Airlines forced to keep on flying to secure their rights
The growing concerns about the coronavirus are causing Kaskaesque scenes in aviation. Airline companies like KLM and EasyJet see themselves forced to fly with half-empty planes to secure their rights to fly.
Anywhere in the world, airlines are confronted with unsold last-minute tickets, annulments, and passengers not showing up. Last week, International Air Transport Association, IATA, stated that for some flights, half of the expected passengers are absent.
A logical reaction would be to decrease the number of flights, but according to aviation regulation, airlines are forced to execute 80% of the planned flights. Otherwise, they lose their ‘historic rights’ for the years to come. So, the airline companies keep on flying, even with half-empty planes.
Those half-empty flights, however, make a demand on their purse. Earlier, IATA already estimated the cost of the epidemic at 113 billion dollars. Another aspect is that those flights have serious consequences for the environment. Still, the European Commission didn’t introduce more flexible regulations so far, except for flights to and from China.
“Incomprehensible,” according to KMM top man, Pieter Elbers. “On the one side, the European Commission wants a Green deal, but on the other side, we’re forced to fly and produce CO2 emission just to safeguard our valuable slots.”
EasyJet, the most important player on the Dutch market after KLM, would like Brussels to interfere. The British low-cost company now is executing flights that they normally would have canceled.
Last week, the four Dutch coalition partners asked the Minister for Aviation, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, to take measures. The Dutch slot coordinator, ACNL, also asked the Commission for a temporary exception.
In the meantime, the increased pressure on Brussels seems to have some effect. In a declaration, the Commission states that it will analyze “all possible options” to combat “the significant impact” of the coronavirus on the sector, “including the revision of the slot regulation”.