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Airport Slots – Going, Going, GONE!

In the latest twist of bureaucratic stupidity, we may soon find ourselves having to - get ready for it - make bids for slots at some US airports!


March 19, 2008
By Rob Seaman

Here is one that nearly slipped by without notice. The media release from IATA was issued on December 20th – just about the time all our attention was shifted to family time and not work. And this is by no means IATA's fault. They were simply reporting what was in the news at the time.

So here it is folks  – and ya ain't gonna believe this one!

In the latest twist of bureaucratic stupidity, we may soon find ourselves having to – get ready for it – make bids for slots at some US airports – at least if the Bush Administration has it their way. You read it right. Highest bid gets the slot. Those great folks working with George W. have announced plans to lease or auction airport take-off and landing slots at New York City airports. They see this as a way to alleviate the unacceptable congestion in that region.

IATA is clearly and thankfully not amused. They have openly condemned the whole thing. To quote from their media release, "The White House and the Department of Transportation are out of step with the global aviation community. A take-off slot at JFK requires terminal space, a parking stand and a landing slot somewhere else. This is a complex situation and an eBay approach – slot auctioning – will not solve the problem," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.

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According to IATA, auctioning of landing slots could result in fewer flight choices, inefficient connections and higher prices – penalizing airlines and passengers alike. "Experience tells us that auctioning will not achieve the desired result. And it potentially breaches international obligations and agreements. But there is no need to reinvent the wheel. International coordination is needed. The IATA Worldwide Scheduling Guidelines are a ready-made solution to bring order to the chaos at New York‚s airports. They are already used in over 140 of the world's busiest airports, including Chicago O'Hare," said Bisignani. "Let's also remember that this is a capacity problem that we believe can be fully remedied with better operations and improved infrastructure. The Department of Transportation needs to focus its resources on quickly implementing industry recommendations on short and long-term solutions. We need action not auctions," Bisignani said.

The bigger problem is that if this moronic idea takes hold in New York, it is only be a matter of time before other regions decide it is an idea worth trying. If the politicians start playing for votes using the anti-aviation card to the fullest (easy target as always when you want to duck the real issues of the day), then this could become the new fanatical way of trying impose yet more community minded limits on an already stressed and trying to please all industry. We have made great strides towards being good neighbours to the communities that have grown around our once remote airfields (yes, by and large we were there first). Early turn procedures, operations restrictions, limited hours of doing business, noise abatement policies – all good things that aviation and the airports have developed and put into practice to make us good friends to all. This has come at the cost in some cases of landing and take-off slots. But we have made it work. To meddle with this formula further will only result in further stress and changes – and not for the good. Any time we loose a single slot at the airport, we affect the whole industry at all levels. And that includes passengers too regardless if their flight is on a commercial or private operator.

So to the folks in Washington – please leave it alone. And with all respect to our US friends – think about who you vote for this time please. It really does affect more than just you guys alone.