PARIS (awp/afp) – Air France-KLM supported Lufthansa by asking European regulators on Friday to be more flexible in controlling take-off and landing slots.
The Franco-Dutch group would like “the current situation to be better taken into account in the application of European regulations in order to allow companies to continue to adjust their offer to the actual levels of demand”, he indicated in a communicated.
Air France-KLM calls in particular for “more flexibility in the application of the rules of force majeure making it possible to derogate from the rule of 50% use of slots, a rule which the European Commission currently plans to raise to 64% from of April 2022”.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr warned on December 23 that the German company would be forced to perform “18,000 unnecessary flights” during the winter “just to keep its take-off and landing rights”. If Air France-KLM positioned itself, it did not threaten to fly empty.
In normal times, European rules provide that companies must use at least 80% of the take-off and landing slots allocated to them at airports, otherwise they lose their rights the following season.
These rules have been rendered inapplicable by the health crisis which has caused the collapse of air traffic since March 2020, leading Brussels to suspend them.
“Crocodile tears”, had tackled Ryanair on Wednesday, suggesting that Lufthansa sell off its seats to reward the European taxpayers who supported it, rather than claiming to fly planes empty in order to keep its airport slots.
Since March 28, 2021, companies have been required to use 50% of their take-off and landing slots in order to be able to keep them, but this level is considered excessive by many players in a still convalescing air sector.
According to Air France, “the dazzling development of the Omicron variant and the return of travel restriction measures that it entailed call into question” the capacity increase trajectory planned by the Commission.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata), which represents the vast majority of companies, notably deemed this rule “unrealistic”, while the Omicron variant put a new brake on reservations.
But for the association of European airports ACI Europe, the warnings against “empty flights” are “unrelated to reality” since the companies can invoke a clause of “justified non-use of slots”.