Wizz Air CEO Reiterates Calls For Unused Slots To Be Given Up

Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi has called for slot rules to return to pre-pandemic norms, claiming that legacy carriers are unfairly benefiting from changes. The “use-it-or-lose-it” rule for slots has been eased off over the pandemic, allowing many carriers to keep lucrative airport slots without using them. Varadi believes carriers should give up unused slots to other airlines capable of using them.

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Under revised European regulations, airlines currently need to operate just 50% of their airport slots. Photo: Getty Images

Wizz Air CEO wants carriers to give up unused slots

Wizz Air’s CEO wants Europe’s pre-pandemic slot rules to be reinstated, stating that lower minimum slot usage thresholds protect legacy airlines from fair competition. Jozsef Varadi also claimed that carriers unable to operate slots should make them available to other airlines.

In an interview with Reuters, Jozsef Varadi said,

“Leave the slot rules as they used to be prior to the pandemic and the market will sort it out. Why are they protected for the benefit of legacy carriers who are incapable of operating them because they are inefficient?”

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Varadi claims unused slots should be relinquished to carriers capable of serving them. Photo: Getty Images

Varadi has previously branded the slot waivers as “complete nonsense,” citing some carriers at Gatwick utilizing just 20% of their slots and preventing other airlines from taking those slots. Currently, airlines need to use 50% of their slots after the European Commission reintroduced slot rules.

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Possible return to normalcy by Winter 2022

On December 15th, the European Commission extended its slot relief to Summer 2022, with airlines now required to use a minimum of 64% of their slots between March 28th, 2022, to October 29th, 2022.

Additionally, the ‘justified non-use of slots’ exception will also be extended for this period. This exception considers carriers’ historic rights to certain slots when state-imposed travel restrictions prevent it from reaching its minimum usage.

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The European Commission is looking to gradually return to its 80/20 rule. Photo: Getty Images

However, indications point towards pre-pandemic slot rules returning for Winter 2022. Before the pandemic, the European Commission mandated a minimum slot usage of 80% for an airline to hold on to its airport slots.

Slot waivers constitute ‘a form of state aid’

During a Simple Flying webinar in July, Wizz Air Chief Operating Officer George Michalopoulos went as far as to claim that slot waivers are tantamount to state aid. Michalopoulos said,

“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 of other airports had this not been in place.”

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Lufthansa recently claimed it might have to fly up to 18,000 ghost flights to hold onto airport slots. Photo: Getty Images

Those in favor of slot waivers point to “ghost flights“, where airlines are forced to operate flights with no passengers to keep their slots. Recently, German carrier Lufthansa revealed that it might end up operating 18,000 ghost flights over the winter season to keep its slots.

Do you agree with Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi that carriers should give up unused slots? Let us know your insights in the comments.