Transport and Covid-19: responses and resources

Airport Capacity and Competition Roundtable

An image of aircraft lining up for takeoff at an airport.
A combination of increasing demand for air travel and constraints on airport expansion, especially around populated urban areas, has meant many airports struggle with capacity issues. Slot allocation is a tool designed to manage this issue. This Roundtable examined the impacts on connectivity and competition of the current mechanisms for allocating slots at congested airports, focusing on the outcomes of different slot-allocation methods for aviation users and how pricing of airport capacity can improve environmental performance. Participants identified policy recommendations to help ensure airport slot allocation frameworks best meet aviation policy objectives.

Air travel is recovering from its collapse during the global Covid-19 outbreak. The corresponding increase in flights brings capacity constraints back into focus. There are over 200 slot-coordinated airports worldwide, most of which are in Europe. In the European system, independent slot co-ordinators are responsible for assigning airport slots to airlines.

Slot co-ordinators assign available slots twice a year. The most common method is administrative allocation coupled with grandfather rights, allowing airlines to keep slots in perpetuity. Although slots have economic value to airlines that use them, airlines do not pay for these time windows, and they confer no clear property rights.

Apart from administrative slot allocation, approaches to managing scarce capacity can include peak pricing, slot auctions, and computational allocation. A general challenge for comparing policy designs is that there is no universal agreement on prioritising between different slot allocation objectives.

This Roundtable was part of the ITF’s 2022-23 Programme of Work. A report summarising the issues discussed during the Roundtable will be published in 2024.


Chair's summary

Andrew Charlton, Chair of the ITF Airport Capacity and Competition Roundtable


Transport Analyst