ACI World projects that worldwide passenger traffic by the end of next year will reach 6.6 billion, up from 4.6 billion in 2021. Despite the pandemic, the most constrained airports are already effectively saturated at peak times, and slots at these airports will remain scarce. An additional complexity is that recovery is likely to be uneven as regions face different conditions from each other. Moreover, there is still no uniform and consistent approach to passenger testing, vaccine recognition, and quarantine/isolation approaches.
In such context, protecting vital airport connectivity, enabling new patterns of demand to be served, and supporting the restoration of air traffic must be the overarching goals of slot alleviation measures.
Consequently, the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB), the body tasked with developing global slot rules, has built on its previous WASB Recommendations for slot alleviation since the beginning of the pandemic and issued a Recommendation for the upcoming Northern Summer 2022 season. The Recommendation enables market-by-market approaches in recognition of the various paces of recovery.
The WASB comprises a total of 21 representatives, with equal numbers from the airport, airline, and slot coordination communities.
Aviation stakeholders need globally consistent approaches responsive to their local circumstances. As such, the WASB Recommendation distinguishes several types of markets:
Restricted markets present substantial peculiarities that require different approaches to bring the aviation industry back to full health. These include the possibility for air carriers to return full series of slots in advance of the season when they know they will not be using these slots and to be subject to slot usage requirements lower than the normal 80:20 ratio to maintain historic precedence.
In more relieved markets where travel is permitted with limited to no restrictions, returning full series of slots to receive alleviation should be much more limited or disallowed. Additionally, slot usage requirements should be reinstated much closer to the normal 80:20 ratio contained in the Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines.
In any case, specific Justified Non-Utilization of Slots (Force Majeure) provisions for flights cancelled due to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic should continue to apply. Further consideration should be given to changing circumstances in various markets, which may occur during the season.
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.
Airports, airlines, and slot coordinators came together to establish a classification of markets with different recommendations to ensure the essential protection of existing networks and connecting banks, respond to passenger demand, foster the restoration of air traffic, and promote the most efficient use of scarce airport capacity.
Aviation regulatory authorities should work closely with aviation stakeholders to ensure a swift adoption of slot policies that meet the needs and circumstances of airports, airlines, and passengers.