16 MARCH 2020
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The European Commission bowed to pressure from the UK last week to relax the so-called 80/20 rule governing slot allocations at airports after reports emerged of airlines being forced to operate “ghost flights” with near-empty aircraft.
The commission’s move followed a request from transport secretary Grant Shapps for the rule to be set aside during the coronavirus outbreak, which has seen a collapse in the numbers of people flying.
The existing EU rule on slot allocation says if an airline fails to use its slots, they could be taken away and given to another airline the following season.
In a tweet, Shapps said he had written to the regulator to request “urgent reconsideration of the 80% slot utilisation rule".
He added: "Aviation demand is reduced due to COVID-19, but airlines are being forced to fly some 'ghost flights' to avoid losing their slots – bad news for the environment, airlines and passengers."
Airport Coordination Ltd (ACL), which controls slot allocation in the UK, had already agreed to waive the 80/20 rule for services to mainland China and Hong Kong and has now been asked by Shapps to take the same action for other flights.
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