British airports are calling on the government to restore the rules that were abandoned during the coronavirus crisis, which forced airlines to use or lose their valuable time slots.
As the aviation industry began to recover from the pandemic, the chief executives of Gatwick, Belfast and Edinburgh airports demanded that strict regulations be restored in time before next spring and summer.
These airports have written to the Minister of Transport Grant Shaps and have received support from the ambitious Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air.
Wizz, which is listed in London, hopes to take advantage of the interruption of the entire industry to expand in the UK, but is hindered by the capacity constraints of major airports (especially Gatwick Airport).
If 80% of the time is not used, airlines usually have to return a time slot, but the UK and the EU abolished these rules throughout the pandemic.
The exemption allows airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to maintain bases at the airport without having to fly to destinations that are affected by travel rules and the number of passengers has plummeted.
The letter to Sharps said: “We firmly believe that now is the right time for the government to fully support our industry by restoring time-of-day rules and allowing competition to flourish again for the benefit of the industry and consumers.”
Marion Geoffroy, managing director of Wizz Air UK, added: “If some British airlines do not intend to operate these flights, they should be allowed to reserve these slots. This is completely wrong.”
For Gatwick Airport, this problem is particularly serious. During the crisis, several airlines have moved operations to Heathrow Airport.
Norwegian Airline abandoned long-distance routes during the crisis and became a regional airline, but it still retains the entire portfolio of Gatwick Airport flights from the past to New York and other transatlantic destinations.
Gatwick executives believe that they should be allowed to permanently provide unused flight slots to other airlines and are frustrated that they have to refuse business next year.
The airport received 262,000 slot requests in the summer of 2022, but due to capacity constraints, it can only accept more than 200,000.
Jonathan Pollard, chief commercial officer at Gatwick Airport, said: “I think it’s obvious that we have reached the time when we need to restore the slot machine system to its original state.”
EasyJet also stated that ministers should consider re-implementing the schedule rules, and that major industry bodies in the aviation industry are developing a new global proposal for next year.
The UK Department of Transport said: “We will soon consult on airport flight schedules and will formulate specific plans for the summer of 2022 early next year.”