By Philippe Villard
Airport congestion is not a new phenomenon. In the mid-1970s, airline demand to access certain airports during peak times was already superior to actual airport capacity. As a temporary response, airlines voluntarily established the Worldwide Scheduling Guidelines in 1974. At the time, it was thought that airport capacity would always grow and that supply would eventually surpass air transport demand. In the meantime, airlines were given “grandfather rights” on the slots they held, and criteria was established to administratively allocate other available slots at these limited numbers of congested airports.
For decades, the administrative allocation of airport slots was under the administration of IATA and its member airlines, and eventually jointly with slot coordinators, under the Worldwide Slot Guidelines (WSG). The development of the WSG was done without involving airport operators their representative organization or the airport industry’s view.
A new role for airport operators
The year of 2016 marked a distinct change of approach: ACI committed at a global level to working closely with airlines and facilitators/slot coordinators to undertake a Strategic Review of the WSG to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from an equitable global process. This was an ACI initiative put forward during the 39th ICAO Assembly in October 2016.
The positive outcomes of the Strategic Review, and the recognition that the airport industry has a vested interest in the allocation of its capacity to airlines, has been the driver of a reform of the governance of the WSG. These will soon be renamed the Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines (WASG) and will serve as a minimum common denominator for aviation stakeholders to allocate airport slots. Airports and airlines will have an equal role and an equal voice in the development of slot policies to ensure that they are reflective of the needs of travelling consumers.
In line with the recognition of the prime role that airports are playing in the development of global slot policies, and considering the vital interest they have in ensuring that their capacity is allocated and used in the most efficient manner, ACI has taken the lead on expertise development and knowledge sharing concerning slot allocation.
Sharing knowledge and best practices
Airport slot and capacity allocation has become a major part of ACI events and conferences with insightful panel presentations led by recognized industry-leading speakers.
The ACI Airport Economics & Finance Conference now incorporates a session dedicated to slot allocation and provides a unique forum for airport delegates and their business partners to exchanges on the issues they face and challenges ahead. For instance, at the upcoming conference in Kuala Lumpur from the 25th to the 26th March 2020, industry leaders will discuss how the administrative allocation of airport slots through the WASG can be complemented with market mechanisms that are responsive to the needs of passengers and aviation stakeholders.
Career development and training in slot allocation
In response to requests from its members, ACI has developed a Professional Certificate Course on Airport Slot Allocation. The course sets out to explain how slots are allocated, which guidelines and regulations frame slot allocation processes at global and local levels, and what is the role that airport operators can play to promote the greatest possible efficiency and prevent abuse in the use of their infrastructure. Upon completion of this course, participants are able to:
- Understand how airport capacity is determined and how it determines slot coordination parameters
- Analyze in detail the WASG and their implication on airport operators
- Review various national and regional regulations and identify best airport slot allocation practices
- Determine the most effective ways to increase the role of airport operators in slot allocation processes
- Identify complementary and alternative methods to the WASG to allocate airport slots
The first training course was given in Brisbane, Australia in November 2019 as a pilot class. In view of the positive feedback received and the interest to participate, the next course is scheduled in Los Angeles from the 8th-10th of June 2020. It will become part of the available ACI training courses offered to students around the world. This course provides a unique opportunity for airports to increase their knowledge on slot allocation, share best practices, and network with airport executives and experts.
ACI is committed to continue and intensify its efforts in enhancing airport knowledge on airport slot coordination. This effort is key in ensuring that airport operators, their neighboring communities and travelling consumers all benefit from a dynamic slot allocation process that reflects their needs and interests.