Gatwick, Belfast International and Edinburgh airports have written to the UK government asking it to reinstate the ‘use it or lose it’ airport slot rules.

Airport slot rules help create efficient and fair pricing to consumers by ensuring that the aviation market is competitive. This is achieved by asking airlines to fly, trade or hand back unused airport slots so that other airlines can fly them instead.

The coalition, which includes Wizz Air, recognises that slot regulations had to be suspended during the pandemic, but is urgently calling for their reinstatement for the summer 2022 season when passenger numbers are expected to rise following successful vaccination campaigns and the removal of many travel restrictions. 

Jonathan Pollard, chief commercial officer at Gatwick Airport, said: “In our view, it’s imperative that the UK government gets fully behind the recovery of the UK aviation sector by restoring the slot rules so that competition once again flourishes for both the benefit of industry and the consumer.

“A continued slot waiver would be a disproportionate response to market conditions. A decision on the summer 2022 slots before Christmas would allow proper planning of resources to enable a smooth ramp up of operations as the industry continues its recovery.” 

The letter also focuses on examples of the potential negative impact on consumers – such as reduced choice of destination and airlines – and says that competition issues have already been raised with the CMA, the UK’s competition watchdog.

Marion Geoffroy, managing director at Wizz Air UK, added: “We have been calling for the reinstatement of the 80/20 slot rules for some time and would strongly urge the UK government to put these plans in place ready for the 2022 summer season. It is simply wrong that some UK airlines should be allowed to hold onto these slots for another season if they have no intention of operating them.”