FILE PHOTO: British Airways planes at London City Airport, Britain, April 29, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley
By Sachin Ravikumar
LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Airlines operating at UK airports will have to use 80% of their take-off and landing slots to keep them, the British government announced on Tuesday, which has decided to return the sector to regulations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The so-called 80:20 rule, which was waived when COVID-19 caused a drop in the number of passengers, will be applied again from March 26, as demand for international travel skyrockets, according to the British Ministry of Transport it’s a statement.
“Slot rules will be back to normal this summer,” British Transport Secretary Mark Harper will say in a speech at the UK Airport Operators Association’s annual conference, according to advance excerpts of his speech released by his ministry.
“Now we can start a new, more optimistic conversation about the future.”
Airport slots are limited and highly valuable as they authorize airlines to use airport infrastructure such as runways and terminals at a specified date and time.
A safety net for airlines introduced during the pandemic will be in place, allowing companies such as British Airways, Easyjet and Ryanair to return 5% of their slots before the start of the season to help avoid last-minute cancellations.
There will also be flexibility in cases where airlines are justified not to use their slots, such as when one end of a route is affected by coronavirus restrictions, the British government added.
Industry employers Airlines UK welcomed this flexibility, so that airlines are not penalized by travel restrictions.
“Airlines recognize that as passenger demand returns and we head into another busy summer, slot rules need to follow suit. However, the global recovery remains uneven and we are still not back to business as usual “said an Airlines UK spokesman.
The British Government explained that its decision was made after consulting with the sector on the best way to support its recovery after the pandemic. It added that, by October 2022, passenger numbers at UK airports had reached 85% of comparable 2019 levels.
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Kylie MacLellan;
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