The extraordinary situation caused by the corona virus is coming to a head. After several destinations in China and Hong Kong have not been served for a long time, or only to a limited extent, restrictions are now being imposed on air traffic in Europe and the USA.
It is not only the financial problems that are weighing on the airlines, but also the question of how air traffic should continue after this crisis. The many cancellations mean that airlines are threatened with no longer being able to comply with the 80/20 rule. This EU rule stipulates that every airline must operate at least 80% of its flights in order to keep the slots allocated to it. Slots are the rights to take off and land at airports. The consequence of violating the 80/20 rule is the loss of these slots to competitors.
It is very important for the airlines to retain the take-off and landing rights so that they do not lose passengers. It is so important that they operate ghost flights within Europe, i.e. flights with few or no passengers, in order to comply with the rule mentioned above. This is hardly economically viable over a long period of time. It is also problematic in terms of the climate – ghost flights burn vast quantities of kerosene completely unnecessarily.
But there is a small ray of hope: In Switzerland, Slot Coordination Switzerland is responsible for the allocation of take-off and landing rights. Together with the European association of slot coordinators, it is of the opinion that the rule should no longer apply in the current exceptional situation. It has therefore been requested that the 80/20 rule be suspended for the time being until the end of June. A suspension of the 80/20 rule would benefit the airline considerably and would relieve it of some financial burden. The big disadvantage is carried by the airports. They would have to accept even greater losses due to the reduction in passenger numbers.
How the situation for air traffic will develop is still uncertain and will be characterised by short-term changes.
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