Due to staffing shortages and infrastructure deficiencies at significant international airports, global aviation is currently seeing one of its most chaotic scenes in history.
The pre-pandemic slot use guidelines force airport management who have been straining to meet summer demand to ration daily capacity, which in turn completely disrupts airlines’ scheduled operations.
The current foreign exchange liquidity crisis, which has caused airfares to increase by at least 200 percent and put the average price of Economy Class tickets above the N1 million mark, has also created obstacles for Nigerian summer travelers this season, as reported by The Guardian previously.
The disorderly situations at major airports in Europe, the United States, and Canada add another twist to the obstacle. The situation has been referred to as “Armageddon” by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In the past several days, there have been instances of aircraft cancellations, lengthy lines, mountains of lost luggage, and strike threats at London Heathrow Airport. Because it has cut daily capacity in half, the airport has instructed airlines to turn away passengers.
Heathrow declared a 100,000 daily cap on passengers until September 11, angering airlines and jeopardizing the plans of thousands of travellers, compared to the roughly 213,000 it receives daily. Although the airport claimed to be “safeguarding holidays,” there was a strong backlash.
At first, Emirates flatly refused to comply or cancel flights. Willie Walsh, the director general of IATA, called Heathrow “a bunch of idiots when it comes to operating airports.”
The situation was the same at Toronto Pearson Airport in Canada and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where passengers’ luggage has been piling up for weeks.
The long-standing 80-20 slot use guideline, which compels airlines to run at least 80% of any planned slot sequence, will be reinstated as a result of the pressure, the European Commission revealed. An efficient approach for controlling access to and utilization of airports’ limited capacity is the global slot rules system.
The system has shown to be reliable over the years, and although airlines are eager to resume operations, a hasty return to the 80-20 norm could further disrupt passenger travel because numerous important airports are unable to handle the demand.
This summer’s evidence thus far has not been promising. The summer schedules and final slot holdings for 2022 were available to airports in January, but they failed to plan ahead on how to handle this. The system is not ready for “regular” slot use to resume this winter season when airports declare that full capacity is available but then demand airlines make cuts this summer (which begins at the end of October).
“The pandemonium we have seen this summer at some airports has occurred with a slot use threshold of 64%,” stated Walsh. We worry that by the end of October, airports won’t be prepared to handle an 80% threshold. It is critical that the Member States and the Parliament scale back the Commission’s proposal to a manageable level and give the slot use rules some leeway.
Airports are equal players in the slot process; let them show that they can correctly and professionally announce and manage their capacity before restoring slot use the following summer, Walsh added.