Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Here’s how the airlines want to resolve the 80/20 slot rule for the Winter

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

British Airways airport slot rules gatwick

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

Airport slot rules for winter season

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.

Comments (47)

  • ChrisC says:

    If BA have sacked / out in a pool / transferred to LHR it’s LGW short haul pilots then why is it still selling short haul flights from Gatwick?

    • Kevin says:

      Have I stumbled into a Unite update? They haven’t been sacked. They have been made redundant. No point using incorrect terms.

      • ChrisC says:

        Hope you are also complaing about Rob then because he used the word ‘fired’

        • Pablo says:

          Are Gatwick cancellations a safe bet? I’m thinking of booking a cheap flight from Gatwick to Vienna for November and when BA cancel, rebook for Christmas time out of Heathrow. Would BA let me rebook that far out or would they insist that I rebook onto a LHR departure within a couple of days of original November date?

          • Lady London says:

            Do it quick. At the first sign this is going through BA will ‘mop up’ and cancel everything else out of LGW

            Other airlines have already cancelled much of oct and they will follow closely with same to at least mid-Dec

          • marcw says:

            Iberia has already cut 75% production until march ’21.
            I still think it’s still too optimistic though.

          • Alex Sm says:

            What do they “produce”?

          • Rob says:

            If BA cancels an Avios ticket you can rebook for any day, irrespective of availability, as long as it is within 355 days of the day you paid the tax on the original. That’s why many readers are off to the Caribbean and Maldives for Christmas 🙂

            You can’t do this on cash bookings.

          • Robert de Mornay Davies says:

            Is that the case if you accepted a future travel voucher in April when it was pretty much impossible to get a refund

          • pauldb says:

            Why not for cash tickets: rebooking within ticket validity In the lowest booking class available is in the COVID rebooking guidelines for all tickets.

            Obviously booking a cheap cash ticket in hope of a cancellation is riskier.

          • Rh says:

            Hi Rob, does it have to be the same route or can you choose somewhere else?

          • Rob says:

            You get, I think, 300 miles of leeway. Only really helps in a handful of cities.

          • Rh says:

            Thanks Rob.

          • Alex Sm says:

            Assuming only if there are seats available

          • Jonathan says:

            Debatable. You’re entitled to a reroute/reschedule but BA may insist on a narrow window in which case you’d be looking at small claims/arbitration. I wouldn’t want to rely on a district judge or arbitrator playing along with your game as it’s fairly obvious your after a free “upgrade”.

            It’s a bit different if there are no BA flights from London to your destination in which case you’re forced to substantially shift dates.

    • JohnT says:

      Exactly! Have a ski flight (to Austria? got to hope) in Jan. Wonder when they will admit and start cancelling?

  • Tim says:

    The EU will take the course favoured by Lufthansa and Air France. I’d put money on it.

    • Planeconcorde says:


    • marcw says:

      The EC will take course what’s best. It’s obvious we need another slot waiver.

      • Andrew says:

        Why do you think it’s obvious? What would happen if a waiver wasn’t allowed? No airline (with the exception of maybe Wizz) has the money to run massive amounts of near empty flights. BA and other large European airlines would lose some of their slots but it’s not as if others are queuing up to take them. If they were then BA would be leasing the slots right now to bring in a bit of cash. When things pick up BA would snap up the available slots again. Yeah they wouldn’t get them all back but they’d probably get the majority since money-wise they’re still more healthy than most and they’ve got the connecting market to feed in to long haul routes.

        • marcw says:

          You aware you need a slot at both airports? Major airports in Europe are slot regulated. If there is no waiver, the consequences start at the NW21 season.

          • Andrew says:

            I am aware. It doesn’t change what I think would ultimately happen. Maybe you could enlighten me as to how it would turn out to be a disaster (for the consumer)?

          • marcw says:

            50% of (free) available capacity must be made available to new airlines.

          • Andrew says:

            “Made available”. If the demand isn’t there then incumbants can take it up. I can’t see many new entrants queuing up at the moment to get into the market and if they were that would be a good thing surely? BA are often criticised here for being able to rest on their laurels due to the lack in competition out of Heathrow.

          • Lady London says:

            Wizz and Ryanair would be in to the major European money-making airports, Munich in particular, like a rat up a drainpipe if unused slots get put up to bidders.

            Who seriously thinks the German governmnet will left Lufthansa leave any chink of light open in Munich to those airlines ??!!

  • Bob says:

    Will be good news for the wet leasers -can see airlines flying one service a week next winter to demonstrate they are maintaining a presence as promised this winter… Not dissimilar to “Parliamentary” rail services where one service is kept in the timetable as it’s easier than going through the formal closure process for a stretch of track otherwise not required.

    • Charlieface says:

      Has to be 80% usage. I wish Parliamentary were anywhere near as strict

      • Rob says:

        This is in regard to airlines which have ‘left’ airports not getting a waiver.

        • Charlieface says:

          As in they get a waiver if they demonstrate usage. I see what you mean.

          The point about Parliamentaries still stands 🙂

  • Willie says:

    Whatever Lufthansa wants it will get. The EU is the most restrictive trade body in the world and this proposal will be nodded through.

    • Ken says:

      Here we go.
      Plucky old Britain against all those nasty furriners.

    • J says:

      Alitalia is state owned. I believe Finnair is majority state owned too. AF/KLM is majority private but as with Lufthansa they’re very looked after by their govts. And given how protected BA are at Heathrow the same is true in the UK. BA aren’t facing serious competition at Heathrow anytime soon (or ever). Competition would be easyJet or another LCC having a decent chunk of slots at Heathrow.

  • Doc says:

    Usual story. Big bullies trying to get what they want and usually do. Let’s see what happens since as per my comment when this story broke out, there is no way the Germans are going to let other airlines into the Lufthansa stronghold at Frankfurt and Munich. Alitalia is pretty much financed by the Italian government, Iberia holds 80% of Spanish market but am unsure on how AF/KLM will be helped. Interesting times.

  • PeterK says:

    BA will want this proposed waiver just as much as any other European carrier given its LHR operation is a shadow of last year.

    • Peter K says:

      Not the usual Peter K. I still miss gravitars or at least another way to differentiate the regular posters.

  • Opus says:

    I believe the EU will grant the waiver. It makes sense really. You can’t dish out all that money to your airlines and not do everything you can to protect that investment.

    • Doug says:

      Exactly. What logic in the gov aid to LH, AF and KL if you then wreck their position through slot loss. Airlines far from out the wood yet, makes little sense to force competition in current situation.

  • L Allen says:

    Just booked flights to Tirana in March next year, in the sale. Allegedly going from LGW. Will be very happy if they are moved to LHR!

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.