The UK Government has announced it will ease airport slot rules to avoid last-minute cancellations as travel chaos continues to rampage through the industry.
The decision comes as Ryanair’s boss Michael O’Leary warned passengers disruption will stay throughout the summer.
Under the new plan, airlines will have an “amnesty” period to give back the summer slots for they are not confident they will be able to operate.
The move aims to avoid last-minute cancellations amid ongoing labour shortages, helping passengers find alternative travel solutions with time to spare.
“Today’s announcement aims to help airlines provide certainty to passengers and ensure the next few months are as smooth as possible,” said transport secretary Grant Shapps while aviation minister Robert Courts added that the plan was the result of ongoing discussions with industry leaders on how to best help the sector ease disruption.
The news was welcomed by the industry, with trade body Airlines UK calling it a “welcome step.”
“This is a welcome step that will help build greater resilience into operations this summer, coming on top of measures already taken by the sector,” said chief executive Tim Alderslade.
Commenting on the news, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said the airline was expecting to “run a full summer schedule as originally planned.”
“Allowing additional flexibility around airport slots will help minimise these late cancellations, meaning, if necessary, any changes can be made in advance and our travel agent and tour operator Members can support customers to make alternative arrangements,” added Luke Petherbridge, director of public affairs at travel agent body ABTA.
Before the pandemic, airlines’ slots at airports were regulated under the “use it or lose it” rule, which meant that carriers had to used their spot 80 per cent of the time to retain it the next year.
As Covid brought air travel to a halt, the rules were scrapped by UK regulators but, following the reopening of borders, the government reintroduced the policy.
Until March the rule was 50/50 but it was increased to 70/30 ahead of the summer season.
Recently the Institute of Economic Affairs argued that ending the allocation of slots would lead to lower fares and higher competition between airlines, City A.M. reported.