Aviation organisations call for airport slot use relief for summer 2021

Posted: 2 December 2020 | | No comments yet

By temporarily adopting more flexible airport slot rules as quickly as possible, governments can help to preserve essential air transport connectivity.

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The Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) – comprising of Airports Council International (ACI World), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG) – has released a joint recommendation for airport slot use relief for the northern summer 2021 season.

The organisations have called on regulators worldwide to temporarily adopt more flexible slot rules in line with the recommendation as quickly as possible in order to preserve essential air transport connectivity.

As a result of the collapse in demand from the COVID-19 crisis, some 65 per cent of direct city pair connections vanished in the first quarter of 2020. Slot-regulated airports serve almost half of all passengers and are the backbone of the global scheduled airline network. But recovery is impossible when there is no certainty on the rules governing the use and retention of airport slots.

The existing slot rules were never designed to cope with a prolonged industry collapse. Regulators temporarily suspended the rules for summer and winter 2020 to give the industry vital breathing space. International air traffic, though, is only expected to return to about 25 per cent of 2019 levels by summer 2021. In order to preserve connectivity while air traffic recovers, a more flexible system of slot regulation is essential. 

The WASB – which is the forum for bringing together representatives from the airport, airline and slot coordinator community to agree positions on slot rules – has worked on a proposal to regulators that preserves the best of the existing rules, while providing the necessary flexibility to aid recovery. The WASB position recommends the following be adopted before the end of 2020:

  • Airlines that return a full series of slots by early February 2021 to be permitted to retain the right to operate them in summer 2022
  • A lower operating threshold for retaining slots the following season. In normal industry conditions, this is set at 80-20; the WASB recommends this be amended to 50-50 for summer 2021
  • A clear definition for acceptable non-use of a slot. For example, force majeure as a result of short-term border closures or quarantine measures imposed by governments.

IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said: “It is vital that regulators quickly adopt the WASB proposals on a globally harmonised basis. Airlines and airports need certainty as they are already planning the 2021 summer season (which begins in April) and have to agree schedules. Delays in adopting new rules will further damage the industry at a time when industry finances, and 4.8 million jobs in air transport, hang by a thread.”

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General of ACI World, said: “Creating a globally-compatible approach to the crucial issue of airport slots is an important part of underpinning the recovery of aviation. The united position of the air transport industry on what needs to be done to protect connectivity and choice in the best interests of passengers is a clear signal to regulators of the extreme urgency of the situation. Action is needed now, as any delay makes recovery for air transport, and the global economy, more difficult. We need regulators to recognise the crisis we are in and act with speed and flexibility.”

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