A high degree of uncertainty looms over air traffic levels this winter season, largely due to the possible return of COVID-19 waves, the war in Ukraine, inflation, and the energy crisis. To address this and ensure homogeneity in the internal market, the EEA Joint Committee has adopted a Joint Committee Decision (JCD) incorporating Regulation (EU) 2022/2038 into the EEA Agreement to provide temporary relief from the slot utilisation rules at Union airports due to an epidemiological situation or military aggression. In view of the importance and urgency of this matter, the JCD was adopted by written procedure on 16 November 2022 and entered into force the same day.
Regulation (EU) 2022/2038 of the European Parliament and of the Council amends Council Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 – also known as the Slot Regulation – which sets the rules on the allocation of slots at EU airports. Article 10 of Regulation (EEC) No 95/93 contains a use-it-or-lose-it rule, whereby air carriers must use at least 80% of their allocated slots within a given scheduling period in order to keep precedence in respect of the same series of slots within the corresponding scheduling period of the next year. The Regulation was amended twice during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although air traffic in the European Economic Area is gradually returning to pre-pandemic volumes, the current situation is still uncertain. As a consequence, air carriers are not able to fulfil the requirements of 80% minimum utilisation of their slot series. Regulation (EU) 2022/2038, therefore, provides temporary measures given the uncertainty of the coming months. This includes a temporary waiver allowing air carriers to maintain their slot series if demonstrated that they have operated their slot series for at least 75% of the time during the scheduling period. In case of urgent needs, stemming from an epidemiological crisis or the war, the European Commission will be empowered to amend the percentage values through delegated acts. In addition, air carriers will be allowed to benefit from justified unused slots and count them as operated. The revised rules will be applicable until 28 October 2023.
JCDs are decisions taken by consensus by the EEA Joint Committee – comprised by the ambassadors of the EEA EFTA States and representatives of the Secretariat-General of the European Commission – to incorporate EEA-relevant EU legislation into the EEA Agreement. Usually, they are adopted when the Joint Committee meets. However, in cases of extreme urgency, they can be adopted by written procedure.
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