Level 3 Slot Coordination FAQs | Controls on Night Flights | Bristol Airport
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Level 3 Slot Coordination FAQs

Background on Bristol Airport's application for full slot coordination.

What is an airport ‘slot’?

A ‘slot’ is the permission given by an airport ‘coordinator’ for an aircraft to arrive or depart at a specific airport at a specified time on a specified day. This permission allows an aircraft, along with its crew and any passengers, access to the airport infrastructure, including runway, terminal facilities, baggage handling and operational requirements such as aircraft refuelling.

Why have slots?

Slots are used by busier airports all over the world to make the most efficient use of their capacity, giving greater control of when flights arrive and depart, providing transparency to airlines and other aircraft operators, and minimising congestion and delays.

What is coordination?

Airport coordination is a means of managing airport capacity through the application of rules and regulations set out by the EU and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Coordination involves the allocation of constrained or limited airport capacity to airlines and other aircraft operators to ensure a viable airport and air transport operation.

The process of slot allocation is designed to achieve the maximum utilisation of scarce airport capacity within an acceptable level of delay.

If an airport is designated as Level 3 coordinated, it enables the control of slot allocation along with the monitoring of slot usage to ensure carriers adhere to the given slot.

What are ‘airport levels’?

For the purposes of airport coordination, airports are categorized by the responsible authorities (the Department for Transport in the UK) according to the following levels of congestion:

Level 1: airports where the capacity of the airport infrastructure is generally adequate to meet the demands of airport users at all times.

Level 2: airports where there is potential for congestion during some periods of the day, week, or season, which can be resolved by schedule adjustments mutually agreed between the airlines and facilitator. A facilitator is appointed to organise the planned operations of airlines using or planning to use the airport.

Level 3: airports where demand for airport infrastructure significantly exceeds the airport’s capacity during the relevant period, or where governments have imposed conditions that make it impossible to meet demand. A coordinator is appointed to allocate slots to airlines and other aircraft operators using or planning to use the airport as a means of managing the declared capacity.

What is Bristol Airport’s status?

Bristol Airport is currently designated as a partially coordinated Level 3 airport, covering night time operations between the hours 23:00 - 07:00 during each IATA summer season. For the remainder of the year, the airport is a Level 2 facilitated airport.

Bristol Airport currently uses Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) as its appointed facilitator (also known as a 'Coordinator').

Bristol Airport’s Level 3 application

In November 2019, Bristol Airport wrote to the Department of Transport (DfT) requesting approval by the Secretary of State for Transport to become a fully coordinated airport. The Department for Transport commenced a consultation regarding this application on 24th February 2020 for airlines and key stakeholders to respond to and this consultation closed on Friday 26th June 2020.

As a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bristol Airport advised the Department for Transport ( DfT) in early 2021 that it would withdraw its application and that it would reapply as soon as market conditions begin to return to normal.

What happens when an Airport applies for Level 3 coordinated status?

The responsible authority - the DfT - must ensure that an airport is only designated as Level 3 following a thorough demand and capacity analysis and full consultation with airline stakeholders and interested parties. The airport should be designated as Level 3 only if this analysis and consultation concludes that the demand for airport infrastructure significantly exceeds the declared capacity and there is no practical way to alleviate the problem in the short term.

Bristol Airport will, as required in the future, conduct a comprehensive review of its facilities and operations as part of any application to the DfT and will appoint an independent organisation to conduct this review on Bristol Airport’s behalf.

Who are the stakeholders in relation to a Level 3 status?

When an application is received for a change in airport level, the DfT holds a consultation with all relevant stakeholders. These are: airlines and aircraft operators; the airport; air traffic control authorities; the coordinator of the airport; the government authority (in the UK this is the Civil Aviation Authority), and the local authority. Bristol Airport will ensure local stakeholders are informed of any consultation.

What happens next?

As market conditions improve, Bristol Airport will carefully assess at what point it will submit a new application to the DfT to become a fully coordinated airport. Any such application will require a consultation process by the DfT and Bristol Airport will update key stakeholders on any such application .