LONDON – The UK government announced new slot rules to ramp up the aviation industry recovery.
According to a government press release, airlines will be able to use 70% of their slots to retain their rights to keep using them, but will also benefit from added flexibility over when they are justified not to use them, for example, if a country requires hotel quarantine or closes hotels or restaurants.
If this alleviation wasn’t provided, the usage threshold would return to 80% under the rule “Use it or lose it” with no additional flexibility on justified non-use.
The UK government has set a slightly higher threshold than imposed by the EU for the season.
In December, the European Union announced that it would require airlines to operate at least 64 percent of flights in summer 2022 to retain historic rights to slots.
The extension of alleviation rules will further support the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This aims to balance the need for continued support for the aviation sector’s finances, providing airlines with enough flexibility to adapt to changing restrictions and concerns around new variants, while ensuring slots get used where demand allows.
As part of this, the list of situations where airlines can claim justification for not operating their slots is being widened further.
As in the current winter season, this will cover situations where COVID-19 related restrictions at either end of a route result in a severe reduction in demand.
However, for the summer 2022 season, it will no longer be necessary for the airline to show that the measures were unforeseeable.
This means airlines won’t need to make the choice between running environmentally damaging ghost flights and losing their historic slot rights where markets remain closed as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, while also protecting long-term connectivity.
The regulations also allow airlines to keep their historic rights to the slots even if passenger demand does not justify operating the flight.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps, said: “Today’s extension marks a step back towards normal rules, helping the sector to recover and grow as travel returns while protecting it against any future uncertainty.”
This is the latest initiative introduced by the government to support the aviation sector. It follows the removal of testing measures introduced for Omicron in November 2021, which has made travel easier for fully vaccinated passengers.