Aviation bodies have welcomed the news that further discussions will be held over opening up European airport ground-handling to greater competition.

The European Parliament voted to send a proposal on ground-handling back to the transport and tourism committee of the European Parliament for a second reading.

The Association of European Airlines, the European Regions Airline Association and the International Air Carrier Association applauded the result of the vote.

A joint statement said: “We welcome the decision of the European Parliament as we consider it to be further realisation of greater market competition for ground-handling services.

“We believe that the proposal ensures a more competitive market with no detrimental impact to working conditions and, in addition, will benefit passengers by helping airlines deliver these essential services more cost efficiently.”

MEP Artur Zasada (Poland) said: “The main aim of this proposal is to prepare the sector for global competition and to introduce minimum standards of quality.”

Said El Khadraoui (Belgium) called for its rejection, saying: “We should leave it up to the member states to decide on further opening of the market.”

The European Parliament also approved landing and take-off slot allocation and exchange rules (secondary trading) designed to ensure that unused slots are made available to interested operators as soon as possible and in a transparent way, but without prejudice to connections between regional airports and major hubs.

MEPs rejected the European Commission’s idea to increase the ‘Use-it or Lose-it’ threshold of 80% to 85% of allocated slots and instead opted to strengthen the penalty system in order to dissuade carriers from holding slots without using them or taking too long to return them to the pool.

“Allocation must be impartial”, said Italian MEP Gioammaria Uggias (Italy), explaining that “we therefore provided for slot co-ordinators to be completely independent from airport and airline operators”.

Her report was adopted by 565 votes to 69 with 26 abstentions.

Meanwhile, specific noise abatement objectives will have to be set for EU airports, but common rules will have to be followed to achieve them, according to a new regulation on noise-related operating restrictions.