Simple Flying - Justin Hayward and Tatenda Karuwa

Taking a look at how airport slots are allocated.

Airport slots regularly appear in aviation news, especially regarding busy airports, but what are they, how do they work, and why are they often expensive?

Airport slots are a solution to a lack of airport capacity and are essential for preventing chaos at hubs where demand outweighs available infrastructure. Additionally, airport slot coordination ensures that airline schedules can be planned in line with an airport's capacity, preventing delays and ensuring smooth traffic flow.

However, the current system is not without its faults and criticisms. It can create situations where airlines are forced to operate 'empty flights' and can severely restrict flexibility and schedule changes by airlines. Many also feel the system is highly biased toward existing and legacy carriers, as it is difficult for new entrants to obtain slots via primary allocation.

One proposed solution is to use an auction-based system, in which airlines could bid for slots every few years rather than continue to hold the rights to them. Another option is congestion-based pricing, where airlines would pay more to operate flights at peak hours. These options have their problems too, so for the near future, the current system seems set to stay.

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