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IATA Calls for Suspension of Slot Use Rules, Cites Covid-19 Impact

Due to exceptional circumstances created by the coronavirus outbreak, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is requesting that airport slot regulations be suspended for the entire running year.

Under current slot allocation rules, airlines must operate at least 80 percent of their allocated slots while failure to do so leads to losing the slot in the next equivalent season.

The proposed suspension through to October 2020 will enable airlines to respond to market conditions with appropriate capacity levels, avoiding any need to run empty services in order to maintain slots, said IATA. Aircraft can be reallocated to other routes or parked, crew can have certainty on their schedules, it adds.

“There are precedents for previous suspension of the slot use rules, and we believe the circumstances again call for a suspension to be granted.  We are calling for regulators worldwide to help the industry plan for today’s emergency, and the future recovery of the network, by suspending the slot use rules on a temporary basis,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general and CEO.

“The world is facing a huge challenge to prevent the spread of Covid-19 while enabling the global economy to continue functioning. Airlines are on the front line of that challenge and it’s essential that the regulatory community work with us to ensure airlines are able to operate in the most sustainable manner, both economically and environmentally, to alleviate the worst impacts of the crisis,” said de Juniac.

Demonstrating the far-reaching impact of Covid-19 on air traffic, IATA said one carrier has already experienced a 26 percent decline across its entire operation in comparison to last year; a hub carrier reported bookings to Italy down 108 percent; a number of airlines are reporting 50 percent no-shows across several markets; and future bookings are slowing down as carriers react with measures that include crew being given unpaid leave, freezing pay rises, and founding aircraft.

Indicatively, British Airways has suspended 432 flights to Germany, Italy, and the US, Ryanair said it will slash one-quarter of its flights to and from Italy, Turkish Airways has stopped flying to Italy, Lufthansa Group and IAG have reduced the number of flights to Hong Kong, Seoul and Italy, and Austrian Airlines’ flights to Italy are down by 40 percent, with many more air carriers mulling similar decisions.

IATA Economics’ Chart of the Week - COVID-19 transmission jumps from regional to global level. Published February 28, 2020.

IATA Economics’ Chart of the Week – COVID-19 transmission jumps from regional to global level. Published February 28, 2020.

The countries with more than 90 confirmed cases (China, Italy, Iran, Japan, Singapore, South Korea) represent 25 percent of global passenger numbers and 20 percent of global passenger revenues. As the coronavirus moves from Asia to East Asia, Europe and the Middle East, passenger markets outside transmission centers are set to face the risk.

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