When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March 2020, almost completely paralyzing air traffic, one of the concerns of airlines worldwide was how aviation authorities would proceed with airport slot entitlements, and they requested that the allocation rules be suspended until there was clarity about the evolution of the restrictions (no one imagined then that the nightmare was beginning and that there was at least a year to go before the world would start to reopen its borders).
One of the fundamental rules states that under normal circumstances, slots assigned to an airline must have a utilization rate of at least 80%, or they will lose the historical right to them in the following equivalent season (there are two seasons, a summer season between March and October, and a winter season between November and March for the northern hemisphere).
Authorities worldwide eventually relaxed that requirement, but as air traffic recovery has progressed, the standard slot allocation rules have also returned.
In this regard, as reported by our Brazilian partner media, Aeroin, the Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC) this week published a resolution stating that it will reinstate the 80% regularity target at coordinated airports for domestic flights during the next winter season, which runs from 30 October 2022 to 25 March 2023. The operator coordinates slots at key airports such as Brasília, Belo Horizonte-Confins, Rio de Janeiro-Galeão, and Porto Alegre, while ANAC coordinates slots at Sao Paulo-Congonhas, São Paulo-Guarulhos, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro-Santos Dumont.
In the case of international flights, where the recovery rate is much lower, a waiver will be granted as long as the departure and arrival times are from historical slots and are returned at least seven days before the baseline disclosure. Airlines that use the waiver will be able to re-request canceled slots 30 days after their return date, subject to an assessment of airport infrastructure availability. Airlines worldwide have already spoken out against reverting to pre-pandemic slot rules.
The chaos we’ve seen this summer at some airports has occurred with a slot utilization threshold of 64%. We are concerned that airports will not be completed in time to meet an 80% completion rate by the end of October. The Member States and Parliament must modify the Commission’s proposal to make it more realistic and allow flexibility in slot usage rules. Airports are equal partners in the slot process; let them demonstrate their ability to accurately and competently declare and manage their capacity, and then let us restore the use of slots next summer,» said Willie Walsh, IATA Director General, in mid-July, in response to the European Union’s decision to return to the 80% threshold beginning next winter season.