The Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) has published its recommendations for airport slot relief for the northern summer 2021 season, calling for more flexible rules to be agreed by regulators before the end of the year.

The WASB – comprising Airports Council International (ACI World), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG) – has recommended a series of measures be adopted, warning that international air traffic is expected to reach just 25 per cent of 2019 levels next summer.

The Board called for airlines which return a full series of slots by early February 2021, to be permitted to retain the right to operate them in summer 2022.

It also recommended that the normal 80-20 “use it or lose it” rules – which require airlines to operate at least 80 per cent of allocated slots, or face losing their right to the slot in future seasons – be amended to 50-50 for summer 2021.

Finally the WASB called for “clear definition for acceptable non-use of a slot”, allowing for “force majeure as a result of short-term border closures or quarantine measures imposed by governments”.

The Board said that around 65 per cent of direct city pairs “vanished in the first quarter of 2020” as a result of the onset of Covid-19, adding that “existing slot rules were never designed to cope with a prolonged industry collapse”.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s outgoing Director General and CEO said that “Airlines and airports need certainty as they are already planning the 2021 Summer season (which begins in April) and have to agree schedules”, while Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General of ACI World, commented:

“Creating a globally-compatible approach to the crucial issue of airport slots is an important part of underpinning a recovery of aviation.

“The united position of the air transport industry on what needs to be done to protect connectivity and choice in the best interests of passengers is a clear signal to regulators of the extreme urgency of the situation.

“Action is needed now as any delay makes recovery for air transport, and the global economy, more difficult. We need regulators to recognize the crisis we are in and act with speed and flexibility.”

Earlier this month Heathrow airport warned of a “catastrophic decline”, as traffic dropped by 82 per cent in October.

Heathrow warns of “catastrophic decline” as traffic drops by 82 per cent,,