Despite high congestion, effective slot coordination has allowed for new routes to be added.

Lara Maughan

By Patrick Appleton

The air transport industry continues to maximise capacity through slot allocation, but problems lie ahead without extra infrastructure in the future.

That is according to Lara Maughan, Head of Worldwide Airport Slots at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), who commended airlines' and airports' slot management during a discussion at IATA’s Global Media Days in Geneva on December 11-12.

Maughan added that although airlines entering new markets can “feel late to the party”, this is not the case. Indeed, the current guidelines ensure that new capacity is not allocated simply to existing users in proportion and encourage new entrants and competitiveness.

European airports are among the world’s most congested, but routes have been continually added due to effective slot coordination.

However, IATA warned that slot allocation is not the unequivocal solution to the capacity problems worldwide.

We’re continuously improving the slot guidelines and look forward to a new era in slot policy definition, led by the industry jointly

“This process cannot generate new capacity,” said Dimiter Zahariev, Manager, Worldwide Airport Slots. 

“Thus, it can only serve as first aid to the capacity problem and infrastructure growth remains the only long-term cure.”

For airports with capacity issues, slot allocation “continues to be the only solution” to maximise capacity and prevent a chaotic situation at hubs around the world, said Maughan.

IATA and its industry partners continue to work on refining the process and recently announced that the Worldwide Slots Guidelines (WSG) will be updated with the help of ACI Worldwide and WWACG (WorldWide Airport Coordinators Group).

The slots are allocated according to clear rules and guiding criteria contained in the WSG, which aims to be transparent, fair and non-discriminatory.

Building on this, the new Worldwide Airport Slots Guidelines (WASG) will aim to incorporate more airlines, promote competition and growth, and achieve fairer access to available capacity through the use of new rules.

“We’re continuously improving the slot guidelines to make sure they’re fit for purpose and are looking forward to a new era in slot policy definition, led by the industry jointly,” said Maughan.

“It is critically important that airlines can continue to access congested airports, grow existing services and support sustainable growth.”