UK To Reinstate ‘Use It Or Lose It’ Slot Rules

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The UK is reinstating “use it or lose it” airport slot rules for the forthcoming summer 2023 season, ending waivers that have been in place since the onset of the pandemic.

From March 26, airlines will once again need to use their slots 80% of the time in order to keep them the next equivalent season—the ratio in place before passenger numbers dropped as a result of the COVID-19 crisis that began in early 2020.

However, the UK government said carriers would be able to hand back up to 5% of their slots before the start of the season to help plan schedules and avoid last-minute cancelations.

“I can confirm that slots rules will return to normal this summer,” British Transport Secretary Mark Harper said. “But we’re maintaining the safety net introduced during COVID—and airlines can hand back 5% of slots to help minimize last minute cancellations.”

The European Commission introduced its own waivers to the 80:20 rule for the summer 2020 and winter 2020/21 seasons to prevent so-called ghost flights. These were followed by the UK during the Brexit transition period, which ended Dec. 31, 2020. The UK chose to extend the waiver to cover the summer 2021 season before introducing a 50% threshold for the winter 2021/22 season. The threshold was then raised to 70% for summer 2022.

The UK government said the return to pre-pandemic rules follows a period of consultation with the sector on how it “can best support its recovery while ensuring slots get used where demand allows.”

In a statement, industry body Airlines UK said it recognized that as passenger demand returns, slot rules must follow suit.

“Global recovery is still bumpy though and we’re not yet fully back to normal, so we welcome the additional flexibility around the justified non-use of slots so airlines aren’t punished by travel restrictions where and when these may be imposed,” Airlines UK said.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.