Aviation industry makes global recommendation for airport slots in Winter 2021

Philippe Villard by Philippe Villard | May 24, 2021

The progressive reinstatement of airport slot usage requirements, by which airport slots allocated to airlines should either be used or be made available for reallocation to other airlines, remains an essential condition for the recovery of aviation.

Air transport demand and the ability to travel remain significantly impeded in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions. The aviation industry proposes a common path to ensure that slot alleviation measures continue to protect essential airport connectivity, support the restoration of traffic, and enable airlines to respond to new patterns of demands.

Consequently, the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) built on its WASB Recommendation: Airport slot alleviation for Northern Summer 2021 season and issued a  follow-up Recommendation for the upcoming Northern Winter 2021.

The WASB is the body tasked with developing global slot rules. It comprises a total of 21 representatives, with equal numbers from the airport, airline, and slot coordination communities.

Alleviation measures should be responsive to the needs of airports and airlines

The premise of the WASB Recommendation is that different countries and regions are recovering at different rates. Accordingly, some jurisdictions have already decided on the specific slot alleviation measures they will implement in the Winter season in response to their local circumstances. In several other instances, regulatory authorities are waiting to see how the health situation will evolve before defining their approach. 

Taking stock of the above and noting that a majority of regulators are looking at WASB guidance when incepting slot policies, the Worldwide Airport Slot Board recommends to regulators who may wish to extend the WASB Northern Summer 21 airport slot alleviation measures to consider the following conditions, which includes improvements to address the issues experienced by the industry in the past months:

  • full series of slots returned by carriers before 8 September 2021 would receive a waiver
  • carriers who pick up these series and operate them on a non-historic basis would have priority over any new demand for that series the following year, if the incumbent carrier does not claim them
  • slots retained after 8 September 2021 would be subject to a slot usage requirement threshold of 50:50 with no double-dip
  • slots returned by a specific carrier before 8 September 2021 to receive alleviation should subsequently not be reallocated to the same carrier for the same use before 5 October 2021
  • specific Justified Non-Utilization of Slots (Force Majeure) provisions for flights cancelled due to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and
  • alleviation measures will not apply to slots held by airlines permanently ceasing operations at an airport.

The WASB Recommendation recognizes that regulatory authorities may adapt the content of these measures to the circumstances and needs of their local market and specifies that implementation is subject to local legal approval.

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Aviation stakeholders need regulatory certainty

While the Northern Winter season is still months away, planning by airport operators and airlines is well under way. As per the WASG Calendar of Coordination Activities, the capacity airport operators will provide and initial requests for slots in the Winter season had to be completed in the first half of May. As such, the timely adoption of a regulatory approach for the upcoming Northern Winter 2021 season is necessary to respond to the aviation industry’s need for regulatory certainty.

Philippe Villard

Philippe Villard

Senior Director, Policies and Economics, ACI World
Philippe's main responsibilities include developing airport economic policies; airport slot and capacity policies; and airport charges and aeronautical business development. Prior to joining ACI, Philippe held positions with increasing responsibilities in air transport economic policy development, and airport user charges and aeronautical revenues at ICAO and IATA.
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