European transport ministers late last month approved a controversial plan to regulate slot allocation after it was coupled with an air transport crisis relief measure.

After 18 months of stalling, the European Commission now expects the first stage of its slot reform to come into force by next June.

Despite criticism by airline groups, European Union transport ministers reached a compromise on the bill, which will now make its way to the European Parliament. The EC had tied the bill's approval to a six-month suspension of the use-it-or-lose-it rule, to give troubled carriers breathing space to recover from the effects of the Iraq war and the SARS virus.

The bill aims to harmonise interpretation of slot allocation rules among European states and provide a framework for deeper reform, based on a market study set to be completed this month (Flight International, 4-10 February). Italy, which takes over the EU's rotating presidency next month, says it is keen to conclude any further revisions to the proposal before the end of the year.

Source: Flight International