Prime-time flying slots, allotted to airlines to operate their flights to or from an airport, would soon be auctioned on an experimental basis to begin with, official sources said today.
The peak-hour vacant slots, which have been allotted but are not being used by airlines, would be auctioned "on an experimental basis", according to a proposal of the Civil Aviation Ministry.
The airlines wanting prime-time departure and arrival slots would have to bid for their preferred choices if the experimentation was successful, the sources said.
As per the current practice, an airline has to file its flight schedule with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation which allocates them in consultation with airport operators in line with the World Slot Guidelines of the global airlines' body International Air Travel Association (IATA).
An airport slot is defined by IATA as a permission given by a coordinator for a planned flight operation to use the full range of airport infrastructure necessary to arrive or depart at an airport on a specific date and time.
The auction move has been adopted following complaints of partiality by some airlines, especially at busy airports like the ones in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, with all carriers clamouring for prime-time slots at these airports.
A new computerised system of slot allotment would be introduced at airports to take over the job that is currently handled by DGCA and airport operators, the sources said.
To begin with, prime time slots, which have been allocated to an airline but are not being used by it due to capacity constraint or other reasons, would be the first to be auctioned, the sources said.
These slots would be identified at those airports where the capacity is constrained due to lack of sufficient infrastructure, they said, adding that some airlines might lose their unused prime slots if auction is implemented.
Recently, DGCA had found that certain airlines were neither utilising their alloted slots, nor were they ready to surrender them, prompting the regulator to take steps to re- allocate unused slots.
The official sources, however, clarified that the auction route was not aimed at generating additional income for the government or airport operators but to ensure efficient use of airport infrastructure in a transparent and equitable manner.
Industry sources said that the auction system was introduced in the United States but later rescinded after the courts ruled against the move following complaints by airlines. Since then, the US and the European Union have