Tougher EU airport slot rules trigger Asia retaliation threat, risk industry trade war By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of an empty departure corridor at Singapore’s Changi Airport, Singapore January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Picture


By Jamie Freed

(Reuters) – Regulators in Asian hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong have threatened to retaliate towards European Union plans to power airways to start out utilizing take-off and touchdown slots frozen throughout the coronavirus pandemic, a transfer that might oblige Europe’s carriers to fly empty seats for hundreds of miles at a loss.

Authorities controlling slots at main Asian airports are able to slap related ‘use it or lose it’ circumstances on European carriers flying to Asia’s cities – elevating the prospect of an business commerce battle over the uneven impression of COVID-19.

After uncommon unity throughout the pandemic, when carriers have been being bailed out or making an attempt to remain afloat, business leaders say the dispute has rekindled elementary variations throughout a fragmented sector because the world levels a multi-speed restoration.

“Is it a commerce battle? Actually the germ of 1,” stated former Australian aviation negotiator Peter Harbison, chairman emeritus of the Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation consultancy.

“And will probably be accentuated as extra airways collapse and worldwide markets stay closed, or at finest, unsure.”

Tensions have grown since July, when the EU introduced plans to power airways to make use of 50% of their rights or lose them to rivals from subsequent month. That transfer partially reinstated competitors guidelines that had been waived as airways struggled to outlive the pandemic.

However whereas the EU resolution displays a site visitors restoration that’s properly below means in Europe’s primarily short-haul market, Asian carriers are protesting they are going to be unfairly penalised as a result of their long-haul networks will take for much longer to recuperate.

Some Asian regulators have already put European airways on discover that they might want to fly not less than 50% of the time, business sources stated, risking political fights over the way forward for transport hyperlinks which can be vital for international commerce.


Singapore, considered one of a number of Asian jurisdictions to line up beforehand unreported ‘reciprocity’ guidelines, has included the provisions to make sure truthful remedy, stated Daniel Ng, director air transport at Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

In Asia, lengthy quarantines stay the norm for travellers and airways operated simply 14% of their 2019 worldwide capability in July, properly under the 46% of 2019 ranges seen in Europe and 48% in North America, Worldwide Air Transport Affiliation (IATA) information reveals.

Cathay Pacific final month warned publicly that the slower restoration in Hong Kong meant it risked dropping prized abroad airport slots and harming the town’s hub standing.

Taiwan’s China Airways and Korean Air Strains expressed concern in regards to the EU guidelines in statements to Reuters, whereas Singapore Airways (OTC:) declined to remark.

In Europe, Lufthansa – the EU service with essentially the most flights to Asia – stated the powerful EU guidelines may finally hurt the local weather in addition to airways, if they’re pressured to fly empty planes to maintain slots. Air France and KLM stated their selections to fly weren’t based mostly on airport slots.


The EU broke with a worldwide business advice and tightened guidelines for the winter schedule season, which runs from October to March, after heavy lobbying by low-cost carriers like Ryanair, with massive short-haul networks, and European airports, lots of that are privatised and making an attempt to supply returns.

“We’re not in speedy shock section,” stated Aidan Flanagan, security and capability supervisor at Airports Council Worldwide Europe. “We are actually in a state of affairs the place the market is secure with a lot decrease ranges than what we have been in 2019, however it’s secure.”

The European Fee stated in July the 50% use charge – down from 80% in regular instances – was chosen to make sure good use of airport capability and to learn customers. It additionally granted exceptions in order that airways don’t want to achieve 50% whereas strict measures like quarantine that make it exhausting to journey stay in place.

The Fee didn’t reply instantly to a request for remark.


As soon as journey restrictions are lifted, Asian carriers should increase flying to the European Union inside six weeks or threat dropping slots even when demand is sluggish to return.

“When the demand just isn’t there it’s unreasonable to anticipate folks to function,” IATA Head of Worldwide Airport Slots Lara Maughan stated. “It’s a actually quick window they’ve as soon as restrictions are eliminated to form of recalibrate that complete operation again.”

René Maysokolua, managing director of German airport slot supervisor FLUKO, stated his organisation had been knowledgeable that some Asian international locations have been telling European airways they would wish to fly 50% of the time or threat dropping their slots in retaliation for the EU guidelines.

Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea are amongst these taking a tougher line towards European carriers, stated an business supply who was not authorised to remark publicly on the matter.

Authorities in Singapore and Hong Kong confirmed reciprocity provisions are in place however declined to touch upon particular instances.

Korea Airport Schedules Workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark, however Korean Air, a member of the nation’s slot working group, confirmed the provisions.

In the meantime, even because the potential for battle brews between Asia and Europe, america on Thursday introduced extra lenient winter season guidelines for worldwide carriers than the European Union.

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