European Airlines get another extension of their slots for the Northern Winter 2020 Schedule, says IATA

Airlines get their rights to fly between cities and depart and arrive at a particular time, commonly called slots, with the understanding that they will fly it at least 80% of the six months to retain it for another 6-months. Airlines have often flown empty, or near-empty flights for the privilege of keeping specific slots, which may be hard to get or might not be doing well for the airline but letting go would mean getting a competitor the golden chance of taking customers away from them. However, in today’s disastrous environment for aviation, that is impossible.

For the summer schedule 2020, valid from the last weekend of March 2020 to the last weekend of October 2020, airlines had been given waivers from the 80% use rule given the pandemic and global groundings. However, whether this would continue for the winter of 2020 was not agreed upon, until now.

airplanes at an airport

Facing the most challenging winter season in aviation’s history, airlines and airports have agreed to abide by a set of conditions together with slot coordinators under which an extension of the waiver of the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule could be applied for the entire 2020-2021 winter season. Continued uncertainty about a second wave of the pandemic and haphazard travel restrictions have caused passenger demand to plummet, leading to a slower recovery in air transport and making the need for an extended slots waiver more urgent than ever. Europe has now managed to agree upon such a waiver.

To facilitate a prompt decision by the European Commission, ACI EUROPE, Airlines for Europe (A4E), Airlines International Representation in Europe (AIRE), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the European Association of Slot Coordinators (EUACA) have agreed on specific conditions to ensure a timely return of slots not planned for use this winter.

The waiver extension should apply to series of slots held on August 31 2020 (the Historic Baseline Date), as per these associations. The waiver should not apply to a series of slots newly allocated from the pool for the NW20 season. Slots newly allocated from the pool for the NW20 season which an airline does not intend to use should be handed back before the Historic Baseline Date.

The waiver will not apply to a series of slots of an airline that permanently ceases operations at an airport. An airline that ceases operations at an airport must immediately return all the slots allocated to it for the remainder of the season and the next season (if already assigned) and advise the coordinator whether or not it will use the slots in the future. If an airline fails to provide necessary information on its plans for a specific airport by a reasonable deadline date set by the coordinator, then the coordinator may withdraw and reallocate the slots after having heard the airline concerned. Where an airline does not intend to utilize slots, the series or part of a series should be returned as soon as plans are known to allow reallocation.

Where substantial changes to schedules are known, the airline should inform the airport and the coordinator of its intentions as soon as the waiver is granted and update the slots that have been allocated accordingly. An airline which suspends its operations at an airport should immediately return the slots allocated to it for NW20 to the slot pool for reallocation. Airlines must hand back slots not intended for utilization as soon as possible, but no later than three weeks before the planned operation for these slots to be considered as operating in the context of the waiver.

Slots newly allocated and operated as a series may be considered for historic status only if they meet the 80% usage requirement.


While Slot Allocation might sound complicated, they are one of the most sought after resources with limitations in aviation, and airlines pay millions of dollars at some airports such as London Heathrow to buy these rights. In this background, aviation in Europe just saved itself from another major mishap by giving airlines this breather for the Winter Schedule of 2020-21.

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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