Airport Slots 101 for Business Aviation: Understanding Airport Slot Types and Processes
Airport slots are required at many busy locations worldwide, and request formats differ depending on the destination. While the airport slot request process usually goes very smoothly, it’s important to be aware of procedural requirements and assorted airport slot nuances. Best practice is to operate within the approved slot times and deviations and avoid multiple airport slot changes, particularly during high seasons and special event periods. Be aware of penalties and consequences that may occur from missing an airport slot or operating without one. And, always have a "Plan B" in mind if you’re unable to obtain the airport slot you prefer.
Here are nine tips to help you navigate the world of airport slots:
1. Different airport slot formats exist
There are three special format airport slot request types – General Aviation Clearance Request (GCR), Slot Clearance Request (SCR) and Standard Schedules Information Manual (SSIM). GCR is the most common format, followed by SCR and then SSIM. For example, many airports in Germany use the GCR format, SCR is used in Poland, and the SSIM request format is common in Israel and Portugal. Some airports also have generic airport slot requests. A generic slot request can be an online request, without special formatting, made to an airport slot coordinator. In some cases, these generic requests are just messages with information such as the tail number and schedule which are forwarded to the ground handler who, in turn, contacts the airport slot coordinator.
2. Each airport slot format is unique
Generic online requests usually include a basic schedule for arrival and departure, along with type of aircraft and tail number. GCR is a coded request containing aircraft type, tail number, schedule and number of seats on the aircraft – using four-letter International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) airport codes. SCR differs from a GCR request only in that three-letter International Air Transport Association (IATA) airport codes are used. SSIM also uses IATA codes but differs from GCR and SCR requests in that the day of the week and season of the year (summer or winter) must be provided.
3. Where airport slot requests are sent
An operator or 3rd-party provider may send a request either to the airport slot coordinator or local ground handler. Some airport slot coordinators prefer to receive slot requests from the ground handlers rather than end users. Certain airports have websites – with restricted logins and passwords – that only local ground handlers may have access to. Switzerland, for example, uses a restricted website for airport slot requests, and it’s preferred that all slot requests be submitted by a ground handler.
4. Airport slot requests are normally submitted manually or online
Some airports still use SITA and AFTN to receive and confirm airport slot requests, while others prefer slot requests be submitted by fax or phone. The trend, however, is toward airport slot requests and confirmations to be sent via e-mail – using either online forms or generic request information. At some airports, there may be an after-hours department to process requests that are submitted after their office is closed. An example of this would be the local Air Information Service that can be reached via phone. For short-notice airport slot requests, if there is no after-hours department, you may be able to obtain assistance from the ground handler or the air traffic control tower.
5. Airport slot requests require confirmations
Confirmations of airport slot requests are provided and are usually done so via the same method of communication used to request the slot. In some cases, you will not obtain confirmation for the time requested but you’ll receive the next closest available slot. Also, note that airport slot deviation time varies by airport. New York’s John F. Kennedy (KJFK), for example, allows a one-hour slot block time. If you request a 1005 departure, you may receive an airport slot period covering the whole hour: 1000-1100. Most locations provide specific deviations on either side of the confirmed airport slot time – such as -15/+30 minutes or -/+15 minutes. For very busy airfields, or when large events are in progress, you may receive a very tight slot – perhaps -/+10 minutes or less.
6. Airport slots should be requested early
For locations that experience higher traffic during certain seasons or special event periods, it may be best to request airport slots months in advance. This is the case with Mediterranean destinations during peak summer months and in the case of Zurich (LSZH) during the Davos World Economic Forum in January. For the highest success rate in obtaining specific airport slots in Japan, slot requests should be submitted by the 15th of the previous month. For this reason, we always recommend that airport slots are requested in advance, once a firm schedule is known.
7. Airport slot approvals don’t always include a confirmation number
Not all airport slot confirmations provide a confirmation number. In many cases, you’ll simply receive a message stating that the airport slot is approved. This confirmation should always be carried with you onboard the flight. At some locations, including Germany and Dubai (OMDB), you’ll be given an airport slot confirmation code and this should be placed in the Remarks 18 section of the flight plan.
8. Things to be aware of regarding airport slots
If you miss your assigned airport slot and deviation time, you may not be able to receive permission for a delayed arrival/departure, particularly if you’re operating close to airport curfew time or during peak periods of airline activity. Some locations, such as Hong Kong (VHHH), are somewhat lenient in terms of delays affecting airport slots, while other locations like Turkey may fine you if you miss an assigned slot. Many airports in Europe will not allow you to operate if you do not have a confirmed airport slot for your estimated time of arrival or departure.
9. Additional information on airport slots
In the European Union (EU), an airway slot will override an airport slot, which is due to management of congested airspace. At some locations, such as Ciampino Rome (LIRA), airport slots are only required for charter (non-scheduled commercial) and commercial (scheduled) flights. If you do not receive your requested airport slot time, typically you will have the opportunity to accept an alternative airport slot and negotiate something better at a later time.
Airport slots allow airports to better plan for traffic anticipated on a particular day. As global air traffic continues to grow, more and more locations will require airport slots for arrivals and departures. Best practice is to know before you go. Be aware of airport slot restrictions, deviations and request formats. Work with your 3rd-party provider, and local ground handler, to achieve best results in the airport slot request and management arena.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Israel, contact Christine Vamvakas at firstname.lastname@example.org.