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MEPs agree new aviation rules but reject EU ground handling proposal

A proposal by the European Commission to liberalise ground handling services at major EU airports has been rejected in a close vote of MEPs.

Members of the European Parliament’s transport and tourism committee did however agree new rules yesterday to ensure more efficient use of take-off and landing slots, and on noise-mitigation measures to protect the public living near airports while ensuring smooth flight operations.

MEPs inserted provisions to strengthen the independent airport co-ordinator’s role in ensuring fair competition and to prevent secondary slot trading having adverse effects on regional airports and airlines.

The Commission proposal to tighten up airlines’ obligation to ‘use or lose’ 85% of a given slot from the current 80% was rejected.

MEPs backed the idea of financial sanctions – rather than general fees – as an incentive for airlines to return unneeded slots to the pool as quickly as possible, to enable others to use them.

The Commission’s proposal to further open the ground-handling market by increasing the minimum number of independent handlers from two to three at EU airports with more than five million passengers a year, was rejected by small majority.

Many MEPs feared that the proposal would lead to a deterioration of working conditions and safety and “deplored” the lack of evidence that the regulation would increase the overall efficiency of ground-handling operations.

The committee’s recommendation that the European Parliament should reject the proposal will now be tabled for a plenary vote, together with the two other resolutions.

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