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#Aviation - Statement by Commissioner Vălean on the Commission's intention to extend the slot waiver 

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Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean has issued a statement following the adoption of the Commission report on the potential extension of the Slot Regulation amendment

Commissioner Vălean said: “The report shows that air traffic levels remain low, and more importantly, they are not likely to recover in the near future. In this context, the lack of certainty over slots makes it difficult for airlines to plan their schedules, making planning difficult for airports and passengers. To address the need for certainty and responding to traffic data, I intend to extend the slot waiver for the 2020/2021 winter season, until 27 March 2021.”

The full statement is available online.

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Commission approves €26 million Irish aid scheme to compensate airport operators in context of coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a €26 million Irish aid scheme to compensate airport operators for the losses caused by the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions imposed by Ireland to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The aid consists of three measures: (i) a damage compensation measure; (ii) an aid measure to support the airport operators up to a maximum of €1.8 million per beneficiary; and (iii) an aid measure to support the uncovered fixed costs of these companies.

The aid will take the form of direct grants. In case of support for the uncovered fixed costs, aid can also be granted in the form of guarantees and loans. The damage compensation measure will be open to operators of Irish airports that handled more than 1 million passengers in 2019. Under this measure, these operators can be compensated for the net losses suffered during the period between 1 April and 30 June 2020 as a result of the restrictive measures implemented by the Irish authorities in order to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Commission assessed the first measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and found that it will provide compensation for damage that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage. With regard to the other two measures, the Commission found that they are in line with the conditions set out in the state aid Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021 and (ii) will not exceed €1.8 million per beneficiary under the second measure and will not exceed €10 million per beneficiary under the third measure.

The Commission concluded that both measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the three measures under EU State aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59709 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Aviation/airlines

Aviation: Slot relief enacted

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Following a proposal by the Commission from December 2020, the Council has adopted the amendment to the Slot Regulation that relieves airlines of airport slot-use requirements for the summer 2021 scheduling season. The amendment allows airlines to return up to half of the airport slots that they have been allocated before the start of the season.

Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said: “We welcome the final text of the amendment which allows to better adjust slot rules to consumer demand for air travel, fosters competition and sets the path for a gradual return to normal rules. I expect that this initiative will incentivise airlines to make efficient use of airport capacity, and that it will ultimately benefit EU consumers.”

The Commission has delegated powers for one year after the amendment enters into force, and so can extend the rules until the end of the summer 2022 season, if necessary. The Commission may also adapt the use rate within a range of 30-70%, depending on how air traffic volumes evolve. The legal acts will be published in the EU Official Journal in the coming days and enter into force the day after their publication. You will find more details here.

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Aviation/airlines

Commission approves €120 million Greek support to compensate Aegean Airlines for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has found a Greek grant of €120 million to Aegean Airlines to be in line with EU state aid rules. The measure aims at compensating the airline for the losses directly caused by the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions imposed by Greece and other destination countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Greece notified to the Commission an aid measure to compensate Aegean Airlines for the damage suffered from 23 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 resulting from the containment measures and travel restrictions introduced by Greece and other destination countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The support will take the form of a €120 million direct grant, which does not exceed the estimated damage directly caused to the airline in that period.

The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or sectors for damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences. The Commission found that the Greek measure will compensate the damage suffered by Aegean Airlines that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the aid does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Greek damage compensation measure is in line with EU state aid rules. Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The aviation industry is one of the sectors that has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak. This measure will enable Greece to compensate Aegean Airlines for the damage directly suffered due to the travel restrictions necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus. We continue working with member states to find workable solutions to support companies in these difficult times, in line with EU rules.”

The full press release is available online.

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