Level 3 Slot Coordination FAQs
Background on Bristol Airport's application for full slot coordination.
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.
The management of airport slots is required at airports where the available airport infrastructure is insufficient to meet the demand of airlines and other aircraft operators. It also gives airports greater control of when flights arrive and depart.
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.
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.
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 continues to grow with increased demand from airlines and tour operators resulting in further use of the runway and terminal facilities. As a result of the increase in demand, Bristol Airport appointed Mott MacDonald to conduct a detailed capacity assessment to determine the need to become a fully coordinated Level 3 airport on a permanent basis. The report concluded that there is a clear need for the airport to become a fully coordinated airport.
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, with a closing date of 3rd April 2020* for any responses. At the end of the consultation, the Secretary of State for Transport will then decide whether to approve the application.
* In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Transport has extended the consultation period for a further 12 weeks. The previous deadline of Friday 3rd April 2020 has now been extended to Friday 26th June 2020.
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 appointed Mott MacDonald to conduct a comprehensive capacity analysis of Bristol Airport’s facilities and operations.
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).
The Department for Transport commenced the consultation for the full Level 3 application on 24th February 2020 with a closing date of 3rd April 2020*.
Details of the consultation can be found here.
The Secretary of State for Transport will consider Bristol Airport’s capacity analysis and the views of consultees before making any decision to amend Bristol Airport's current slot designation to a fully coordinated airport from the start of the IATA Winter season 2020/2021.