The UK Government has extended its alleviation of airport slot use rules for the third quarter of 2022 in order to support aviation recovery but raised the minimum threshold to 70%.

Under the new rule, airlines will have to use their slots 70% of the time to retain them, which is still less than the pre-pandemic threshold of 80%.

Airlines will also receive support as demand for flights continues to return to pre-pandemic levels.

UK Transport Secretary Grant 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.”

Furthermore, the government has expanded the list of situations for airlines where they can claim justification for not using their slots and they will no longer be needed to show that the measures were unforeseeable.

The situation will be applicable if the country has ordered to close the market due to Covid-19 and in such a scenario, the airline company will not lose its slots.

This move is expected to provide more flexibility to carriers as they will not have to operate ‘ghost flights’ to retain their slots where markets are substantively closed.

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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.”

Britain maintained slot waivers through the third quarter of 2021 to support carriers during the pandemic, prior to aligning with the EU on a 50% threshold for the winter.

Its recent announcement of the 70% threshold is higher than the EU requirement, which has set its threshold at 64%.