EU Ministers agreed on a general approach to tackle airport congestion by updating the rules on slots allocation

The Council reached a general approach on a new draft regulation that will in particular allow airlines to sell and buy slots. This new law is aimed to optimise the allocation system against the backdrop of growing airport congestion. In particular, the compromise reached at the Council meeting allows member states to apply temporary restrictions to slots trading in duly justified cases, but gives the Commission the right to oppose such a decision.

The Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council meeting ended with a general approach reached by Ministers to tackle airport congestion by updating the rules on slots allocation. It would consist in a recast of the 1993 regulation on the allocation of landing and take-off slots at EU airports. This revision is intended to tackle growing airport congestion. In May 2011, the European Commission presented a study in which it was unveiled that €5 billion could be gained by reviewing European rules on allocating slots for landing and take off at the EU's busiest airports.

The revision also aims to ensure that slots at congested airports are allocated to those carriers able to make the best economic use of them, thus providing for optimum allocation and use of capacity. Therefore, the recast will implement measures such as that airlines will be allowed to sell and buy slots ("secondary trading"); member states will have the possibility of introducing charges for carriers that return unused slots to the slots pool when it is too late for re-allocation; the independence of, and cooperation between, slots coordinators will be strengthened, and the transparency of the allocation process will be enhanced; and the Single European Sky (SES) network manager will be associated with the allocation process, so that the impact of capacity allocation at a given airport upon the whole European air traffic network can be taken account of.

The compromise achieved also includes a number of changes to other parts of the draft regulation. For instance, where the withdrawal of slots in the event of misuse would be disproportionate, the coordinator will have the alternative option to recommend the imposition of penalties. Moreover, the provisions on slots cancellation due to a public holiday were removed since they are considered superfluous. Slight changes were also made to the provisions on the procedures for emergency coordination, on access to the coordinator's database, on information to be provided by air carriers and on the information to be provided by the coordinator to the airport managing body.