European airlines seek EU support in flight cuts

13th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

In upcoming talks with the European Commission, airlines hope to change the existing system where flight cuts may cause them to lose their flight slots.

BRUSSELS – European Airlines are to seek EU support to help them weather the economic crisis and hang on to precious landing slots even if they are forced to reduce flights, an industry group said on Thursday.

David Henderson, spokesman for the Association of European Airlines (AEA) said talks with the European Commission on the required "non-financial, non-distortive" support are expected to start in the coming weeks.

In the European Union, airport take-off and landing slots are re-allocated to airlines each season, as long as they have been at least 80 percent filled. If not, rival carriers may take over the slots for the following winter to summer period.

"The system is putting a barrier in airlines cutting down on flights," in order to cut costs during the credit crunch, said Henderson.

At the moment, for fear of losing their flight slots, airlines are simply running too many flights with too many empty seats, he argued.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, which led to a sharp drop in air ticket sales, European airlines benefitted from greater flexibility.

Their slots were assured for the winter to the summer of 2002 despite unavoidable reductions in flights.

The AEA may also put forward other measures aimed at protecting the sector, the spokesman said.

The airline industry is set to suffer "one of the toughest years" in its history, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned recently.

In December, air cargo figures plunged by 22.6 percent from December 2007, with passenger figures down four percent.

[AFP / Expatica]

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