Regulations have been declared by the UK Government that will see airport slot rules for the upcoming 2023 summer season back in line with pre-pandemic levels.
From March 2023 airlines will once again be expected to use their slots 80% of thee time in order to keep them. During the global pandemic, the usage ratio was reduced to provide relief to airlines as they saw a drop in demand as a result of travel restrictions. The government described the return to the 80:20 slot rule as a vote of confidence in the aviation industry as it continues to recover from the global pandemic and demand for international travel returns. Passenger numbers at UK airports reached 85% of equivalent 2019 levels by October 2022.
The new measures were announced during the Transport Secretary Mark Harper’s keynote speech at the Airport Operators’ Association’s (AOA) annual conference held on Tuesday 31 January in London.
“I can confirm that slot rules will return to normal this summer,” he stated. However, he underlined that there is a caveat for airlines as he pointed out, “We’re maintaining the safety net introduced during COVID… and airlines can hand back 5% of slots to help minimise last minute cancellations.”
Airlines will also continue to benefit from increased flexibility over when they are justified not to use their slots, for example, where either end of a route is affected by Covid restrictions. This will reduce the risk of environmentally damaging so-called ‘ghost flights’ – empty aircraft flying just to avoid losing slots.
Adding that aviation now has a golden opportunity to move from recovery to renewal, the Transport Secretary concluded: “We’re able to start a new, more optimistic, conversation about the future. About an industry no longer constrained by outdated practices, but one that is modernising its infrastructure and operations, attracting talent from all backgrounds and is no longer the poster child for environment decline, but one that is committed to a future of sustainable flight.”