Wizz Air’s chief executive Jozsef Varadi said that legacy airlines should not retain their airport slots if they are not able to utilise them.
“Why are they protected for the benefit of legacy carriers,” he told Reuters today. “This is a way of distorting the market further by allowing access to certain airlines at the detriment to others who could actually do more there, more efficiently.”
Varadi’s comments come on the same day the airline issued a €500m new bond for general management purposes, including the repayment of £300m in Covid financing from the Bank of England, City A.M. reported.
Ryanair’s boss Michael O’Leary re-ignited the airport slots/’ghost flights’ debacle yesterday, when he accused carriers such as Lufthansa of “blocking their slots” to protect themselves from competition with low-cost airlines, City A.M. reported.
“The solution to Lufthansa’s ‘ghost flights’ problem is a simple one – just sell these seats to consumers,” O’Leary said yesterday in a statement. “Lufthansa loves crying crocodile tears about the environment when doing everything possible to protect its slots.
“If Lufthansa doesn’t want to operate “ghost flights” to protect its slots, then simply sell these seats at low fares, and help accelerate the recovery of short and long haul air travel to and from Europe.”
In December, Lufthansa’s boss Carsten Spohr told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung the airline was forced to operate around 18,000 flights just to retain their airport slots under EU rules.
“Because of the reduced demand in January, we even would have canceled considerably more flights. But in winter we will have to carry out 18,000 extra, unnecessary flights, just to secure our take-off and landing rights,” he said.
According to EU rules, airlines need to utilise their airport slots if they want to retain them the following year. Before the pandemic carriers needed to use at least 80 per cent of their airport space, but as a result of Covid the European Commission eased the rules, initially to 0 per cent but as the industry started to get back on its feet, the ratio went up to 50 per cent.
“The objective of the EU slot relief is to ensure that airlines can retain their historic slots without having to fly empty flights when health restrictions prevent passengers from travelling,” a Commission spokesperson told City A.M yesterday. “Empty flights are bad for the economy and the environment.”
In December the Commission decided to extend slot relief rule, going up to 64 per cent but extending the deadline to 29 October.
“The relief has worked very well for almost two years now, providing the necessary support that has prevented economically and environmentally harmful flights operating solely for the purpose of maintaining slots,” they added.
“It can therefore not be argued that the EU rules oblige the airline to fly. If airlines decide to keep operating empty or almost empty flights it is because they have decided so.”