On Thursday, the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) released a statement urging global regulators to extend the waiver of the 80-20 ‘use it or lose it’ airport slot rule. Currently suspended until the end of March, it says that it is vital for airline recovery – and millions of jobs – that it remains relaxed until the end of the next summer season.
The “use it or lose it” slot rules have been heavily debated since the onset of the pandemic. Legacy carriers have lobbied for keeping them suspended beyond the initial six months of the IATA northern summer season of 2020. Thus far, they have been successful. The rule that states that an airline must use 80% of its airport slots not to lose them till next season is currently waived until March 27th, 2021.
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Not everyone is in favor of another six months
In a press release issued Thursday, the WASB, comprised of Airports Council International (ACI World), the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), asked for regulators worldwide to keep the flexible approach to slot use relief until the end of the northern summer season 2021. IATA represents close to 290 airlines and 82% of global commercial air traffic.
Meanwhile, up-and-coming low-cost carriers such as Wizz Air, eager to lay their wings on some of the more coveted slots at busy airports, have protested the extension of the exception. They will most likely feel frustrated by the WASB’s new set of recommendations.
Quarantine as force majeure
The WASB suggests that airlines that return a full series of slots by February 2021 should be permitted to retain the right to operate them throughout the summer season. It also requests that the regular 80-20 use it or lose it percentage shifts to 50-50 for summer 2021.
Furthermore, the co-ordinating body calls for a clear definition of what qualifies as an acceptable non-use of a slot. For instance, it says, force majeure should include border closures or governmental quarantine measures.
Airlines must be able to plan schedules
Doing this, WASB says, will provide the necessary flexibility to aid in airline recovery. It will also help preserve connectivity while air traffic (presumably) slowly picks back up.
“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 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, in the statement seen by Simple Flying.
What is your take on the suspension of the slot rules? Should they be suspended throughout summer 2021? Let us know in the comments!