Passengers fear increasing airfares if airport slot rules remain the same
A new survey, commissioned by London Gatwick Airport and Wizz Air, shows that passengers planning to travel in the next year are concerned for increasing airfares if airport slot rules remain the same.
More than half (56 per cent) of people surveyed who are planning to fly in the next 12 months are concerned about airfares increasing if airport slot rules remain the same, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by London Gatwick Airport (LGW) and Wizz Air.
More than a quarter (28 per cent) of these people surveyed also said they are concerned about a reduction in the number of destinations they can choose to fly to, and 24 per cent are worried about a reduction in the number of airlines they can fly with, if airport slot rules remain the same.
Airport slot rules ensure that UK consumers benefit from effective choice of destination and airline – and fair pricing – by ensuring that the aviation market is competitive. They do this by incentivising airlines to fly, and if not, trade or hand back unused airport slots so that other airlines can fly them instead, including new market entrants.
The UK’s slot regulations were understandably suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, Gatwick and Wizz Air are calling for them to be urgently reinstated for Summer 2022 now that passenger numbers are expected to rise significantly – following successful vaccination campaigns and the removal of many travel restrictions.
Both Gatwick and Wizz Air recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and that borders will be restricted as they have been in response to the Omicron variant. However provisions under the existing 80/20 slot competition safeguarding regulations are adequate and provide enough targeted and proportionate protection for airlines in situations like these, under Force Majeure, the 80/20 rule would be suspended when genuine restrictions, such as closed borders or substantive quarantine periods are in place.
The UK government is currently consulting on the slot rules for Summer 2022.
Earlier in December 2021, a coalition of UK airports and Wizz Air called for the urgent reinstatement of the previous 80/20 ‘use it or use it’ slot regulations, where airlines must use their assigned slots 80 per cent of the time, or risk losing them – for the vital summer 2022 season in a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport.
In the letter, the coalition said they have also raised the issue with the CMA, the UK’s competition watchdog, and pointed out that relevant authorities in other markets have all reinstated some discipline in their slot regulations, and that this has not led to ghost flights (flights carrying no or few passengers) but has in fact supported the restoration of connectivity to the benefits of passengers and businesses.
Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer, Gatwick Airport said: “It’s interesting that passengers support our view that the existing airport slot rules need to change. Consumers seem to recognise that the slot rules help maximise competition by keeping airfares low while increasing their choice of destinations and airline.
“Restoring the slot rules would be a clear signal that the UK government is getting fully behind the recovery of the UK aviation sector. A decision on the summer 2022 slot rules before Christmas 2021 would allow the industry to start planning resources for a smooth ramp up of operations as the industry looks to recover from the most difficult period in its history.”
Marion Geoffroy, Managing Director of Wizz Air UK added: “Passengers are clearly concerned that air fares will increase if airport slot allocation rules remain the same. The government has an opportunity to do right by passengers now and reinstate the 80/20 ‘use it or lose it’ rules in time for the summer 2022 season, which will be so crucial to the UK aviation industry’s recovery.”