Suspension of airport “80/20” slot usage rule…

Suspension of airport “80/20” slot usage rule to last till end of March 2021 – Gatwick not happy
2020-11-16 12:16:00
Gatwick airport wants the UK and European regulators to reinstate rules that force airlines to use 80% of their lucrative take-off and landing rights, or lose them, before summer 2021.  Wingate wants airlines to give back slots they cannot use, so other airlines such as Wizz Air can come to Gatwick, driving down air fares and getting more bums on airline seats (helping Gatwick survive). The European regulations insisting 80% of landing slots are used were suspended for 6 months, from March, due to the decimation in air travel demand caused by Covid. This was done so airlines would not fly empty planes, just to say the slot has been used.  The restriction has been extended for another 6 months, to 27th March 2021, as air travel demand will remain very low. There is discussion within the industry if this should continue into next summer, and even industry lobby body, Airlines UK, is in favour of not wasting fuel and generating CO2, with flights by empty planes. Gatwick’s Stewart Wingate wants the UK to do its own thing on the “80/20” slot rule, after it leaves the EU. Several airlines have said they will leave Gatwick, some going instead to Heathrow. .Tweet     Gatwick boss demands return of 80/20 landing rights rules Stewart Wingate says reinstatement after Covid suspension would boost competition by Philip Georgiadis (Financial Times) 16.11.2020 London’s Gatwick airport is pushing UK and European regulators to reinstate rules that force airlines to use or lose their lucrative take-off and landing rights ahead of next year’s critical summer season. Stewart Wingate, chief executive of the UK’s second-busiest airport, said in an interview that it is “vital” airlines hand back slots they do not plan to use so that competition returns to the industry. European regulations dictating that carriers lose a slot if it is not used 80 per cent of the time were suspended for six months in March. The move was designed to stop airlines running empty flights to hold on to their landing rights as global air travel all but ground to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic. The so-called “80/20” rules were then waived for another six months in September and the industry is now debating whether the waiver should be extended for a third time to run across all of next summer. Take-off and landing rights are among airlines’ most valuable assets and can be traded for tens of millions of pounds. “It is vital that the industry reverts back to using the 80/20 slot rule for the start of the summer season,” said Mr Wingate. This would “ensure that the aviation market is competitive and airlines are incentivised to trade or hand back unused slots so that other airlines can fly them instead, including new market entrants”. Industry body Airlines UK said the slots waiver “continues to be absolutely necessary” and allows airlines to adjust capacity to fit passenger demand. “Crucially it ensures we’re not needlessly emitting carbon by operating empty aircraft simply to maintain slots,” it added. Britain currently abides by EU slot waiver rules and Mr Wingate said the government could use Brexit to go its own way on airport regulation. He called on the government to launch a consultation, including “looking at whether the UK’s new post-Brexit powers can be used to create a regime that works better for the country’s highly competitive airports”. Heathrow airport said the government should engage “now” to get a policy in place for the summer that “is fair to both airports and airlines”. The pandemic has hit Gatwick particularly hard; passenger numbers fell 86 per cent in the third quarter of this year. Virgin Atlantic has closed its operation at the airport, while British Airways and Norwegian have both suspended flights from the airport. London Gatwick under a cloud as carriers threaten to quit airport In the meantime, Gatwick has been unable to offer the spaces to carriers looking to increase their foothold in the London market, notably Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air. Jozsef Varadi, Wizz’s bullish chief executive, told the Financial Times earlier this month that the suspension of the slot rules have stopped him from a “significant investment” in Gatwick. Given free rein to hoover up slots, he said Wizz could eventually operate 15 to 20 aircraft from the airport, up from just one currently.


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