australian aviation logo

Sydney slot system could see overhaul before Aviation White Paper

written by Jake Nelson | September 7, 2023

A Malaysia Airlines A350-900 lands at Sydney Airport. (Image: Troy Mortier/Unsplash)

Transport Minister Catherine King could move to address the issue of Sydney Airport’s controversial take-off slot system before next year’s Aviation White Paper.

In its Green Paper released on Thursday, the government said it is considering the recommendations from 2021’s independent review of the Sydney Airport Demand Management Scheme, which was compiled by former Productivity Commission chief Peter Harris.

“We have recently concluded targeted consultation regarding potential changes to the Scheme, with a particular eye to modernising the slot allocation framework and strengthening compliance measures to ensure that slots are not being misused by airlines,” said Minister King in a press release.

At a press conference announcing the Green Paper, the minister went further, blaming the lack of action around Sydney slots on the previous Coalition government and confirming more news will come before the release of the White Paper.

“We’ve had a decade where aviation policy has just lurched all over the place. We have not had a plan … this is one of the things that is a legacy from the previous government. They received the Harris review, basically sat on it for two years … and we are now left to deal with that,” she said.


“I have undertaken targeted consultations on some slots reform at Sydney Airport, and we will have more to say about that shortly.”

Under the current 80-20 rule, an airline is able to keep a take-off slot at Sydney Airport indefinitely as long as it uses it at least 80 per cent of the time.

The slot rules are necessary because two aircraft cannot simultaneously take off on the same runway, but have led to accusations that major carriers are effectively gaming the system to take advantage, though both Qantas and Virgin have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

The news was welcomed by Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert, who has long criticised the 80-20 rule and recently called for it to be tightened to 95-5.

“We were really pleased to hear the comments from Minister King today that the response to the Harris Review will be released shortly. The issues with respect to slots at Sydney Airport need to be addressed urgently to ensure fewer cancellations and delays for passengers, and to drive more competition,” he said in a statement.

“We also welcome the Government’s release of the aviation green paper which will set the agenda for the aviation industry in the longer term.”

Rex and Bonza, which have also criticised the slot system, have been contacted for comment.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.