Airport slot allocation as a tool for growth

European Shippers’ Council encourages national governments to look closely into the slots allocation problem. Already now, members of the national parliaments are discussing additional criteria: sustainability, noise reduction, and an economic output of the flight.

The capacity problem is caused by the growth in aviation, with some major airports reaching their current limits: Hong Kong, Beijing, Mexico City, Amsterdam, and London Heathrow. At many airports the problem has led to a fight between home carriers, low cost carriers, and cargo carriers for maintaining their position.

Cargo carriers are losing ground due to the 80-20 regulation for maintaining historic rights. (It comes into effect when there is more demand for slots than available due to the limitations). The regulation ensures a non-discriminatory way of allocating slots at national airports. But it does not consider the complexity of the cargo flights. (If the cargo is not ready the plane will not take off).

The governments could interfere with the slots allocation. They could make sure that different flights (home carriers, low cost carriers, and cargo carriers) are well represented at the major airports. Looking at the above-mentioned criteria – sustainability, noise reduction, and an economic output of the flight – these could be used for the selection process, without making it discriminatory.

Certainly, the output of cargo in terms of employment and economic development is much higher than what low cost flights bring in. This factor would go in favour of full freighter flights that are now suffering from the capacity restrictions. However, sustainability and noise reduction are the two factors against the air cargo sector. But they can also be a push for the sector to do more for sustainability and the noise reduction.