Europe's regulators will not tamper with slot trading practices for the timebeing, but they will clarify the rules

Europe's position on airport slot trading is to be clarified in May but it has backed off any wholesale revision of the rules, which were last revised in 2004 and are considered to work.

The EC's head of unit infrastructures and airports, Rodrigo Vila de Benavent, says: "The EC will possibly state that it is a grey area and say that it does not plan to challenge secondary trading."

Slot trading takes place at a handful of congested European airports or where new entrants, usually from the Middle East, Asia or the USA, are keen to enter the market. It has become commonplace and accepted practice, especially at London Heathrow airport. Continental Airlines, for example, recently paid $219 ­million for slots at Heathrow to ­enable it to launch services from its Houston and New York ­Newark hubs.


 "The EC...does not plan to challenge secondary trading"

Rodrigo Vila de Benavent

Head of unit infrastructures and airports, European Commission

However, the EC, as well as IATA, had become concerned that not only was slot trading breaking European law but that its rules were not being applied consistently. Although the current rules allow slot exchanges, views on the legality of slot sales or secondary trading vary from country to country.

The EC's likely statement on slots appears a pragmatic move designed not to shake up the system. In a statement following stakeholder consultations in January it said "there is recognition that slot exchanges involving monetary and other considerations are taking place and that these exchanges may provide a more efficient use of scarce ­capacity at congested Community airports".

There is also a recognition that it would not have time to push through new rules before the current commissioners step down in 2009. However, there will be moves to better implement the existing regulation, including to re-stress the independence of the slot co-ordinator. And, de Benavent explains, any move would form a first step towards a longer-term solution.

It is also possible that the access to slots in Europe, or lack of it, could arise in phase two of the EU-US Open Skies talks due to begin in May. US carriers also want safeguards on the slots they have bought in recent deals.


Source: Airline Business