Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB), comprising Airports Council International (ACI World), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG), has sought for airport slot use relief for the northern summer 2021 season.

For preserving essential air transport connectivity, the organisations called on regulators worldwide to quickly implement more flexible slot rules on a temporary basis.

Around 65% of direct city pair connections disappeared in the first quarter of 2020 due to the collapse in demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The board stated that the recovery will be possible only after reaching certainty on the rules governing the use and retention of airport slots.

Slot-regulated airports serve almost 50% of all passengers, supporting the global scheduled airline network.

The current slot rules were never designed to cope with an extended industry collapse.

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To provide the industry vital breathing space, regulators had temporarily suspended the rules for mid to late-2020.

However, international air traffic is only expected to return to about 25% of 2019 levels by next summer.

WASB has worked on a proposal to regulators that retains the best of the existing rules while suggesting essential flexibility to help recovery.

WASB has proposed some recommendations to be adopted before the end of this year.

Some of the recommendations are that airlines returning to a full series of slots by early February should be permitted to retain the right to operate them in summer 2022, and there should a clear clarity for acceptable non-use of a slot.

WASB also suggested amendment in the operating threshold for retaining slots, bringing the threshold from 80-20 to 50-50 for summer next year.

IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said: “It is vital that regulators quickly adopt the WASB proposals on a globally harmonised basis. Airlines and airports need certainty as they are already planning the 2021 summer season, which begins in April, and have to agree schedules.

“Delays in adopting new rules will further damage the industry at a time when industry finances and 4.8 million jobs in air transport hang by a thread.”

ACI World director general Luis Felipe said: “Creating a globally compatible approach to the crucial issue of airport slots is an important part of underpinning a recovery of aviation.

“The united position of the air transport industry on what needs to be done to protect connectivity and choice in the best interests of passengers is a clear signal to regulators of the extreme urgency of the situation.

“Action is needed now as any delay makes recovery for air transport, and the global economy, more difficult. We need regulators to recognise the crisis we are in and act with speed and flexibility.”

WWACG chairman Fred Andreas Wister added: “WWACG welcome the possibility to work out a common ground together with IATA and ACI World for the preparation of the 2021 summer season. It is important that relevant authorities take appropriate action to secure the aviation industry the necessary predictability in the planning process in these extraordinary times for the entire industry.”