GBTA Advocacy | Latest EU developments on travel and aviation

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16.09.2020 | EU Slots Waiver

The  European Commission has published today the summary report it had promised, assessing effects of the slot waiver so far and the situation on the ground.

The Commission concludes that the conditions set out in the Slots Regulation, which would justify extending the slot waiver, are currently all met:

  • A reduction in the level of air traffic between 2019 and 2020
  • A reduction in air traffic due to the outbreak of COVID-19
  • A reduction in air traffic likely to persist in the foreseeable future

The Commission further notes, as already described in the roadmap below, that there are indeed some shortcomings resulting from the application of the current measure, notably:

  • Delayed hand-back of slots
  • Difficulty for airports, and airport services providers, to plan operations effectively
  • Disruption of competition between air carriers and at airports

The Commission therefore concludes:

  • continued alleviation of the use-it-or-lose-it rule beyond the summer 2020 scheduling season is necessary
  • considerable uncertainty remains about the evolution of the pandemic and the stabilisation of traffic levels beyond 2020
    • further regulatory intervention beyond simply extending the duration of the waiver by delegated act may be necessary
  • extending the slot waiver must be designed to minimise market distortion, promote efficient use of limited airport capacity, and mitigate environmental impact.

EU Transport Commissioner announced today in a statement that the slot waiver will be extended until 27 March 2021 and that the proposal will be published by the end of the year.



  • EU TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS: EU ambassadors met on Wednesday to discuss temporary restrictions in force and possible lifting – that is, amending the list of countries whose citizens are allowed to travel to the EU.  A Council recommendation is under written procedure for adoption, which should lapse shortly.
  • PROPOSAL FOR MORE COORDINATION: The European Commission is expected to put forward an ambitious proposal for enhanced coordination across the EU, from criteria to assess epidemiological risks to precautionary measures travellers would face upon returning from high-risk areas. This proposal is undergoing interservice consultation, which is the last stage before it is formally adopted by the Commission– this means we should see developments within a couple of weeks.
  • TRANSPORT MEPs DISCUSS COVID IMPACT ON AIR TRAFFIC: Members of the Parliament’s Transport Committee met earlier this week to discuss the pandemic’s impact on aviation, including on traffic flows, and the consequence of the restrictive measures adopted so far In the EU with the head of Eurocontrol, the organization overseeing the development of a single European air traffic management. Interestingly, the head of Eurocontrol called on lawmakers ensure that aviation was included under the Green Recovery, particularly when it came to financing research into low emission and synthetic fuels.
  • EU AIRPORTS PERFORMACE UNDER COVID: Eurocontrol also published a study assessing the impact of COVID-19 measures on airport performance, and terminal operations in particular. The study provides an order of magnitude of the impact of these measures on the passengers’ journey time throughout terminals, an assessment of the need for additional space for those facilities affected by the COVID measures, and an estimate of when airports are likely to reach their saturation capacity as traffic recovers.
  • SLOTS WAIVER EXTENSION: EU Airlines, airports and slot coordinators have agreed on conditions to apply the slots rules waiver for the entire winter season, specifically concerning the slot return mechanism. All these stakeholders are now calling on the European Commission to formalize the full-season waiver extension and the conditions for return of slots. 
  • US AIRLINES CALL FOR COVID-19 TESTING PROTOCOLSYou will have seen that yesterday, airlines represented by A4A called on the US government to launch a pilot COVID-19 testing program that would replace quarantines measures for international flights. This pilot programme would be geared towards rolling out travel corridors to the EU, Canada and a handful of other selected destination, based on adequate testing capacity.


Please see the latest update from Grayling:

The Germany Presidency non-paper

  • On 28 August, the Germany Presidency of the EU produced a non-paper proposing an EU harmonised approach to internal border restrictions.
  • The German Government warns against a fragmented approach to travel restrictions currently in place across Europe, emphasising that the integrity of the Schengen area must be preserved.
  • The paper sets out several options to make countries’ different approaches converge and achieve more coordination:
    • Agreement on which data set to use: currently, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) supplies these official data, but according to the paper, countries interpret and use these data differently. In addition, the underlying data would sometimes look at entire countries and sometimes only at certain regions.
    • Agreement on joint criteria: countries use different criteria to impose travel restrictions. These include incidence rates, testing rates, ICU bed occupancy or a combination thereof.
    • Uniform assessment and categorisation of risk areas: there are different approaches regarding risk categories. Some countries use two categories of designation, some three or four and others none at all, according to the paper. The frequency with which the classifications are updated also varies from country to country.
    • Harmonisation of containment measures: some countries require 10 days of quarantine, whilst others 14 days. Proof of negative testing results can be between 48 and 72 hours old and required to be done before or after the entry into a given country.
    • Communication to the travel industry & the public: some countries inform before measures would take effect, but others do not.
  • The paper has been leaked to the press, but it is not available to the general public. The paper is being discussed today in a meeting of the EU27 Ambassadors with a view to hopefully get on the same page on these proposed measures.

The Slot waiver extension proposal

  • On 31 August, the European Commission published a roadmap and opened a public consultation on a very possible amendment of rules regarding the allocation of slots at European airports.
  • The current slot waiver was adopted in March 2020 and expires on 24 October 2020. The regulation empowers the Commission to extend the period of the waiver by way of an amendment until 2 April 2021.
  • During this period, the Commission monitored the implementation of this alleviation measure and identified the following shortcomings:
    • Airport capacity is not always used efficiently: the data gathered show that very late cancellations and slot hand backs, less than one week in advance, were made predominantly by airlines for flights scheduled in March 2020.
    • Difficulty for airports, and airport services providers to plan operations effectively: the closer to the planned date of operations slots are returned, the more difficult and costly it is for airport to plan their operations.
    • Risks of competitive distortions: the winter 2020-2021 season is perceived as one of progressive recovery from the effects of the pandemic. Airlines, being aware of the possibility of a waiver extension during the slot allocation period, may request slots for the purpose of increasing their slot portfolio, higher than the number corresponding to their historic rights. Due to the waiver, there would be no need to operate them for obtaining the same slots in the next equivalent season. Further, instead of freeing slots they are not using, they may exclude entry into the market by competitors. This is perceived as problematic, especially where airlines already announced they do not intend to operate their slots at all or cannot any longer operate them because they decided to permanently reduce their fleet and their staff.
  • Associations of airports, airlines and slot coordinators informed the Commission by letter of 7 August 2020 that they have agreed on a common approach on the application of the slot waiver: handing back of slots no later than three weeks before the scheduled date of operations; the waiver should neither apply to the series of slots of an airline that permanently ceases operations at an airport, nor to newly allocated slots.
  • This development, which the Commission welcomes, will weigh in its decision on the way forward and will most likely result in an extension of the waiver to Spring 2021.
  • Next steps:
    • Commission summary report to the European Parliament and the Council: by15 September 2020
    • Feedback to the roadmap: open until 28 September
    • Public consultation (survey attached, fairly straightforward & short): open until 28 September
    • Legislative proposal: between October-December 2020
  • Grayling can assist with drafting a position paper on the roadmap and with filling in the survey; GBTA will consult with Advisory Board; Aviation Committee and Partners on position.

PNR & Single European Sky Advocacy update

The European Commission published last Friday:

  • An evaluation report of the implementation of the PNR Directive since the deadline for transposition (25 May 2018) until today, in response to the obligation of the Commission under Article 19 of the PNR Directive to conduct a review by 25 May 2020 of all the elements of the Directive
    • The report sets the PNR Directive in its general context and presents the Commission’s findings in reviewing its application
    • Amongst the findings, we can note:
      • 26 out of 28 Member States transposed the directive (with Slovenia partially transposing it and Spain having been referred to the ECJ for an infringement procedure due to non-transposition)
      • Overall compliance with the provisions of the directive
      • Necessity & proportionality of collecting PNR data reconfirmed
      • Effectiveness of the PNR Directive proven
      • No amendments of the PNR Directive are necessary at this stage.
  • A roadmap informing the scope, the issues to be tackled and the process of a new Communication, “The external dimension of the EU policy on Passenger Name Records”, updating the 2010 Communication to current realities and aiming to solve the conflict of law especially for air carriers.

As far as the general context is concerned:

  • PNR data is considered a law enforcement tool, whose main purpose is to counter terrorism and enhance security.
  • The 2016 PNR Directive regulates the collection, processing and retention of PNR data by air carriers in the EU and lays down important safeguards for the protection of fundamental rights, in particular the rights to privacy and the protection of personal data. The processing of PNR data concerns all passengers on inbound and outbound extra-EU flights.
  • There are several bilateral PNR agreements that have been negotiated by the EU: US, Australia, Canada (currently pending approval by Canadian law-makers) and Japan (ongoing).
  • The 2017 UN Security Council Resolution requires all UN states to develop the capability to collect, process and analyze PNR data and to ensure PNR data are used by and shared with all their competent national authorities.
  • ICAO also adopted new PNR standards at the beginning of July.

Regarding Single European Sky II+, the European Commission is set to adopt a proposal rather soon, as announced earlier this month at the Aviation Summit organized under the auspices of the German Presidency of the EU. The Commission has already delivered a presentation in the working party of aviation experts in the Council of the EU early July. As you may remember, the Council of the EU is the main roadblock in advancing the SES. Nevertheless, the European Commission hopes that the German Presidency will be able to begin discussions in September, hopefully obtaining agreement from Ministers by the end of the year.

CANSO represents the air navigation service providers globally, who is extremely active in Brussels in the aviation sector and advancing similar positions as GBTA, particularly regarding SAFs, Single European Sky, R&D in new and more efficient aircraft. Please find here their latest position.