Airlines Want Use It Or Lose It Slot Rules Suspended Until October

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.

Planes Taking Off At Heathrow Airport Over A One Hour Period
Airlines and industry organizations are calling for slot rules to stay relaxed until the end of the 2021 northern summer season. Photo: Getty Images

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.

Contrails South East England
The WASB wants to see the 80-20 use it or lose it rule to shift to 50-50 over summer 2021. Photo: Getty Images

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.

A320 vs 737
IATA’s CEO says delaying the slot rule relaxation could cost millions of jobs. Photo: Getty Images

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!