15 NOVEMBER 2021
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Wizz Air could be the big winner if Gatwick Airport succeeds in convincing Government that the ‘use it or lose it’ airport slot rules should now be re-introduced.
A coalition of Gatwick, Belfast International and Edinburgh airports plus Wizz Air have written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urging him to reinstate the rule noting that UK consumers are paying higher airfares than passengers in other countries. This seems a rather obscure ruse as the main target is British Airways who has curtailed its Gatwick operation forcing the airport to close the southern terminal.
The coalition has recognised that slot regulations had to be suspended during the pandemic but are urgently calling for their reinstatement for the vital summer 2022 season when passenger numbers are expected to rise, following successful vaccination campaigns and the removal of many travel restrictions.
The letter underlines the restoration of what it calls ‘discipline’ in Europe’s airport slot regime has not led to ghost flights (flights carrying no or few passengers) but has in fact supported the rebuilding of connectivity to the benefit of passengers and businesses.
Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer, Gatwick Airport, said: “A continued slot waiver would be a disproportionate response to market conditions. A decision on the summer 2022 slots before Christmas would allow proper planning of resources to enable a smooth ramp up of operations as the industry continues its recovery.”
Wizz Air is currently a minor player at Gatwick with just eight routes. Marion Geoffroy, Managing Director of Wizz Air UK, is very clear without naming any other carriers. “It is simply wrong that some UK airlines should be allowed to hold onto these slots for another season if they have no intention of operating them. We have already started to see a return towards pre-pandemic traffic levels, and Summer 2022 has the potential to be a great opportunity for UK aviation to get back on its feet, if the Government supports the industry by restoring the slot rules and allowing competition to flourish for the benefit of the industry, and most importantly the consumer.”
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