Leading aviation organisations have pushed for airport slot rules to be waived into the summer as airlines continue to battle the coronavirus downturn.
Under the existing rules, which have been suspended since March, airlines which do not use 80 per cent of their take-off and landing slots have to cede them to rival carriers.
The current waiver is due to expire on 31 March, but led by the International Air Travel Association (IATA), a push to renew the suspension is underway.
But some carriers are unhappy with the proposal, which could see them lose out on the chance to take over some lucrative slots from failing carriers.
In a statement, IATA and airports body Airports Council International (ACI World) called on regulators to extend the suspension “as quickly as possible in order to preserve essential air transport connectivity”.
“As a result of the collapse in demand from the COVID-19 crisis, some 65 per cent of direct city pair connections vanished in the first quarter of 2020”, it read.
“Slot-regulated airports serve almost half of all passengers and are the backbone of the global scheduled airline network. But recovery is impossible while there is no certainty on the rules governing the use and retention of airport slots.
“The existing slot rules were never designed to cope with a prolonged industry collapse. Regulators temporarily suspended the rules for Summer and Winter 2020 to give the industry vital breathing space.
“International air traffic, though, is only expected to return to about 25 per cent of 2019 levels by summer 2021. In order to preserve connectivity while air traffic recovers, a more flexible system of slot regulation is essential.”
Low-cost carriers Wizz Air and Ryanair have both voiced their opposition to the proposal, saying that they could damage competitiveness in the sector.
Both airlines have frequently criticised governments for handing out whopping chunks of state aid to keep their flag carriers airborne through the crisis.
Wizz is known to be targeting a slots at Gatwick Airport, which has seen many carriers cut services due to the pandemic.
A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “We oppose the extension of slot waivers into summer 2021 because this will lead to fewer flights and higher fares for consumers.
“Legacy airlines at hub airports will have no incentives to operate flights,” she added. “Slot waivers distort competition by preventing low-fare airlines from expanding while legacy carriers are able to reduce capacity and raise prices.”