UK aviation authorities announced that a waiver on airport slot rules will be extended for the 2021 summer holiday season. The extension of the waiver means that the carriers won’t have to make flights just to keep their takeoff and landing windows valid. According to the British civil aviation officials, the move was designed to help the airlines hurt by the coronavirus crisis.
The so-called “use it or lose it” rules governing takeoff and landing rights at once-busy British airports have been suspended since 2020, freeing airlines from the obligation to use 80% of their take-off and landing spots or else forfeit them.
Britain’s Department for Transport issued a statement today saying that the move “provided flexibility to airlines to support them during this difficult time” and reflected the current low demand for air travel.
UK’s current COVID-19 restrictions ban holidays and many air carriers are struggling financially after close to a year with minimal revenues.
While the legacy carriers such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic that have a big airport presence will welcome the announced extension, low-cost airlines like Ryanair and Wizz Air are desperate to return to normal pre-pandemic rules.
Both have said that the suspension stops them from adding new flights and creating competition.
Britain’s move to extend the waiver could see it diverge from an EU proposal made in December to restore some slot competition this year. It is the UK’s first decision on airport slot rules since it left the European Union’s orbit on Dec. 31.
The move also means that airlines do not need to fly “ghost flights”. Before the waiver was introduced, some carriers ran empty flights to avoid losing slots, sparking outrage among environmentalists and the wider public.