Slot trading to finance airports?
By Isabelle Smets | Monday 16 July 2012
Can airlines be forced to hand over to airports part of the income generated by the sale of ‘slots’ (ie authorisations for an airline to take off or land at an airport on a given date and at a given time) in order to finance the costs of infrastructure development? They would certainly not be pleased at the prospect. Nonetheless, the idea is in a draft report, discussed by the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport (TRAN), on 9 July.
The European Commission disagrees: it would compromise the effectiveness of the secondary market for slots, which it is trying to put in place.
The rules on the allocation of slots to airlines are currently defined in Regulation (EEC) 95/93, which is under revision. One of the aims of this revision is to legalise what is known as the ‘secondary slot trading’, ie the possibility for a company to sell its slots to another company. The idea is to promote the mobility of slots, and thus the arrival of new airlines in airports at a time when predictions of an increase in air traffic lead to fears of a blatant lack of airport capacities in coming years.
Giommaria Uggias (ALDE, Italy), the EP’s rapporteur, considers that handing over part of the income from the operation to airports would allow, thanks to this new financial manna at their disposal, to enhance existing airport capacities. His draft report contains an amendment that would allow member states to put in place such a system. The Commission is opposed to this, and considers that it would dissuade airlines from selling their slots. “By introducing the obligation to allocate part of the income to airports, we can block the system,” Emmanuelle Maire, head of unit at DG MOVE, warned.
Interestingly, the secondary slot trading is not explicitly authorised under the current regulation... nor is it explicitly prohibited. As a result, the exchange of slots between airlines in exchange for financial or other compensations (code sharing on the slot that has been traded, for example) is in force in several member states, in particular in the UK, but in a sort of grey legal area, which the Commission now wants to clear up. The aim is for this practice to now take place in a completely transparent European framework.
The deadline for tabling amendments to Uggias’s draft report is 12 September. The TRAN committee vote is expected in late October or early November, to be followed by a plenary vote in December.
“By introducing the obligation to allocate part of the income to airports, e can block the system”