The growth of air transport has led to increased congestion both at airports and in the airspace. Worldwide, some 300 airports are directly affected by airport coordination, meaning that a slot allocation process needs to be imposed or voluntarily applied. Of these, over 180 are fully coordinated airports, an increase from 142 in 2012.
With the constraints on increasing capacity in the short- and medium-term, it is likely that many airports will continue to be slot constrained. Traffic congestion at airports obviously causes delays for airlines and passengers, with the associated costs for both. But traffic congestion can lead to lowered growth in air service which tends to flatten where slot constraint persists. This constraint on volume growth in turn can lower the social and economic benefits that airports generate, decrease network connectivity and increase ticket prices as incumbent airlines face decreased competition.
It is the best interest of airport operators and the communities they serve to promote efficiency in the allocation and use of the capacity that they build, maintain and operate. Airport infrastructure is an expensive and limited resource yet airport operators have historically had little or no influence on the decision-making with respect to slot allocations.
Airports Council International (ACI) through its Expert Group on Slots urges states to facilitate more effective engagement by all stakeholders, including airport operators, to improve industry guidance on slot allocation that takes national interests and drivers of economic benefit into account, such as accommodating new entrants to drive trade and tourism.
This approach was welcomed by states during the 39th Triennial International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly. Deficiencies in the slot allocation process were agreed to be addressed by the aviation industry through the Strategic Review of the World Slots Guidelines (WSG) to ensure that a globally compatible process is maintained.
The Strategic Review of the WSG is a collaborative initiative among ACI, the World Wide Airport Coordinators Group (WWACG) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), with the objective to improve and optimize the WSG so that all stakeholders contribute and benefit from a harmonized global process. Over the next three years, ACI, the WWACG and IATA will engage states and other stakeholders and report to the next ICAO Assembly, where conclusions of this important project will be drawn.