathy with this, and would not support further suspension of the 'use-it-or-lose-it' rule beyond Winter 2001/2. It notes that airlines have returned a number of slots to the pool which have been reallocated; and it is the Government's expectation that further slots will be returned to the pool irrespective of whether the European Parliament's proposed amendment is incorporated.

    "The Government considers that it is important to provide airport slot co-ordinators with legal certainty. Otherwise, Airport Co-ordination Limited could be subjected to the possibility of extended legal action from airlines. Airlines also need legal certainty in order to be able to plan their operating schedule to best commercial advantage. This will also benefit consumer interests. Uncertainty regarding the application of this rule would serve nobody's interests."

Conclusion

  13.4  We recognise that the proposal for a temporary suspension of the "use it or lose it" rule arises from the exceptional events of 11 September and as such is unrelated to the proposal to revise the Regulation that we left uncleared earlier. The Minister states that amendments have been passed by the European Parliament at first reading providing for the insertion of an additional Article 10b which would require air carriers to make a binding declaration to use the relevant slots again. The amendments also provide for Member States to impose a fine if the slots are not used in accordance with the declaration submitted. We welcome these additional safeguards against airlines unduly hoarding slots. We are content to clear the document.



27  OJ No. L 14, 22.1.93, p.1. Back

28  The 2001 summer aviation season is from 25 March 2001 to 28 October 2001 whereas the 2001/2 winter aviation season is from 28 October 2001 to 30 March 2002. The deadline for airlines to request slots for the summer 2002 season was 13 October 2001, with the slot allocation being confirmed at the Slot Allocation Conference in November 2001 in Singapore. The deadline for airlines to request slots for the winter 2002/3 season is 12 May 2002, with the allocation being confirmed at the Slot Allocation Conference on 8­11 June 2002 in San Diego. Back


 
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