UK Government Launches Airport Slot Reform Consultation

The UK government has launched a slot reform consultation that will transform the nation’s airport slot allocation system.

The new systems aims to offer a tailored approach that will benefit both businesses and passengers across the UK.

Heathrow Airport, British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on taxiway
Heathrow Airport, British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on taxiway

At airports, slots are allocated to give permission for an airline to use the required airport infrastructure at a specific time and date.

By launching this reform, the governmnet plans to make airport opeartions more efficient, leading to smoother getaways and cheaper prices for passengers.

The reform will propose new ways to approach the slot allocation system to better manage slot capacity. This will include limiting slot leasing or holding, so that larger airlines do not monopolise slots. Instead, spaces could be allocated to other competitors if they are not used after a set period of time. This will allow for smaller airlines with potentially cheaper prices to receive favourable slots.

The reform will also look to provide more powers and flexibility for responding to crisis, thus making the industry more resilient and efficient in unpredicatable times, providing increased market competition.

Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, said:

“Slots reform is an opportunity to improve the efficiency of the UK aviation system and this consultation is a welcome step in that direction. We will be working constructively with government to ensure airports’ views are taken on board as these plans develop.”

This will be the first time since the 1990s that the UK will have control of its airport slot regime thanks to new powers following Brexit.

The currecnt slot allocation system, which is based on EU regulations, requires the process to be consistent across Europe. However, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) states that this approach is outdated. Indeed, although the sector has developed and grown over the last 20 years, the rules have remained unchanged.

As a reuslt, the UK now plans to modernise its system while taking the nation’s specific needs into account. In doing so, the reform will look to balance the interests of both airlines and airports.

Aviation Minister, Anthony Browne, said:

“For decades the UK aviation industry was subject to European rules that didn’t have the UK’s interest at heart, but as it goes from strength to strength following the pandemic, it needs a system that will empower it – not constrain it.

“This consultation will bring the sector to the forefront of decision-making, helping to end monopolies within the slot regime, drive healthy competition between airlines and make the aviation sector more dynamic for the future while also benefitting millions of passengers.”

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