During the COVID-19 pandemic, air traffic declined significantly in Europe. In order to help ease the impact of the pandemic on the sector, the European Commission rapidly put forward targeted legislation to temporarily relieve airlines of their airport slot usage obligations under EU law (the so-called 'use-it-or-lose-it-rule'), by amending the EU Slot Regulation several times between April 2020 and October 2022.
On 1 April 2020, the Commission allowed for slots allocated between 23 January 2020 and 29 February 2020 to be considered as operated, to avoid air carriers losing their slots. This waiver was in force until 24 October 2020.
On 14 October 2020, the Commission adopted an extension to the waiver of EU rules on the use of airport slots to cover the entire winter season, until 27 March 2021. The measure was introduced so that airline companies could plan their flight schedules without fear of losing their slots due to the drastic reduction in flights.
On 15 February 2021, a new amendment of the Slot Regulation allowed airlines to return up to half of the slots allocated before the start of the season. Airlines were required to use at least 50% of their remaining slots and they could be exempted from this threshold if their routes were affected by measures to mitigate the pandemic. The waiver on the 'use-it-or-lose-it-rule' was thus extended for a further period from 28 March 2021 to 30 October 2021.
On 23 July 2021, another amendment introduced a revised slot use rate for the 2021-2022 winter scheduling period, in force until 29 October 2022. This was set to 50% to guarantee reliable connectivity for the winter, and to allow the market to gradually adapt to changing demand and unlock capacity for the 2022-2023 winter scheduling period.
In October 2022, the Commission mandated a further extension of the temporary rules on slot allocations, while establishing requirements for air carriers to release unused capacity. The Regulation defined a return to the 80% requirement for slot use, complemented with specific slot use alleviation in cases of justified non-use of slots. This Regulation is currently in application.
To ease the financial pressure on aviation operators and ground handlers, the Commission adopted rules amending parts of the Air Services Regulation in May 2020. Some of those temporary provisions, notably the derogation of the suspension or revocation of the operating licence for air carriers, were extended until 31 December 2021. These temporary measures are not in application anymore.
During the pandemic, the Commission adopted two Communications outlining the objectives and implementation of the 'green lanes' – border crossings open to all freight vehicles carrying goods where any checks or health screenings should take no more than 15 minutes.
The Green Lane Communication of 23 March 2020 introduced both temporary measures, such as the exemptions to road access restrictions and to travel restrictions for transport workers in place in Member States, as well as general principles which fed into further Commission action, notably the concept of 'green lanes'.
In line with the Council conclusions on a contingency plan for freight transport on 23 October 2020, the Commission adopted the Communication on upgrading the transport Green Lanes (COM/2020/685), setting the reference for the urgent elements of a contingency plan and strengthening some principles of the Green Lanes Communication.
On 23 May 2022, the Commission adopted the Communication on a contingency plan for transport (COM/2021/211), putting forward a toolbox for responding to any type of transport crisis, based on lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the Commission’s proposal, on 7 October 2020 Regulation (EU) 2020/1429 of the European Parliament and of the Council was adopted to counteract the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on railway undertakings. The Regulation allowed Member States to authorise infrastructure managers to reduce, waive or defer the payment of track access charges.
The reference period of the Regulation was initially set between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020, but the Commission was empowered to adopt delegated acts to extend it beyond this date.
Due to the persisting negative impact of the pandemic on rail transport the reference period was extended four times, until 31 December 2022.
Based on an in-depth analysis of data on traffic levels on the EU rail network, showing that the COVID-19 outbreak had largely exhausted its direct negative effect on rail services, the Commission decided to refrain from further extending the reference period beyond this date.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Commission issued guidelines to support passengers on cruise ships and crews of cargo and passenger vessels. These guidelines provided recommendations on health, repatriation and travel arrangements. The recommendations also called on Member States to allow crew changes and create a network of ports where these could take place without delays. The Commission also coordinated the measures taken by the Member States during regular meetings of the EU Maritime Directors and initiated the European Maritime Safety Agency’s COVID19 - EU Guidance for Cruise Ship Operations to allow for a safe restarting of operations.