UK "Use it or Lose it" Airport Slot Rules to Return

After a bumper recovery to the UK's aviation industry in 2022, the country's government is to restore pre-pandemic slot restrictions.



January 31, 2023

DALLAS - The UK Government has revealed that it will restore the 80:20 "use it or lose it" slot rules for the summer 2023 season. The move follows the industry's robust recovery last year, with passenger numbers reaching 85% of equivalent 2019 levels by October 2022.

From March 26, airlines will now have to use their take-off and landing slots at UK airports for at least 80% of the time in order to keep them.

British Airways Airbus A380-800 (G-XLEC) at LHR. Photo: Ervin Eslami/Airways.

Working Together

The official government statement said that the 'decision follows a period of consultation with the sector on how the government can best support its recovery while ensuring slots get used where demand allows.'

The easing of the rules was introduced when international air travel was virtually grounded during the pandemic. Last year, the Department for Transport (DFT) initially required that airlines use 70% of their landing slots to keep them into 2024. However, an amnesty was later put in place where airlines could return slots to ease delays and cancellations that severely impacted the industry throughout 2022.

Photo: Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

Continued Flexibility

UK transport secretary Mark Harper said: "I can confirm that slots rules will return to normal this summer. Airlines will also continue to benefit from increased flexibility over when they are justified not to use their slots, for example, where either end of a route is affected by Covid-19 restrictions. This will reduce the risk of environmentally damaging so-called 'ghost flights' – empty planes flying just to make the slots usage ratio."

"Now we're able to start a new, more optimistic, conversation about the future. About an industry no longer constrained by outdated practices, but modernising its infrastructure and operations."

Harper added that some of the flexibility regarding slot restrictions introduced to enable the sector's recovery will be retained, "We're maintaining the safety net introduced during Covid and airlines can hand back 5% of slots to help minimise last-minute cancellations."

Featured Image: A TUI Airways UK Boeing 787-9 (G-TUIN) at Manchester Airport MAN. Photo: Daniel Crawford/Airways.