Aviation industry must opt flexible slot rule to maintain air connectivity: WASB

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
  • Follow author on
Representational Image

The Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) in its appeal to airport regulators around the world opined that they must consider adopting flexible slot rules as soon as possible to maintain the air transport connectivity.

The WASB which includes the Airports Council International (ACI World), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG) stated that the recovery of the airline sector is not at all possible in a situation when the rules governing the use and retention of airport slots are not properly framed.

The current slot rules were not formulated to get through the prolonged industry collapse and early in the year, the regulators had temporarily halted the rules for Summer and Winter 2020 to provide the sector some relaxation.

The international air traffic is projected to recover about 25 percent of 2019 level by next year summer, so the regulators must bring up a more flexible system to maintain the air traffic connectivity, WASB said.

“As a result of the collapse in demand from the COVID-19 crisis, some 65 percent of direct city-pair connections vanished in the first quarter of 2020. Slot-regulated airports serve almost half of all passengers and are the backbone of the global scheduled airline network,” WASB explained in a statement to make the regulators agree to new slot rules.

WASB has already framed a proposal that would maintain the best of the existing rules while providing the necessary flexibility to support the recovery. The new measures are projected to be adopted before the end of 2020 such as granting permission to airlines that return a full series of slots by early February to retain the right to operate in summer 2022.

The board has also suggested the regulators to consider a lower operating threshold for continuing the slots in the coming season. In a normal situation, this is set at 80-20 and WASB recommends to amend it by 50-50 for Summer 2021.

The third is a clear definition for acceptable non-use of a slot. For example, force majeure as a result of short-term border closures or quarantine measures imposed by governments.

Alexandre de Juniac
Alexandre de Juniac
Director General & CEO

“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 and have to agree on 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.”

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general of ACI World, said creating a globally-compatible approach to the crucial issue of airport slots is an important part of underpinning a recovery of aviation.

“Action is needed now as any delay makes recovery for air transport, and the global economy, more difficult. We need regulators to recognize the crisis we are in and act with speed and flexibility,” Mr. Oliveira added.