Airlines forced to operate more flights to avoid losing UK slots

(Alliance News) - Airlines will be forced to operate more flights this summer to avoid losing ...

Alliance News 24 January, 2022 | 6:01AM
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(Alliance News) - Airlines will be forced to operate more flights this summer to avoid losing lucrative take-off and landing slots at the UK's busiest airports.

They must use their slots at least 70% of the time to keep them from March 27, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced.

The Cabinet minister said the increase from the current level of 50% will "balance the needs" of various parts of the aviation industry as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was welcomed by Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

Airlines were traditionally required to use 80% of slots to retain the right to use them during the following year.

But this has been eased during the virus crisis to prevent airlines needing to operate so-called ghost flights with no passengers just to retain slots, which can be worth several millions of pounds each at Heathrow.

The alleviation of slot rules has benefitted some airlines such as International Consolidated Airlines Group SA's British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which have retained their rights at Gatwick despite cutting flights at the airport.

But it has frustrated the West Sussex airport and carriers wanting to expand, including Ryanair Holdings PLC and Wizz Air Holdings PLC.

Shapps said: "Leaving the EU has allowed us to take back control of our airport slots rules, giving us greater flexibility to balance the needs of our magnificent aviation industry as it faces up to the pandemic.

"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."

Slot rules were suspended at UK airports in summer 2020 and winter 2020/21 after a decision by the EU.

The government extended the slot waiver into summer 2021, but reintroduced the rule at 50% for winter 2021/22.

Aviation minister Robert Courts said: "Since the onset of the pandemic we have provided relief from the slots usage rule to provide financial stability to the sector and prevent environmentally damaging ghost flights.

"As demand for flights returns, it's right we gradually move back to the previous rules while making sure we continue to provide the sector with the support it needs."

Gatwick Chief Executive Stewart Wingate said the change means passengers will "once again benefit from a competitive aviation market, a wider choice of services and a range of airfares to suit different needs".

He went on: "The decision will also help generate many new routes and connections from Gatwick and provide a very welcome boost to the local economy and people across the region by supporting a wide range of new job opportunities in the coming weeks, as well as other business opportunities."

A Heathrow spokesperson described the government's decision as "fair to airports and airlines".

She continued: "It strikes the right balance between driving recovery and promoting competition, which is positive for consumers, while recognising that the industry still faces uncertainty and needs support."

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

source: PA

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security Name Price Change (%) Morningstar
Rating
Wizz Air Holdings PLC 3,085.00 GBX 0.78
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA 125.08 GBX 2.11
Ryanair Holdings PLC 15.00 USD -1.32 -

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