As we covered in an article 10 days ago, no decision has yet been taken by the European Commission on whether the ‘use it or lose it’ airport slot rules will be reinstated for the Winter season.
The season runs from late October to late March. It compels an airline to use a take-off and landing slot pair on 80% of days, or forfeit the slot to another airline.
Most legacy airlines, in the current environment, are desperate to see another waiver. Some challenger airlines, notably Wizz Air, are against. They believe that carriers should not be able to sit on unused slots if other airlines are ready and able to fly them.
A coalition consisting of IATA, the various slot co-ordination groups and the airline trade bodies has submitted an agreed set of proposals to the European Commission. Wizz Air won’t be happy with them.
You can read the document here.
Here’s a quick summary of the proposals:
a slot waiver should be granted for the Winter season
the waiver should not apply to airlines which have been given new slots for the Winter season – these slots must be used or forfeited
an airline which has announced that it is ceasing services to an airport should forfeit all of its slots immediately
The last point is an interesting one.
Virgin Atlantic has publicly announced that it is leaving London Gatwick. Its stated plan is to lease its slots to other airlines so that, if it chooses to return to Gatwick in, say, five years, it can take them back. It isn’t clear if this would still be allowed under these proposals.
British Airways, whilst unlikely to return to London Gatwick for a number of years for short haul (all short haul pilots at Gatwick have been fired, moved to the furlough pool or transferred to Heathrow) is keeping its long haul routes. Was this part of a plan to convince regulators it was still operating from the airport?
There is no guarantee that the European Commission will take this advice, of course, but to refuse it would mean going against the views of almost all the key industry participants.
With 25th October looming – the first day of Winter in the arline world – it needs to make a statement soon.