The UK government is to restore the 80:20 “use it or lose it” slot rules for airlines at the start of the summer 2023 season on 26 March following the strong recovery of the sector last year.
The Department for Transport (DFT) said it would be “business as usual” for the country’s aviation sector this summer following the Covid-19 pandemic when the usual slot rules were at first suspended and then reintroduced at a lower level of usage.
The 80:20 rule states that airlines must use their take-off slots at UK airports at least 80 per cent of the time to be allowed to keep them. Currently the UK is requiring airlines to use their slots at the rate of at least 70 per cent during the winter season.
The UK’s decision brings it into line with the EU which is already planning to return to the 80:20 rule for summer 2023. Currently the EU is operating the slots rule at the ratio of 75:25 for the winter 2022-23 season.
The DFT said the return to pre-Covid slot rules this summer was a “vote of confidence in the aviation industry as demand for international travel returns”. Passenger numbers at UK airports had returned to 85 per cent of 2019 levels by October 2022.
UK transport secretary Mark Harper said: “I can confirm that slots rules will return to normal this summer. But we’re maintaining the safety net introduced during Covid and airlines can hand back 5 per cent of slots to help minimise last-minute cancellations.
“Airlines will also continue to benefit from increased flexibility over when they are justified not to use their slots, for example, where either end of a route is affected by Covid-19 restrictions. This will reduce the risk of environmentally damaging so-called 'ghost flights' – empty planes flying just to make the slots usage ratio.”