Gatwick and Wes urge UK to restore time slot rules at airports

LONDON (Reuters) – The country’s second-largest airport, Gatwick, and Hungarian budget carrier Wizz Air, in a letter to the government, said on Tuesday that Britain should bring back pre-pandemic rules regarding entry slots at airports.

With the majority of COVID-19 restrictions removed, the number of passengers increasing, and Gatwick, Wizz, Belfast and Edinburgh airports want to re-enforce pre-crisis rules to encourage more flights.

According to customary rules, airlines must use 80% of their take-off and landing rights at the busiest airports or waive time slots to their competitors, but the so-called “use or lose” rule was scrapped at the start of the pandemic, when the crisis caused most flights.

Gatwick was hit particularly hard by the exemption, as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic did not fly from there, but were able to keep their slots, slowing down the recovery of London’s No. 2 airport.

Wizz has long announced its ambition to expand at Gatwick Airport, which is owned by France’s Vinci and Global Infrastructure Partners, but says waiving time slots prevents it from adding new flights.

In the letter sent to British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Gatwick says he is forced to turn down potential new airlines due to the exemption and blames them for operating only 58% of its pre-pandemic routes in August, putting them on hold. Behind its biggest competitor, London Heathrow.

Gatwick, the other two airports and two other airports, said the return of rules on the ’80/20′ slots would boost the recovery of the UK’s aviation sector, provide competition and choice for consumers, and help the country connect to vital international destinations.” Waze is on the list.

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The Ministry of Transport responded to the letter: “We plan to hold consultations on the airport slots soon, and we will develop firm plans for the summer 2022 season early next year.”

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Ed Osmond; Translated by Flora Gomez)

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