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UK curbs slot alleviation in summer 2022

Heathrow approach
Heathrow approach, © Heathrow Airport

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LONDON - The UK government laid regulations before Parliament that will curb airport slots rules alleviation for the upcoming summer season to a 70 percent minimum utilization - a compromise between calls to reinstate pre-crisis regulation from low-cost airlines and network carrier concerns.

Airlines will need to use their slots 70 percent of the time in order to keep them, "but will also benefit from added flexibility over when they are justified not to use them, for example, where a market is substantively closed", the British Government said in a statement.

"As demand for flights returns, it’s right we gradually move back to the previous rules while making sure we continue to provide the sector with the support it needs," British Aviation Minister Robert Courts said.

Britain suspended slot usage rules through the pandemic. "If this alleviation wasn’t provided, the usage threshold would default back to 80:20 with no additional flexibility on justified non-use, increasing the risk of ghost flights", the Governmand said following a period of consultation with the sector.

As part of this, the list of situations where airlines can claim justification for not using their slots is being widened further. As in the current winter season, this will cover situations where COVID-19 related restrictions at either end of a route result in severe reduction in demand.

"However, for the summer 2022 season, it will no longer be necessary for the airline to show that the measures were unforeseeable," a Government statement read. "In such circumstances, the regulations allow the airline to keep their historic rights to the slots even if passenger demand does not justify operating the flight."

EU returns to tighter slot rules

The EU is about to set a 64 percent slot use threshold for the summer, up from 50 percent through the current winter season.

Tightening slot rules is a highly controversial topic in the industry. Wizz Air and Gatwick airport recently called for pre-crisis slot rules to be reinstated as soon as possible while network carriers like British Airways expect a slower recovery of their core business and asked for further alleviation.
© | Image: Heathrow Airport | 24/01/2022 10:59

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