IATA Asks Airports To Suspend Rules Relating To Slots

Commercial air travel is suffering immensely with the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is contacting aviation regulators worldwide, requesting that the rules governing airport slot usage be suspended immediately. The request would extend through to the remainder of the 2020 season.

London Heathrow is one of the most slot-restricted airports in the world. Photo: Getty

According to IATA, 43% of all passengers depart from over 200 slot coordinated airports worldwide. The current rules for slot allocation state that airlines must operate a minimum of 80% of their allocated slots under normal circumstances.

Under normal circumstances, failure to comply with this policy results in the airline losing its right to the slot come the next equivalent season. However, IATA policies state that, in the case of exceptional circumstances, regulators can relax the requirement.

With the coronavirus outbreak getting worse by the day, airlines are experiencing serious declines in demand. An exceptional circumstance by any measure.

IATA has released a number of statistics which show just how devastating the impact has been:

  • An unidentified carrier experiencing a 26% reduction across their entire operation in comparison to 2019 operations
  • Another unidentified hub carrier reports bookings to Italy are down 108% as bookings collapse to zero and refunds grow
  • Many carriers reporting 50% no-shows across several markets
  • Future bookings are softening and carriers are reacting with measures such as crew being given unpaid leave, freezing of pay increases, and plans for aircraft to be grounded.
Dubai is another airport considered one of the busiest in the world. Photo: Dubai Airports.

A collective effort

As this outbreak becomes more and more global, the ripple effects are being felt across the entire aviation sector. IATA’s request will allow airlines to respond to market conditions with appropriate capacity levels.

If airlines are held to ‘normal’ rules, a suspended service would threaten the loss of a slot. In some cases, airlines would need to run empty services in order to maintain those valuable assets. Relaxing regular policies will allow airlines to reallocate aircraft to other routes or remain parked, without the risk of losing slots.

“IATA research has shown that traffic has collapsed on key Asian routes and that this is rippling throughout the air transport network globally, even between countries without major outbreaks of COVID-19. There are precedents for previous suspension of the slot use rules and we believe the circumstances again calls for a suspension to be granted.  We are calling for regulators worldwide to help the industry plan for today’s emergency, and the future recovery of the network, by suspending the slot use rules on a temporary basis,“ -Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Newark - New York
A relaxation in policies would give struggling airlines some breathing room. Photo: qwesy qwesy via Wikimedia Commons

De Juniac goes on to say that “…it’s essential that the regulatory community work with us to ensure airlines are able to operate in the most sustainable manner, both economically and environmentally, to alleviate the worst impacts of the crisis,”


This request makes absolute sense and it would seem almost absurd not to oblige. It’s hard to think of a reason why an airport would reject such a request.

Do you think airports will comply with this request from IATA? Can you think of any reason why an airport wouldn’t? Let us know in the comments.