The Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB), which comprises the Airports Council International (ACI World), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG), released a joint recommendation to ease airport slot use for summer 2021. They called on regulators to adopt more flexible slot rules in order to preserve essential air transport connectivity.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, in the first quarter of 2020 around 65% of direct city pair connections disappeared. Slot-regulated airports serve almost half of all passengers and are the main pillar of the global scheduled airline network. But recovery is impossible while there is no certainty on the rules governing the use and retention of airport slots.
The current slot rules were not designed to cope with a prolonged industry collapse. Regulators decided to temporarily suspend the slot rules for Summer and Winter 2020 to help the aviation industry. But international air traffic is expected to return to only about 25% of 2019 levels by summer 2021. A more flexible system of slot regulation will be essential to preserve connectivity during the recovery.
The Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) has worked on a new proposal based on the existing rules, but adding more flexibility. The WASB position recommends the following measures to be adopted before the end of 2020:
- Airlines that return a full series of slots by early February should be permitted to retain the right to operate them in summer 2022.
- A lower operating threshold for retaining slots the following season. Normally set at 80-20, the WASB recommends amending it to 50-50 for summer 2021.
- A clear definition for acceptable non-use of a slot (e.g. force majeure as a result of short-term border closures or quarantine measures).
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, declared that “It is vital that regulators quickly adopt the WASB proposals on a globally harmonized 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.”
“WWACG welcome the possibility to work out a common ground together with IATA and ACI World for the preparation of the 2021 Summer season. It is important that relevant authorities take appropriate action to secure the aviation industry the necessary predictability in the planning process in these extraordinary times for the entire industry,” declared Fred Andreas Wister, Chairman, WWACG.