Truant airlines risk losing peak slots

Domestic and foreign airlines may lose their right to retain peak slots allotted to them

Written by Smita Aggarwal | New Delhi | Published: April 10, 2012 1:41 am

Domestic and foreign airlines may lose their right to retain peak slots allotted to them at the country’s busiest airports — Delhi and Mumbai — if they fail to utilise them for a month. Slots refer to arrival and departure time periods allotted to them at a given airport. Mumbai airport has nearly 700 slots per day,of which 500 are for domestic flights. Delhi airport has over 850 slots,of which 600 are for domestic operations.

For the domestic sector,the peak slots span from 4 am to 8 am and 4 pm to 8 pm. And for international,it is 8 pm to 2 am and 5 am to 1.30 pm. Peak slots come at a premium as they help airlines to attract more passengers.

“The existing system was found to be discretionary and non-transparent,” civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told The Indian Express. “There have to be some rules,some policy to decide the slots which are allotted to an airline,especially at the busiest airports,” he said.

As a first step,the civil aviation ministry is likely to ask all airport operators to provide online information on all available slots to ensure transparency in their allocation. Singh said the new allotment policy would ensure higher air connectivity,equitable distribution of slots among airlines and curb hoarding by them.

Under the proposed policy,each of the busiest airports — classified as level 3 — will have a co-ordinator to manage,allocate and monitor slots and other constrained airport infrastructure such as terminals,parking bays,runways and taxiways. Besides,every level 3 airport would have three committees for co-ordination,capacity management and dispute resolution with representatives from the airport operators,airlines,Directorate General of Civil Aviation,Bureau of Civil Aviation Security,Immigration Bureau,Airports Authority of India and civil aviation ministry. The airlines will be required to submit their schedule at least four months prior to the summer and winter schedule,when the slots are decided. The current rules neither penalise airlines for hoarding slots nor have a deadline for submission of slot requests.

According to the new policy,airlines providing connectivity between non-metro and metro city or within two non-metros will be given preference. If an airline goes bankrupt,or its operating license is cancelled,its slots will revert to a pool after one month. This can be allotted to any other airline.

Similarly,if an airline ceases to operate from any airport,it will have to surrender its slots,which again can be allocated to another airline. Preference,however,will be given to an airline which explores a new route from that airport. If a co-ordinator is unable to provide the slot requested by an airline,it will have to give an explanation and also try to assign a slot closest to the original request.

In case of a merger or acquisition,slots will get transferred to the new entity or acquiring company. Airlines will be free to change the route or service type in their slot after informing the co-ordinator. A series of historic slots held by an airline can be re-allotted to another in case the former is facing temporary problems. But,the draft policy said,historic precedence would remain with the original slot holder,provided the airline applies for them in the next equivalent season.

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