The European Council has approved a mandate to temporarily suspend EU slot usage rules which require airlines to operate at least 80 per cent of allocated slots, or face losing their right to the slot in future seasons – a so called ‘Use it or Lose it’ rule.

The move – which will require approval by the European Parliament – will see slot requirements suspended until October 24.

In a statement the EC said:

“Under the mandate, the waiver will apply from March 1 to October 24, 2020, to cover the entire summer season. It will also apply retroactively from January 23 to February 29, 2020 for flights between the EU and China or Hong Kong. The start date of January23  is when the first airport was closed by the authorities in China.

“If the current serious situation persists, the measure can be extended quickly by means of a Commission delegated act.”

The Council said that similar moves had been made following the 2002 terrorist attacks, the Iraq War and SARS outbreak in 2003, and the financial crisis in 2009.

Commenting on the news Oleg Butković, Croatian Minister for the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, and President of the European Council, said:

“This slot waiver will provide the necessary flexibility and certainty for our aviation industry in this unprecedented situation. Nobody wants empty planes in the sky, and it is an absolute priority for the Croatian presidency to have this amendment adopted as soon as possible.”

The International Air Transport Association said this week that airlines will need up to $200 billion in government support to help them survive an industry crisis caused by the coronavirus.