Airlines at UK airports will be free to cancel flights over the summer of 2021 without losing their slots.
Airport Coordination Ltd, the body responsible for allocating slots at UK airports, has confirmed that the 80/20 “use it lose it” rule on airport slots will be waived at UK airports for the summer 2021 season.
This waiver has been in place since the start of the summer 2020 season. There had been complaints from some airlines that this waiver was benefiting incumbent airlines and inhibiting competition.
A compromise had been proposed by the Worldwide Airport Slot Board. Airlines would have to temporarily hand back slots they did not need to use by February. Otherwise airlines must use their slots for at least 50% of the season, subject to exemptions for short notice cancellations due to travel restrictions.
The UK’s Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has oped to maintain the status quo. Given that it is currently against the law to leave the UK to go on holiday, this is expected.
This will be a relief to airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic who can maintain their existing slot portfolios at Gatwick and Heathrow. Had more stringent measures been put in place, there would have been a flurry of “ghost flights” and attempts to lease slots to other airlines.
British Airways has already extended the cancellation of most short haul flights at Gatwick to late May 2021. With a slot waiver now in place it is likely could well be extended.
There is no confirmation yet on the approach that will be taken by the European Union. Guidance for airlines is available from Airport Coordination Ltd.