Stepping into Summer: ACL’s Summer 23 Outlook

The sun is shining, leaves are on the trees and new life is sprouting everywhere. Spring is finally here and for Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) that means the Summer season is now in swing. So what does ACL’s data show us about how airlines are gearing up for their busiest time of year?

Recovery continues to be at the forefront of the industries minds and the Secretary of State for Transport appears to be in agreement. The government issued guidance on Summer 2023 acknowledges the pandemic continues to impact air traffic and that the road to recovery is ongoing.

ACL’s position as the UK’s designated slot coordinator provides unique insight into UK Level 3 airports, and the impact of the alleviation offered for the Summer 2023 season. Airlines had the opportunity to gain alleviation on up to 5% of their historic slots, which were cancelled between the hand-back deadline (HBD – 01 February 2023) and 14 February 2023 (HBD+14).


Across the UK Level 3 network, London Heathrow Airport saw the smallest reduction in slots between initial coordination (SAL – 03 November 2023) and the time of the HBD, with a slots hand-back rate of 0.71%. In contrast, Birmingham Airport saw the greatest rate of hand-backs, observed at 14.05%. This was also the case between SAL and HBD +14 (-4.73% & -16.73% respectively). Overall ACL observed a hand back rate of just under 5% at the time of the HBD, increasing to 7.5% at HBD +14.

During the 14 days period after hand backs, London Stanstead Airport surprisingly saw minor growth in the airport schedule with ITA Airways adding over 1,300 slots and Jet2 a further 250 more than offsetting any reduction. London Gatwick saw the greatest reduction in slots (3.96%) with easyJet making up more than half of this reduction. 

In general we didn’t see carriers taking up their full 5% allowance between HBD and HBD+14, only 2.86% was taken on average across Level 3 airports. Looking back at the similar process for Winter 22/23 season where carriers could hand back 10% of slots for 7 days after HBD they handed back around 8%. Read into this what you will, however this could be read as a sign that airlines are ready to operate more in S23 and start to get back to S19 levels.

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