The Council of the European Union on Monday (16 February) adopted temporary measures to help the transport sector, which has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the relaxation of rules regarding airport slots and the extension of the validity of driving licences.
The Council, which is currently chaired by Portugal, adopted these two regulations by written procedure in order to alleviate the current burden on transport businesses, whether by air, road, rail and inland waterways.
With regard to aviation, this includes an easing of requirements for the use of airport slots that, according to the Council, is aimed at “protecting airlines and will avoid the environmental damage that would be caused by running empty flights just to keep the slots for the next year.”
EU rules on slots dictate that airlines must use at least 80% of their take-off and landing slots in order to keep them for the following season. Due to the pandemic and restrictions adopted by national governments to contain outbreaks, this obligation has been suspended, in part to avoid the so-called “ghost flights”.
For now, the EU rules on slots have been relaxed, with airlines being allowed to return 50% of their series of slots before the start of the 2021 summer season. However, they must use at least 50% of the remaining slots if they want to keep them.
Such rules could be changed again in the meantime, with the European Commission empowered to alter the minimum usage rate to between 30% and 70% in order to respond flexibly to different levels of air traffic.
With regard to road, rail and inland waterway transport, what is at stake is an “extension of the possibility to temporarily prolong the validity of driving licences, technical exams and other specific licences, certificates and authorisations [that] will help transport operators and citizens who cannot fulfil certain administrative requirements due to the restrictions.”
This means that the validity of documents such as certificates, licences and permits with expiry dates between 1 September 2020 and 30 June 2021 may be extended by 10 months if the member state concerned has imposed restrictions relating to COVID-19 prevention.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]