Sydney Airport committee to prevent slot hoarding hasn’t met in over eight years, Senate hears

An aerial view of Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney.
Edited by Travel Weekly

    It’s been revealed that a committee created to ensure airlines adhere to the slot system at Sydney Airport has not met since 2015 in a Senate Inquiry.

    Yesterday, the first hearing of the Senate which is examining bilateral air rights extensively discussed the issue of ‘slot hoarding’, which both Qantas and Virgin Australia are accused of.

    Slot hoarding is the practice of holding more slots (allotments of time to fly into or out of an airport) than an airline actually requires to hold competition off the route.

    At Sydney Airport, airlines are only needed to fly 80 per cent of their slots, meaning they can cancel up to 20 per cent of routes, preventing airlines – often budget – from flying them.

    During the hearing, Petra Popovac, the chief of Airport Coordination Australia revealed the committee set up to monitor compliance hadn’t met in more than eight years.

    “Jetstar was constantly slot abusing at the time, and that was made known to the committee,” Popovac, said.

    “I put a proposal up to the department (of Infrastructure and Transport) and their legal team looked at it at found they could not actually fine Jetstar.

    “The department then indicated it would take a break to try to better organise the committee.”

    Popovac said she was frustrated by the current criticism of airlines and slot holding today and inaction by the committee.

    Geoff Culbert, the former CEO of Sydney Airport, said there would be as many as 7,000 slots not being used each season, or 40 flights each day.

    Culbert commented that these slots could be used to welcome international airlines.

    “We assess that a new A380 service from China would generate around $500m of economic value for the country, and smaller aircraft, like A350’s $250m of value,” he said.

    “We’ve always maintained this is a productivity drain on the country.”

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