Europe’s Airports Seek Greater Say in Slot Allocation Process

 - January 16, 2020, 1:02 PM

Europe’s airports seek a major shake-up of the EU slot regulation, calling the current system outdated and no longer fit to promote more efficient operations and more effective competition. “A regulatory regime based upon what the air transport market looked like 27 years ago is not only anachronistic—it is limiting the ability of airports to pursue more sustainable operations, to develop air connectivity for their communities, and to promote airline competition for the benefit of consumers,” said Olivier Jankovec, director-general of ACI Europe. Under the current rules, he stressed, “airports have no say in the way in which the very infrastructure they are creating and investing in is being used by airlines. This needs to change.”

ACI Europe’s Position Paper on Airport Slot Allocation, released earlier this week, proposes giving member states the right to allow secondary slot trading, subject to clear rules and conditions to prevent the potential accumulation of slots and market power of specific airlines. Moreover, it advocates that airports use a percentage of the amount paid by the airlines for the traded slot for subsequent investment in capacity.

The Brussels-based trade body has also called for scrutiny by the slot coordinators of slot leasing and slot “babysitting”—practices it asserts portend potential drawbacks for airports—and increased transparency vis-à-vis airports over slot-allocation decisions. It also demands a strengthening of the “new entrant rule” to prevent airline groups from operating several airline brands to build a dominant position by benefiting from rules intended to enable effective competition. ACI Europe believes that the rule should consider even airlines that operate as part of a joint venture jointly, albeit at a higher threshold; current regulations do not consider an airline a new entrant if it holds more than 5 percent of slots at the airport or 4 percent in the airport system.

“Generally, the current [EU slot] regulation is working,” an IATA spokesperson told AIN. “It has delivered tangible results that benefit consumers in terms of supporting growth, access, competition, and connectivity.” He admitted room exists to improve and reinforce the regulation, but he stressed that significant changes should stand subject to approval by the airports, airlines, and coordinators through the Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines (WASG) strategic review. Furthermore, he pointed out, last year the Worldwide Slot Guidelines was renamed to WASG to bring an overdue recognition that the providers of the airport capacity—the airport operators—did not previously have sufficient input into the guidelines.