easyJet’s CEO has voiced his support for the slot waivers currently in place across Europe. With passenger traffic still down, the airline chief asserts that operators would be forced to fly with near-empty aircraft in order to meet minimum use requirements in place under normal circumstances. This is a perspective that stands in direct opposition to that of Wizz Air, which is unhappy about the existing waivers.
Speaking exclusively with Simple Flying during a July webinar, easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren voiced his support for keeping slot waivers in place. When asked about the potential return of something like a “60% operating minimum” over the winter, this is what Lundgren had to say:
“I think it should remain in place because what happens, from a sustainability point of view, [is that you’re going to have] operators forced to fly with half-empty planes. And I think that just is socially irresponsible.”
Lundgren is against having rules of minimum use in place, particularly whilst there are still disruptions and restrictions that exist because of health and safety concerns regarding COVID.
Should minimum use requirements return, there certainly could be a resurgence of ghost flights to keep these precious slots. Undoubtedly, this would be socially irresponsible, considering the unnecessary fuel burning without carrying any real passengers.
The other low-cost carrier disagrees…
There’s one particular budget airline operating in the same space as easyJet that strongly disagrees. In fact, during a mid-July webinar, Wizz Air’s Chief Operating Officer, George Michalopoulos, had the following to say on the topic of slot waivers:
“I think our view on the waiver is that it’s been a negative thing. It’s blocking competition. It’s really another form of state aid if you want to put it that way. We would have expanded in a number other airports had this not been in place.”
Wizz Air says that it has had to limit its operations at Gatwick, with its CEO being rather outspoken on slot waivers and their potential effect on limiting growth in markets like Gatwick.
Who’s right and who’s wrong?
easyJet’s CEO doesn’t think that waivers are impeding competition. In fact, with stern conviction and passion, Lundgren told Simple Flying:
“Anybody arguing differently, saying that [slot waivers are] hampering competition, that’s nonsense. ABSOLUTE nonsense. We’re all having back out slots. You’re welcome to fly as much as you want to…there’s no evidence that this hampers competition at all.”
Lundgren appears to be taking a cautious approach, acknowledging that there needs to be more stability around this broader situation before slot waivers are lifted. Indeed, while vaccinations may have offered a little more stability, the rise of newer, more contagious variants would certainly force most people to pause and check their own levels of optimism. Without a doubt, this pandemic is still not over.
On the other side, Wizz Air believes that if it had more slots, it would be able to expand its operations, presumably filling its aircraft to profitable (enough) levels. Whether or not it would be able to pull this off largely depends on forces outside of its control.
Ultimately, who you side with on the issue of slot waivers largely depends on your own level of optimism.
Where do you stand on slot waivers? Should they continue or be scrapped? Or perhaps something in between? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.