The aviation industry could be on the brink of a new trade war after Asian regulators warned they could retaliate over EU plans to force carriers to use 50 per cent of their take-off and landing slots during the winter season.
Having frozen slot rules during the pandemic, the bloc in July announced that airlines would once again have to start using their slots or risk losing them.
The decision, which covers the period from October to March, came after heavy lobbying from carrier like Ryanair keen to pick up extra slots as other carriers cut back flights.
But the decision has proved unpopular in some quarters, with Asian carriers in particular protesting they will be unfairly penalised because their long-haul networks will take much longer to recover.
Reuters reported that Asian regulators had already told European airlines that they will also be expected to fly 50 per cent of capacity in the coming months.
Daniel Ng, director air transport at Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, said that the city had included such provisions to ensure fair treatment.
Both China Airlines and Korea Airlines have also expressed concerns about the new rules.
But it is not just Asian airlines who are worried. Lufthansa, one of several carriers still waiting for long-haul travel to return in full, said that forcing carriers to fly half empty planes to keep their slots would harm the environment.
“Is it a trade war? Certainly the germ of one,” former Australian aviation negotiator Peter Harbison, chairman emeritus of the Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation consultancy, told Reuters.
“And it will be accentuated as more airlines collapse and international markets remain closed, or at best, uncertain.”