European regulators are set to release airlines from slot-use obligations to ease pressure on carriers as they cut capacity to cope with coronavirus outbreak effects.

The European Commission says it will put forward “targeted legislation” which will “temporarily alleviate” airlines from the need to follow slot usage rules.

Transport commissioner Adina Valean says the measures will allow airlines to adjust capacity to match demand.

“Given the urgency, the Commission will, in due course, present a legislative proposal and calls on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly adopt this measure in co-decision procedure,” she adds.

Under the current slot regulations airlines must use any allocated slot at least 80% of the time or face having to surrender it.

But with the coronavirus outbreak cutting into demand, putting pressure on carriers to cut capacity, airlines are having to operate uneconomical flights simply to avoid giving up valuable slots.

The Commission says the situation for the European airline industry is “deteriorating on a daily basis”, adding that the slot measure will help both the industry and the environment.

“It releases pressure on the whole aviation industry and, in particular, on smaller airlines,” it says. “It also decreases emissions by avoiding so-called ‘ghost flights’ where airlines fly almost empty aircraft to keep their slots.”