As a result of the increasing turmoil associated with the COVID-19 travel restrictions being imposed on its members, Airlines for Europe (A4E) is demanding swift action from European governments to help alleviate the financial devastation currently being dealt out to the airline industry. The call from A4E came after US President Donald Trump ordered a travel ban between the US and Europe for 30 days beginning March 13 for foreign nationals.

It has proposed three areas where it believes Europe’s airlines most need short-term assistance:

  • Deferment or waiver of new aviation taxes at EU or national level: A4E thinks this is vital to help the industry’s recovery in the future. It proposes that “new fiscal burdens should be postponed until the industry is back on a sound operational and financial footing.” This includes the provisions applicable to aviation in the Energy Taxation Directive (Council Directive 95/60/EC).

  • Immediate clarity for airlines and passengers on COVID-19 counting as an extraordinary circumstance under Regulation 261/air passenger rights: A4E believes that “consideration should be given as to whether the current re-routing requirement is practical in all circumstances or if a longer time-frame for re-routing could be permitted without giving rise to compensation payments, provided there is appropriate justification.” Talking about this particular matter, Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director at A4E said: “This crisis again underlines the urgent need to adopt the Commission’s 2013 proposal to revise Europe’s air passenger rights regulation. We are now faced with another situation in which there are no formal rules to limit the financial liability of our airlines in case of extraordinary circumstances, be it the eruption of an Icelandic volcano or the current COVID-19 outbreak.”

  • Confirmation and immediate implementation of the 80/20 airport slots waiver through the end of the summer season: The airline association had welcomed the swift decision taken by the European Commission (EC) to grant airlines a temporary waiver on the “use it or lose it” airport slots regulation. However, it was pushing for the exemption for the whole of the summer season, which is a request that has not yet been fully met.

On March 13, the EC issued a temporary waiver on the airport slots regulation until June 30. It also applies from March 1 (i.e. for the remainder of the current winter season), and retroactively for flights to Hong Kong and China between January 23 and February 29.

“Europe’s airlines will feel the impact of COVID-19 for months to come, and while this is a good first step - we expect an extension of the waiver for the full summer season will likely be necessary,” said Reynaert. The airline association believes such an extension would provide its members with the certainty they need to respond flexibly to the evolving COVID-19 crisis.

“For the sake of efficiency and predictability, and rather than seeking extensions on a rolling basis, a longer waiver would allow airlines to fly where the demand is and allow airports to adapt their services accordingly,” Reynaert added.

Launched in 2016, A4E is Europe’s largest airline association, based in Brussels and its members account for more than 70% of the continent’s journeys, operating more than 3,000 aircraft. Current members include Aegean Airlines, airBaltic, Air France-KLM, Cargolux, easyJet, Finnair, Icelandair, IAG International Airlines Group, Jet2 (United Kingdom), Lufthansa Group, Norwegian, Ryanair Holdings, Smartwings, TAP Air Portugal, TUI Group, and Volotea.