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EU pushes gradual return to airport slot competition -sources

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Union plans to end a freeze on access to airport slots next year, when a travel recovery from the coronavirus crisis is expected to be underway, aviation sources said on Tuesday.

Introduced early in the pandemic, the suspension of competition for take-off and landing rights at once-busy airports has become more divisive. Low-cost carriers are impatient to see a return to normal rules requiring airlines to use 80% of their slots or else cede some to rivals.

While major airlines had proposed only a limited return of the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule for the northern summer starting in March, the EU plan falls well short of their flexibility demands, two people with knowledge of the plans told Reuters.

A European Commission transport spokesman declined to comment.

Major airlines represented by IATA had proposed a regime allowing them to return surplus slots temporarily and use only 50% of those they held onto, without penalty.

While the planned EU threshold is 40%, the absence of any provision for slots to be temporarily returned and excluded from the calculation sets the hurdle higher for incumbent airlines, which are “not happy” with the plan, one aviation source said.

An IATA spokesman was unavailable for comment after hours.

Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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