Slot challenges return with recovery
As airlines and airports gather for the first in-person slot conference in 2 years, it’s another positive step on the journey back to normality.
Business travel may never recover to pre-pandemic levels. Leisure & cargo routes may continue to have elevated importance in airline networks. But as vaccination rates grow and borders continue to open up, a return to busy skies begins to look more tangible.
But capacity challenges will reappear as demand recovers.
As airlines build back schedules, peak frequencies will reappear first. Airlines that have operated non-historic slots during these peak periods could face having to retime to a less commercially-optimum time or pull out of an airport altogether.
Equally, we see airports reducing declared capacity due to Covid health requirements. Once borders reopen and passenger confidence returns, will airports be able to handle the volumes they once did? Technology will play a part, but airports may still need to declare reduced capacity. What will this mean for airlines wanting to rebuild historic schedules or pivot networks to different destinations?
The last 18 months have been literally unimaginable. But the pandemic will end. As the vaccination roll-out develops, we need to start thinking about a return to normal planning processes and slot challenges.
Alleviation will have to evolve to address the changing status of the pandemic and differing stakeholder needs. Full WASG requirements will not return overnight but the journey has already started. Stakeholders should be thinking about how to balance slot regulations with commercial reality, not just for S22 but beyond.
Demand profiles will have changed. Capacity constraints may exist where they previously didn’t. Airlines are flying slots to which they have no historic rights but do have long-term aspirations. If airlines and airports want to come out of the pandemic flying commercially-optimal schedules, they need a slot strategy that will enable them to do that.