Airlines and airports at loggerheads over slot rules

By Damian Brett

Airline and airport groups are split on whether the slot-rule waiver should be extended in light of the cornoavirus outbreak.

Earlier this week, IATA said the current slot-rule waiver governing airport take-off and landings is essential to aid airlines’ restart of operations and ensure connectivity in the longer term.

The rule, known as the 80/20 or ‘use it, or lose it’, was relaxed for the summer season so airlines would not lose their airport slot rights if they are unable to operate 80% of their services according to schedule.

IATA would like this extended into the winter season.

“Airlines will need much more flexibility to plan schedules around these changing consumer trends. Financial and operational flexibility equals survival,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and chief executive

In response, Airports Council International (ACI) Europe said that additional operational flexibility comes at a high cost to airports as it allows airlines to declare full schedules, hold on to the requested slots and cancel their flights close to their date of operation.

It argued that by preventing reallocation to other airlines, the continued late hand-back of unused slots will impact competition and slow down the restoration of air connectivity.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe said: “There is no need to rush with a decision on this just now. The winter season is still more than four months away, with considerable uncertainty about the pace and shape of the recovery in demand for air transport.

“We urge the European Commission to follow a data-driven and evidenced-based approach to assess whether extending the waiver beyond the end of October will be the most appropriate measure to support the restoration of air connectivity.”

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