Published on Thursday, March 5, 2009

Easyjet hits out at airline ‘slot hoarding’ plan


Suggestions that traditional carriers in Europe should be able to hold onto unused take off and landing slots have been condemned by Easyjet.
The budget carrier has written to all 27 European commissioners calling on the EU to avoid “narrow-minded protectionism” by a few legacy airlines appealing for state aid through the back door.
Easyjet argues that some network airlines, led by the Association of European Airlines, is asking the European Commission to consider a suspension of the rules governing slot usage at major airports.
This would prevent other European airlines from using scarce slots that would be freed-up by cutbacks expected for this year. 
It is understood that the Commission is preparing a proposal to suspend existing rules on slot allocation, Easyjet claims.  
The AEA last week called on the EU to allow member airlines to keep their slots for one year even if they do not use them.
But Easyjet asserts that under the EU’s so-called ‘use it or lose it’ rule, airlines have to use their slots for at least 80% of the time or return them to the slot pool so that other airlines can make use of them.
The airline’s chief executive Andy Harrison said: “This is not about protecting the industry; it’s about propping-up a few poorly-run, inefficient network airlines with out-dated business models that cannot adapt to the demands of modern consumers. 
“This idea does not have the support of the industry, and it is not consistent with the objective of supporting the industry.
“If unused slots are in demand they will be taken up by other airlines, helping consumers and local communities in the process, and the industry as a whole.
“However, if unused slots are not in demand they will remain available to be used by airlines. 
“A slot freeze helps inefficient, legacy airlines to hoard scarce resources from European airlines that are ready and willing to use them.
“Implementing such a measure would lead to fewer flights, and higher fares, thereby exacerbating the economic situation, not helping it. We must resist this lurch back to the stone age of protectionism.”
by Phil Davies 

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