Regulators are proposing to ease pressure on airlines by lifting strict European slot-use requirements for the summer 2009 season.

Carriers are obliged to comply with a "use it or lose it" rule, requiring them to use any specific slot allocation at least 80% of the time in order to retain it.

But the European Commission concedes that airlines feel forced to operate services, to hold on to slots, at a time when they are under pressure to cut capacity.

It is urgently proposing a temporary easing of the slot-use restriction, to give airlines the freedom to reduce capacity without threatening their slot rights.

"Carriers will have access during the 2010 summer season to the same slots they had in summer 2009, regardless of whether or not they used them," says the EC.

While the measure is intended only to last for summer 2009, the situation will be reviewed as the winter approaches and - if necessary - the moratorium could be extended.

Similar measures were introduced by the EC in the post-2001 air transport downturn.

Source: Flight International