Airlines will not lose vital take-off and landing slots at UK airports even if they continue to operate fewer flights than normal over the summer, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.
The Government has introduced legislation to extend the waiver of slot allocation rules to support struggling carriers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Airlines are usually required to use 80% of slots at oversubscribed airports or risk them being taken away in the following year.
In the past this has led to airlines operating so-called ghost flights with barely any passengers on board in order to maintain slots, which can be worth several millions of pounds at Heathrow.
But the “use it or lose it” rule in relation to slots has been suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, as flight schedules have been slashed to reduce losses caused by the collapse in demand for air travel.
Mr Shapps said extending the policy is “critical” to the resumption of international travel.
He went on: “With airlines flying a smaller proportion of their usual schedules, the waiver means carriers can reserve their finances, reduce the need for environmentally damaging ghost flights and allow normal services to immediately restart when the pandemic allows.”
Boris Johnson announced on Monday that a Government taskforce will produce a report by April 12 recommending how international trips can resume.
People in England could be permitted to take foreign holidays from May 17.