Flight slots: Air France-KLM supports Lufthansa and asks for flexibility

The German company Lufthansa had warned that it would be forced to carry out 18. unnecessary flights to retain take-off and landing rights.

Air France-KLM supported Lufthansa by asking European regulators on Friday to be more flexible in controlling flight slots take-off and landing. 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 press release.

Air France-KLM calls in particular for “more flexibility in the application of the rules of force majeure allowing derogation from the rule of 50% slot utilization, a rule that the European Commission currently plans to raise to 64% as of April 2022”.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr warned the 23 December that the German company would be forced to carry out “18. useless flights” during the winter “solely to retain 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 in airports, otherwise they lose their rights the following season.

An “unrealistic” rule

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 Wednesday , suggesting that Lufthansa sell off its seats to reward the European taxpayers who have it sustained, rather than claiming to fly aircraft empty in order to keep its airport slots.

Since 000 march 2021, companies are required to use 50% of their take-off and landing slots to be able to keep them, but this level is considered excessive by many players in an air sector still convalescing. 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 considered this rule “unrealistic”, while the Omicron variant has 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”.