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Aviation Bodies: Flexible Slot Use a Must for Air Transport Recovery

Photo source: @ACI World

In efforts to preserve essential air transport connectivity in the midst of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, global aviation organizations are calling on regulators worldwide to temporarily adopt more flexible slot rules as quickly as possible and implement relevant proposals.

In this direction, members of the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB)Airports Council International (ACI World), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG) released a joint recommendation for a globally-compatible approach to airport slot use relief for the summer 2021 season.

WASB underlines that a more flexible system of slot regulation is essential for connectivity while air traffic tries to recover in the coming period.

“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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general and CEO.

De Juniac added that 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”.

Hit by Covid-19 and a collapse in demand, some 65 percent of direct city pair connections vanished in the first quarter of 2020. 

Slot-regulated airports serve almost half of all passengers but recovery is impossible while there is no certainty on the rules governing the use and retention of airport slots, WASB said.

According to the industry board, existing slot rules were never designed to cope with a prolonged industry collapse. 

In view of the unprecedented circumstances this year, regulators temporarily suspended the rules for summer and winter to give the industry vital breathing space. 

WASB’s new proposals, preserving the best of existing rules and providing the necessary flexibility to aid recovery, recommend the following be adopted before the end of 2020: airlines that return a full series of slots by early February be permitted to retain the right to operate these in summer 2022; a lower operating threshold for retaining slots the following season; a clear definition for acceptable non-use of a slot.

International air traffic is expected to return to about 25 percent of 2019 levels by summer 2021.

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