Airports Call for Globally Coordinated Slot Use Waivers

 - March 17, 2020, 12:26 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Airports Council International (ACI) World on Tuesday called for a coordinated global alleviation of airport slot usage requirements until June 30, 2020. The call comes amid piecemeal efforts among different jurisdictions to ease the requirements, most notably in the U.S. and Europe. The airport industry group said it favors an “ongoing flexible reassessment of the situation based on data-driven evidence,” allowing airlines to adjust schedules in what ACI called a sustainable way and for airports to protect connecting traffic at hubs.

“Passenger demand continues to slump as travel restrictions and bans come into effect, and a temporary suspension would protect existing routes and schedules and enable airports and airlines to recover more quickly when the emergency is over,” ACI World director general Angela Gittens said.

The group also called for “more realistic flight schedules” to enable airports to take necessary measures to reduce operating costs proportionately.  

The European Commission on March 13 proposed to suspend the EU rule that requires air carriers to operate slots for at least 80 percent of the time to keep the entitlement in the next equivalent season through June 30. The draft amendment to the EU slot regulation 95/93 also proposes to retroactively waive the 80/20 use-it-or-lose-it rule to March 1 and to January 23 for slots used for flights between the EU and China/Hong Kong. The EU waiver lasts one month longer than the one granted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last Wednesday, though it falls short of requests by the International Air Transport Association and Airlines for Europe, which advocated a dispensation of 80/20 for the whole summer season. 

The FAA waived its slot-use requirements through May 31 for U.S. and foreign airlines that operated affected flights. “In doing so, the FAA expects that U.S. carriers will be accommodated with reciprocal relief by foreign authorities at airports in their countries and may determine not to grant a waiver to a foreign carrier whose home jurisdiction does not reciprocate,” said the agency in a written statement.

The waiver applies to New York's JFK International and La Guardia airports and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. For other U.S. airports where the agency maintains a formal schedule review and approval process—Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and San Francisco International Airport—the FAA said it will give credit to airlines for flights canceled due to the coronavirus through May 31 as though they operated those flights when the agency conducts future schedule development.