Airport slots to airlines every two months on cards


Photo credit Twitter Airport Authority of India

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By Sanjay Singh

New Delhi, November 7: The Ministry of Civil Aviation is weighing a proposal to reallocate airport slots to airlines every two months based on utilization levels. This is a new initiative, as the government currently reviews airport slots after a year.

Airlines can currently claim a right to a slot if they can maintain slot adherence yearly. This means they should use at least 80 per cent of the departures committed to the Civil Aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). While a more frequent review will ensure that an airport utilizes its resources optimally, it may present operational challenges for airlines, especially when demand slumps.

A good slot at a busy airport is valuable for an airline. But airlines often block a slot allocated to them without utilizing them fully. This leads to a wastage of scarce resources and impacts the revenue performance of airport operators. Currently, the proposal is at an initial stage, and several rounds of talks with airlines and airports are expected, one of the officials said, requesting anonymity. A revision of the slot allocation guidelines was last done in 2013.

“The trigger is always those slots which are allotted but not used fully. For example, over the years, the focus of Air India became more international and their domestic slots utilization went down and IndiGo and SpiceJet complained. There have also been complaints by airport operators when airlines don’t operate slots allocated to them as this leads to loss of revenue,” an airports executive said, requesting anonymity. “It may help the new entrants, but for them, too, it will be a challenge in the long term,” he added.

If an airport has around 70 landing slots in an hour and airlines are only utilizing 65, then that is a loss of landing charge, parking charge, taxi charge, and revenue from passenger expenditure on food and beverages, retail, and shopping. Airlines are skeptical of the benefits of such a move. Primarily, their major challenge will remain at hubs, which are Delhi and Mumbai, and to some extent, constrained airports like Goa, Pune and Srinagar. Apart from that, airports such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad still have slots available, and everyone has grown out of Bengaluru.

Reallocating flight slots at airports is also crucial, given that new airlines do require it to expand their operations. This besides, growing footfall at airports also requires airlines in India to expand domestic and international operations.

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