In an appeal to airport regulators worldwide to temporarily adopt such slot use relief measures, WASB, comprising Airports Council International (ACI World), the International Air Transport Association (Iata), and the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG), said an airline industry recovery is impossible while there is no certainty on the rules governing the use and retention of airport slots.
The existing slot rules were never designed to cope with a prolonged industry collapse. Regulators temporarily suspended the rules for Summer and Winter 2020 to give the industry vital breathing space. “International air traffic, though, is only expected to return to about 25 per cent of 2019 levels by summer 2021. In order to preserve connectivity while air traffic recovers, a more flexible system of slot regulation is essential,” said WASB in a statement.
“As a result of the collapse in demand from the Covid-19 crisis, some 65 per cent 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,” said the forum for bringing together representatives from the airport, airline and slot coordinator community to agree positions on slot rules.
WASB has worked on a proposal to regulators that preserves the best of the existing rules, while providing the necessary flexibility to aid recovery.
The proposed measures to be adopted before the end of 2020 include granting permission to airlines that return a full series of slots by early February to retain the right to operate them in summer 2022.
The forum also recommended a lower operating threshold for retaining slots the following season. In normal industry conditions this is set at 80-20. The WASB recommends this be amended to 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.
“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. 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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general and CEO.
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.
“The united position of the air transport industry on what needs to be done to protect connectivity and choice in the best interests of passengers is a clear signal to regulators of the extreme urgency of the situation. 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,” said de Oliveira.
Fred Andreas Wister, chairman of WWACG, said it is important that relevant authorities take appropriate action to secure the aviation industry the necessary predictability in the planning process in these extraordinary times for the entire industry. “WWACG welcomes the possibility to work out a common ground together with Iata and ACI World for the preparation of the 2021 Summer season.”
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