MIAMI – A coalition of Wizz Air (W6) and Gatwick (LGW), Belfast (BFS) and Edinburgh (EDI) airports wants pre-pandemic slot rules reinstated.

In a letter sent yesterday to the British government, the group said that the slot rules should be reinstated to encourage more people to fly.

A report by Reuters today describes how during the pandemic, the government abandoned the 80/20 rule as many airlines severely restricted their schedules. But as customer traffic now grows, and particularly in anticipation of the high travel demand for summer 2022, the coalition wants the rule back in place.

Gatwick Airport. Photo: Gatwick Media

Use ’em or Lose ’em

Airlines are given specific slots for landing and taking off. The typical rules say that the slots must be used 80% of the time at a minimum. Otherwise, the airline could lose the slots for the following season. It’s use them or lose them.

In Gatwick’s case, British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VS) have not been using the airport, flying from London Heathrow (LHR) instead. Yet, both airlines retain their slots at LGW with no repercussions. They’re not using them, but they’re not losing them. This prevents the airport from opening to other airlines and slows its ability to recover financially.

In the letter, the group said it is refusing potential airline customers due to the rule. Also, W6 wishes to expand at LGW but currently cannot.

“A return of the 80/20 slot rules would bolster the UK aviation sector’s recovery, provide competition and choice for consumers, and help the country connect to vital international destinations,” LGW, the other two airports, and W6 said in the letter.

The Department for Transport said in response to the letter, “We are due to consult on airport slots shortly, and will set out firm plans for the summer 2022 season early next year.”

In 2019, LGW had 280,700 aircraft movements (landings and takeoffs). In 2020, that number fell to 76,400.

Featured image: Wizz Air Airbus A321-200 HA-LTE. Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways