Charter flights facing summer slot lottery
Competition for slots is pushing European charter brokers to rethink how they offer the service to clients.
Short staffing, refuelling and competition with commercial aviation means that some charter bookings are significantly delayed or, in some cases, are not possible. The issue is regional, delays are more likely in busier destinations. Islands like Mykonos, which is only served by Mykonos-Manto Mavrogenous Airport, can see a wait time for slots up to three days.
Ilia Pevtulidi, charter sales executive, at Swiss charter broker, Simply Jet said this summer was particularly busy, especially compared to 2021.
“With everybody coming back to travel competition with commercial aviation and staff shortages came into play. And this all created traffic jams — it was one of the biggest challenges for this summer,” Pevtulidi told Corporate Jet Investor.
Competition for slots is not a new problem, it moves with the seasons. “Across the south of Europe, including the Greek islands — the best example would be Mykonos. Then we have Ibiza Palma, Nice, Cannes etc. Then the same issue comes up again if we speak about slots in the winter time and Christmas period in places like the Alps,” said Pevtulidi.
In the US slots are not so hard fought for. Often US airports have larger airspaces and bigger airport facilities, because they can afford to. However, this means brokers have to make clients aware of the realities when flying to popular European destinations. “It is about managing their expectations to really educate them on how it works out in Europe. And because of this heavy traffic sometimes there can be this competition for slots.”
In spatially dense locations like Mykonos where there is slim possibility of expanding infrastructure, this problem is likely to worsen with each summer season.
“Year-by-year, as the demand for private and commercial aviation increases, there are more planes, flying more often but the capacity of most airports remains limited. There are some expansions, but they do not match the demand increase.”
Pevtulidi has some advice for customers booking charter to minimise the risk of competing for a slot. “Book the flight as soon as possible. Most of the destinations you can apply for slots 14 days before departure. If the flight is already in your schedule, then our advice is to book as soon as you can. Two to three weeks in summer is definitely time enough,” he said.
Another solution can also be to arrive or depart in the later slots. There are many more flight movements in the day compared to the evening or night making it easier to get a slot if flights are later in the day.