Use-it-or-lose-it airports slot rules threaten to break connection services and dampen the recovery of long-haul operators and airlines that rely heavily on connections.
That is the warning from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which is urging airports to extend the suspension of 80:20 slot rules into November when the winter schedule starts.
In response to the Covid-19 crisis airports around the world have suspended rules dictating that airlines must use at least 80% of their scheduled take-off and landing slots in order to keep them.
Airlines face a long recovery period and despite domestic flights beginning to resume, international services are still very limited, which threatens to cost long-haul operators their unused slots.
Operators will continue to face weak travel demand, low visibility on bookings and losses well into the winter season, said Mr Pearce. 41% of passengers are currently booking tickets an average of just three days before flights, compared to 18% in 2019, making it very difficult for airlines to plan schedules and sell connections.
Brian Pearce, IATA’s chief economist, told reporters on a media call on Tuesday that the loss of slots could break long-haul connections and poses a risk to the recovery of airlines which rely on connections.
"Long haul travel will be the last to recover," he said. "We need to see further progress on containing the coronavirus for countries far apart to have the confidence to have inbound travellers from distant countries with the confidence that they’re not importing Covid-19.”
IATA does not expect global long-haul travel to return to pre-crisis levels until 2023.