LONDON, UKThe UK government has decided to extend the airport slots rules alleviation for the upcoming summer season to support the aviation industry and prevent environmentally damaging ghost flights.

Airlines will need to use their slots 70% of the time in order to keep them, but will also benefit from added flexibility over when they are justified not to use them, for example, where a market is substantively closed.

If this alleviation wasn’t provided, the usage threshold would default back to 80:20 with no additional flexibility on justified non-use, increasing the risk of ghost flights.

Following a period of consultation with the sector, the extension of alleviation from slots rules will further support its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as air travel returns to normal levels.

The UK government aims to balance the need for continued support for the aviation sector’s finances, providing airlines with enough flexibility to adapt to changing restrictions and concerns around new variants, while ensuring slots get used where demand allows.

This means airlines won’t need to make the choice between running environmentally damaging ghost flights and losing their historic slot rights where markets remain closed as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, while also protecting long-term connectivity.

Airport slots are used to manage capacity at the busiest airports. A slot gives permission to use the full range of airport infrastructure (runway, terminal, and gates, for instance) necessary to operate an air service at an airport on a specific date and time.