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Dr Adnan Branbo

International Trip Planning

Dr. Adnan Branbo, Chief Executive Officer of iJET.

The Essentials of Airports Slots

ecause demand exceeds supply in the main airports of the world - resulting in the limited capacity of their terminals, runways and airways - many impose measures to organize and plan the traffic to and from them.

These measures vary to include:

  • Restricting some airports to scheduled commercial airlines, whilst assigning others for charter and general aviation traffic.
  • Imposing higher fees on operation to busy airports while giving discounts on regional ones.
  • Imposing specific arrival and departure times. These timing restrictions are called Slots and the airports that impose them are Slot-Coordinated Airports.

In this brief we are going to highlight the main aspects of airport slots from the business aviation perspective, as slots for the commercial airline industry are subject to more detailed regulations and organization.

Who allocates slots?

Slots are required for both arrival to the airport and departure from it. Thus, two slot timings must be secured for each flight. While the civil aviation authority is the body responsible for issuing the landing permit, this authority has nothing to do with airport slots. Some airports control the slot allocation process and keep it under their control, while others outsource the process to certain local governmental or private specialized authorities called Slot Coordinators.

The Slot authority processes and approves the slot requests after analyzing the demand for traffic, besides getting the approvals for the aircraft parking and ground handling.

Will you get the time you want?

In some busy airports, getting the desired slot is not an easy task, especially in peak hours. If the desired slot is not available, the slot authority will reject it and advise the applicant about the nearest slot times available. Therefore, itís always desirable to apply some time in advance as slots are given on first-come first-served basis - taking into consideration the priority given to schedule flights, government flights and air-ambulance flights of course.

In other airports, slots for business aviation are only available outside of peak hours, which are mainly restricted for schedule commercial airlines operation.

How to apply

While aircraft operators can apply directly at many of the airports (MCT), prior registration is sometimes required for the slot application to be accepted (HKG). At some airports the FBO is the one who must apply for the slot (DXB and BRU).

Nowadays some airports have an online system allowing slot application via an online portal, although most still follow the SITA method of applying for the slot; or recently (and more increasingly) emails.

When sending the slot application request, there is a standard format to be followed, the most common formats are the Slot Clearance Request (SCR), which uses IATA airport codes and General Aviation Clearance Request (GCR), which uses ICAO airport codes. Few airports accept the application in any written form.

The requests must include general information about the flight, such as aircraft type, registration and callsign, besides time of arrival and departure, day of operation and origin and destination. Once the slot request is sent, a response will be sent to the applicant either approving the slot or rejecting it due to wrong format, or rejection with suggestion of alternate times.

Once issued, some airports give the number of the allocated slot and require that number to be inserted in field 18 of the flight plan (BRU).

When to apply

Securing the airport slot is a pre-condition in some airports to be able to secure a landing permit. The slot confirmation in these airports is a requirement for the landing permit to be granted.

Whilst itís preferable to apply for the slot well in advance to increase the chances of getting the one required, application is generally possible at any notice. However, be aware that in some airports, the slot coordination authority is not working 24/7, so you must apply during their duty hours in order to get approval.

How long are they valid?

While landing permits can be valid for 24, 48 or even 72 hours varying from country to another, slot validity and variance are much less than that.

Airport slots are less flexible than landing permits. Slot deviation is the duration of time an operator can deviate from the granted slot. Normally the deviation is given as plus-minus the specified time of the granted slot. In some airports this deviation is very strict, such as 10, 15 or 20 minutes only. In others it might be more flexible ranging from 1 hour to max 2 hours.

Results of non-compliance

If your flight doesnít have the required slot you will not be given permission to depart from the airport. Your flight plan may be rejected.

Operating in timings that differ from the assigned slots also results in various consequences; starting with a request for an explanation; imposition of fines; placing the operator on low priority list; freezing the applicant slot account, and possibly barring the operator from landing at the airport again. Some laws even include imprisonment penalties.

Authorities also impose fines on operators who decide not to use a slot, but fail to cancel it, as this prevents others from using it.

As the demand for air transport is continuously increasing with new aircraft and operators entering the market year after year, the demand on airport capacity will surely exceed supply - especially in airports that not only lack the ability to expand their infrastructure to meet that demand, but are also subject to strict regulations imposing curfew on certain times of operation and blocking the expansion of new runways and airport terminals.

All these factors are resulting in more airports imposing slots. Slot regulations and procedures differ from one airport to another. Being familiar and experienced with all these requirements is easier said than done. Working with an expert flight support and international trip planning partner who deals with these slots on daily basis is a requirement for being able to get the desired slot at the airports youíre planning your flights to.

Dr. Adnan Branbo is the Chief Executive Officer of iJET, a flight support service provider based in Malta and Dubai, with offices and representatives in Russia, India, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Madagascar. iJET services include over-flight and landing permits, credit ground handling arrangements, and aviation fuel at competitive prices. Adnan can be reached at:

BlueSky Business Aviation News | 7th December 2017 | Issue #442



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