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Air Service One talks with Lara Maughan, Head Worldwide Airport Slots, IATA

Air Service One caught up with Lara Maughan, Head Worldwide Airport Slots, IATA, ahead of the 150th IATA Slot Conference taking place in Seattle this coming June (21-23) to find out what attendees should expect from the upcoming event and what makes the IATA Slot Conference so important to the aviation industry.

Lara Maughan, IATA Slots

 The 150th IATA Slot Conference is a milestone event. What makes this event different to past events?

With this being the 150th Slot Conference we feel it is going to be special for many reasons – not least because it’s staggering to think how much of a role this event has had over decades to shape the aviation networks we all rely on today. It was a scheduling meeting originally, to build connectivity between airlines schedules by timing the arrivals and departures in a coordinated way. Actually, what we’re doing now isn’t so different at this 150th event – with much of the world reopening to travel it feels like it’s really going to be a positive turning point to discuss again the issue of capacity and slots and optimizing the schedules! We’re delighted to be returning to the US and bringing the delegates to Seattle – a city so integral to aviation – is exciting and we have amazing aviation-themed social opportunities planned.

As much as the IATA Slot Conference is a working conference, there is also an interactive conference element. Can you tell us more about what additional content we can expect?

Yes, the SC has been developing over the last years to include relevant and topical sessions that add value to the delegates experience. Sometimes very closely linked to the slot process and technical developments within the community, other content gives a broader view into closely related topics which shape aviation. But we’re very conscious the delegates are at the SC to meet and optimise their planning for the season ahead primarily – so these sessions are designed to be a short break between the meetings.

We want to provide our attendees opportunity to join sessions that are of interest to them and enhance awareness of a specific topic, whether that be a deep dive on capacity and slots in the region we’re in, a traffic update from IATA’s economists or briefings from our supporting partners at the event. This SC we have a great line-up including a briefing from Boeing and a live panel with the Slot Board members.

What would you say are the main challenges facing slot controlled airports worldwide in the wake of the pandemic? How do you feel the event is positioned to appeal to both airports and airlines from a network planning and route development perspective?

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I think we’re all very aware the ramp up is challenging; the industry has lost a huge number of staff in the last two years and it’s taking time to fully resource again to meet the very positive return of demand. Whether the issue is ground operations, catering, the airport managing the passenger processing or the airline crewing, everyone needs to work to deliver the best service possible to returning passengers. Equally, the supply side issues are impacting cargo air travel too. There are also some countries still waiting to reopen so we shouldn’t forget our colleagues who still have a steep climb-out ahead.

Most airports are keen to restore the network and route offering they achieved pre-pandemic, which had been delivered through strong working relationships and collaboration with airlines. One of the reasons slot use alleviation was essential was to preserve these foundations for the recovery so that schedules can be restored in line with returning demand. Exploring new opportunities, growth or changes to routes, as well as changes to the hub with retimed services to better connect passengers – all are facilitated in person in the Slot Conference with the airline, airport and slot coordinators.

The 550+ airline delegates that come to the Slot Conference represent 220+ global airlines. At the SC they are also facilitating their carrier’s future network when they can explore new opportunities and slot availability at congested airports. Likewise, the ability to meet with non-coordinated airports is valuable as they have more flexibility with the schedule development – this is certainly not an event that is only interesting for congested airports when it comes to route development. Those already registered and attending can be viewed here.

Another fantastic destination for the event, but what were the main factors which resulted in Seattle-Tacoma Airport hosting this year’s event and what does IATA look for in a host airport?

I think Seattle offers us a great location that is well-connected for busy delegates to access easily from anywhere in the world. Seattle-Tacoma Airport secured support from local businesses like Boeing who want to be part of delivering a great and memorable event. But key as always for the Slot Conference – the venue is right for the 1-2-1 meetings and networking spaces as well as growing exhibition.

Register now for the 150th Slot Conference taking place 21-23 June 2022 in Seattle to avoid missing out on this great opportunity to reconnect with the scheduling and slots world.

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