3 JUNE 2019


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Article from BTNews 3 JUNE 2019

COMMENT: Slots are a problem

In Alison Chambers' report on the recent EBACE aviation conference in Geneva she notes the concern with aircraft operators regarding slots becoming less available at what is one of the world’s most important executive jet airports (see ON TOUR in this issue). Newcomer airlines such as Vueling and Wizz are seemingly gaining priority over established business aircraft operators. 

This was also a theme at the IATA AGM with Paul Steele, senior vice president member and external relations, briefing the media on what will he predicts become a significant problem for passengers and the air transport industry.

To put it all in perspective passenger demand is expected to double by 2037.  Today 1.5bn passengers depart from more than 200 slot coordinated airports.  It is expected that 100 more will be added in the next 10 years.  The idea of a slot auction has not worked out with China being a prime example.

IATA has created what it calls WSG, an acronym for Worldwide Slot Guidance, to try and find a solution to the problem. 

What makes the answer even more difficult is that IATA itself is a trade organisation, a very powerful one, whose membership is not all encompassing when it comes to the airline business.  Whilst it carries 80% of all passengers, and this may sound impressive, for the most part the low-cost carriers, typically easyJet and Ryanair, are not members.  Nor does it have a say in airports.  It could be said not to be enthuisiastic over privatisation but is openminded. 

BTN’s view on that matter is some denationalisations work (ie the BAA breakup in the United Kingdom), others such as the proposed Paris solution, a 70-year concession, gives cause for concern.

The slot process must be fit for purpose and remain relevant to enable the industry to provide consumers with what they want, when they want it, at a price they are prepared to pay.  New runways such as Heathrow and Gatwick, and clever use of airspace, will help alleviate the problem but not cure it.  The answer has to be the implementation of a new governance structure to airlines, airports and facilitators and slot coordinators working together to improve guidelines.

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All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Keith Wallis, Faversham

To tackle the slots issue perhaps the airline industry should consider developing hub and spoke rather than point-to-point networks. Then an aircraft manufacturer, say like Airbus, could develop an aircraft carrying 500-600 people to serve the hub-to-hub part of the network. Just an idea!