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IATA urges slot rules shift as coronavirus hits airlines

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Rules allocating airline slots at airports should be "suspended immediately" due to the dire toll the new coronavirus outbreak is taking on the industry, IATA said Monday.

[GENEVA] Rules allocating airline slots at airports should be "suspended immediately" due to the dire toll the new coronavirus outbreak is taking on the industry, the global aviation association said Monday.

Nearly half of passengers worldwide depart from more than 200 airports with slot coordination rules, which require airlines to operate at least 80 per cent of their allocated slots or risk losing their slot rights.

But the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that "in exceptional circumstances, regulators can relax this requirement".

The Covid-19 outbreak, which has killed more than 3,000 people and infected nearly 90,000 globally, is such a circumstance, the agency argued, pointing out that the crisis had had "a severe impact on air traffic".

"IATA research has shown that traffic has collapsed on key Asian routes and that this is rippling throughout the air transport network globally, even between countries without major outbreaks of Covid-19," IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac said in the statement.

"We are calling for regulators worldwide to help the industry plan for today's emergency, and the future recovery of the network, by suspending the slot use rules on a temporary basis," he added.

IATA said it was urging regulators to suspend the slot rules immediately and for the 2020 season.

"Flexibility is needed for airlines to adjust their schedules according to extraordinary demand developments," it added.

If slot rules are suspended, airlines will be able to respond to market conditions with "appropriate capacity levels", it pointed out, adding that this would allow them to avoid running empty services simply to maintain their slots.

AFP