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Category: Operation
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New Delhi July 23, 2013: Recently the issue of slot trading at Heathrow Airport by Jet Airways to Etihad Airways is being raised by various fora including Members of Parliament, Media and Parliament Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture during the Demand for Grants 2013-14 of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The main allegation is that the slots at Heathrow Airport are owned by the Government of India and not Jet Airways and that they have  been sold by Jet Airways for consideration to foreign carrier (Etihad) without permission of the Government of India and without reimbursement of this consideration to Government of India, which amounts to cheating.  It is also alleged that Air India has been consistently trying to operate more flights to London’s Heathrow Airport but is unable to do so due to unavailability of the slots.  Therefore, these slots should have been transferred to the national carrier. There is a confusion that trading of slots at  Heathrow and allotment of international traffic rights to the Indian carriers by the Ministry of Civil Aviation are the same thing.

 These allegations are absolutely baseless and false. The entitlements/allotments of traffic rights to Indian carriers and availability of slots at foreign airports (Heathrow) are two different matters.  The rights to fly on international routes under Bilateral Air Service Agreement are given by the Government of India to the designated Indian carriers as per their demand and availability of traffic rights for which detailed guidelines have been issued by the Government of India.

The slots are permissions to use a runway or airport infrastructure that means a right of the airline to land and depart from a particular airport which is given by the airport to the airlines as per the procedure. After slot allocation, the system of slot trading is not available at various airports in India. However, in case of Heathrow Airport, once the slot has been allocated to the airline, the airline after 2 years gets the grandfather rights and the airline is entitled to trade the slot to another airline by way of sale/lease/baby sitting etc.

In case of London’s Heathrow Airport, when an airline (Indian carriers) for the first time applies for a slot, the Airport Coordination Limited of Heathrow allocates the slot (called Pair or Slot i.e. Departure and Arrival) as per the availability of the time gap.

The slot time may or may not be suitable to an airline which, in turn, is free to swap/trade the slot with any other airline through lease or buy it from other airline.  This operates on the principle of willing buyers and willing sellers.  The trade of slot must be confirmed by the Airport Coordination Limited, Heathrow.  As demand exceeds supply at Heathrow, slot trading is now the principal means of entry.  In the case of slot allocation at Heathrow Airport, Government of India or any other Civil Aviation Institution in India has no role to play. This is purely a function of Airport Coordination Limited of Heathrow Airport and the concerned airlines.

The data regarding slot trading, during the last 12 years, received from Heathrow Airport (enclosed) clearly shows that during 12 years, slot trading has increased from 42 slots in 2000 to 526 slots during 2012. It also shows that while the pool available of slots in 2012 was only 22 against which pool allocation of 20 slots was done by the Airport Coordination Limited whereas  526 slots were traded through transfers which clearly shows that slot trading is a very common practice at Heathrow Airport. Most of the airlines including SWISS, British Airways, Virgin, Qantas, Delta, Continental, Flybe, Air Jamaica, Air France, Air India and Jet are involved in slot trading/transfer for the last 15 years.

As per available information, Jet Airways has transferred to Etihad 3 pairs of slots at Heathrow Airport, London which has been confirmed by the Airport Coordination Limited, the slot coordinator for Heathrow Airport. No permission from Government of India/Ministry of Civil Aviation was required.  However, Jet Airways has obtained permission from Reserve Bank of India under FEMA because foreign exchange was involved in the said trading.

At present, Air India has 4 pairs of slots at Heathrow Airport.  Till winter 2012, Air India was utilising only 2 pairs of slots and remaining 2 pairs were leased to Delta Airways for consideration.  The lease of one pair of slot got expired in winter 2012 and since then Air India has started utilising this pair of slots also.  Presently, Air India is utilising only 3 pairs of slots at London’s Heathrow Airport as against 4 pairs of slots allocated to it. One pair still remains leased out to Delta Airways. - CCI News Service

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