The continuous growth in air transport in recent decades has increased pressure on the capacity available for aircraft movements. Following the creation of a single market for aviation in the 1990s, there was a need for a regulation on slots. These are defined as permission to use the full range of airport infrastructure necessary to operate an air service on a specific date and time for landing or take-off.
In 1993, common rules for the allocation of slots at EU airports were introduced in order to ensure that airlines have access to the busiest EU airports on the basis of principles of neutrality, transparency and non-discrimination (Based on the principles governing the system of slot allocation (IATA Worldwide Scheduling Guidelines)). The slots are allocated solely by independent coordinators and airlines must use 80 per cent of their allocated slots, or risk losing them in the years following. This is known as the "use it or lose it" rule. EU rules also promote the access of new airlines to airports.
In 2004 additional rules were introduced by the EU. These changes primarily helped to make the slot system more flexible in terms of both allocation and use and they also strengthened the coordinator's role and the monitoring of compliance.
In 2007 and 2008 the Commission adopted communications on the application of the Slot Regulation. The communications clarified certain points in order to ensure a better application of the rules in force. They also promoted an increase the efficient use of the available airport capacity by providing guidelines for the exchange of slots for money, known as "secondary trading". The communication also dealt with independence of coordinators and facilitating new entrants,. Finally, the Commission stated that it would continue to monitor the functioning of the Slot Regulation and it would reflect on whether the rules need to be amended,
Further analysis carried out in 2010-2011 on how the current Slot Regulation is working has shown that the allocation system could be improved. Consequently the Commission proposed, in December 2011, a 'recast' of the Slot Regulation
The proposed 'recast' of the rules on slots
The aim of the proposed regulation is to ensure that airlines can make the best use of the available capacity. To this effect, the new proposals:
- would allow airlines to trade slots with each other at airports anywhere in the EU in a transparent way;
- would reform the rules designed to help new entrants access the market at congested airports, allowing a greater number of carriers to challenge more effectively the 'dominant' carriers which have a large presence at busy airports;
- would tighten the rules requiring airlines to demonstrate that they have used their slots sufficiently during the season;
- would also tighten the rules on the independence of the coordinator and increase the level of transparency on slots transactions, in order to make the market work better.
- would improve the information flow between slot coordinators, airports, airlines, national authorities and organisations providing air traffic control, in order to inform decisions on airport coordination and to allow the system to react better to disruptions, for example due to severe weather conditions.
According to analysis carried out by the Commission, the changes proposed could be worth €5 billion to the European economy and create 62,000 more jobs over the period 2012-2025 and would allow the system to handle 24 million more passengers a year by 2025.
The proposal is under scrutiny in the legislative procedure between the Council and Parliament.
Legislation in force - Regulation 95/93 on common rules for the allocation of slots at Community airports
Consolidated version (24/02/2022)
Policy and other related documents
Ordinary legislative procedure:
Pre-Lex - Monitoring of the Decision-making Process Between Institutions