In a letter to Airport Coordination Limited, the UK’s independent airport slot coordinator, Grant Shapps expressed concern that, in order to retain slots, “airlines may be forced to fly aircraft at very low load factors, or even empty”.
“Such a scenario is not acceptable,” Shapps wrote. “It is not in the industry’s, the passengers’, or the environment’s interest and must be avoided.”
Shapps urged the independent body to “explicitly take into account the implications of flying empty planes on the UK’s environmental commitments in reaching your decision on alleviation”.
The so-called 80/20 rule requires airlines to operate 80% of their allocated airport slots under normal circumstances or risk losing them to a competitor.
The Times reported yesterday that one UK airline feared that, without a relaxation of the rules, it would be forced to operate 32 flights over the next three weeks with an average of only 40% of seats filled.