Airport slot allocation policy could clip Kingfishers wings

Written by parul | Parul Chhaparia | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 14 2012, 09:40am hrs
Vijay MallyaVijay Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines Chairman
There may be more bad news for the debt-ridden and grounded Kingfisher Airlines, which stands to lose its slot allocations at various airports if the changes proposed by the civil aviation ministry to slot allocation guidelines come into effect.

Sources said the civil aviation ministry has made up its mind to cancel the take-off slot allocation for any airline that does not utilse them for a period of one month. Also, under-utilisation of allotted slots will mean lower preference in slot allocation in the next season. These changes are part of the revised guidelines for slot allocation being proposed by the ministry, sources said. The proposed changes in the slot allocation guidelines will also allow an airline facing financial difficulties to enter into a dialogue with the coordinator to discuss their future intentions for the slots.

Current guidelines do not have provision for slot cancellation of any airline. According to experts, guidelines are opaque as there is no system to assess the availability of slots, especially at Level 3 airports. Also, there is no mechanism to cancel allocated slots if the airlines fail to utilise them for a specified period. Because of this, there have also been many complaints about airlines blocking the slots without utilising it.

Speaking to FE, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh said his ministry was working on a revised slot-allocation policy which will be transparent and better co-ordinated. We want to make the entire slot allocation policy transparent. As of now, it is arbitrary. The new changes would ensure that the slots are allocated in a transparent manner and better co-ordinated, he said.

The airports at present are categorised into three levels one, where the airport capacity is adequate to meet the demands, second, where there could be congestion but can be resolved by better cooperation between the airlines and third, where there are a capacity constraints.

If the proposed changes in the slot allocation policy comes into effect soon, it may adversely impact Kingfisher which has been grounded since October 1, sources said.

However, officials in the aviation ministry said even if the proposed changes come into effect, they may not adversely impact the Kingfisher airlines as most other domestic carriers are trying to reduce their capacity.

There may not be many takers for Kingfishers slots in that case. Kingfisher has also asked the DGCA (directorate general of civil aviation) to wait before it sends the flight resumption plans. There is no clarity on when these new norms will be implemented. A call on cancelling its slots can be taken only once there is more clarity, the official said.

The civil aviation ministry may also set up an airport-level coordination committee to regularly analyse demand and capacity at the airports. It will also be involved with the slots allocation to the airlines and other aircraft operators. The proposed committee will have representatives from the concerned airport operator, Airports Authority of India and DGCA officials, sources said.