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Airlines back government’s Sydney slot reforms

written by Jake Nelson | February 22, 2024

A Jetstar A320-200, Virgin 737-800, and Rex Saab 340B at Sydney Airport. (Image: Seth Jaworski)

Airlines have welcomed the government’s changes to Sydney Airport’s demand management system, saying they will increase transparency and efficiency.

The reforms, announced on Wednesday, will include independent audits of take-off slot usage with published findings, as well as an updated compliance regime that will give the government more power to punish carriers who “misuse” their slots.

In a statement, Qantas said the added transparency would vindicate its consistent denial of “slot hoarding” accusations.

“More transparency in the slots system is a positive step that will help clarify recent public debates on how the system works and demonstrate that claims Qantas has been hoarding slots are wrong. Qantas is operating well over 90 per cent of its allocated slots — above the 80 per cent threshold level that is the global standard for key airports around the world,” the Flying Kangaroo said.

“Any improvements to the efficiency of the slots system in Sydney will benefit travellers and have a positive flow on impact to airports around the country, which have been impacted by inefficiencies in Sydney. It will also improve transport links with regional New South Wales and help customers to get to their destinations quicker on days of severe weather.”


Qantas’ main rival Virgin Australia called the changes “a step in the right direction to improving efficiency and competition at Sydney Airport”.

“Virgin Australia has always been committed to fair slot allocation and compliance,” a spokesperson for the airline said.

“We supported a number of these changes, including the introduction of a recovery period following severe weather events, in our submission to the Harris Review.

“We look forward to receiving more detail and consulting with the Federal Government about the implementation of these reforms.”

Smaller airlines are also in favour, with Tim Jordan, CEO of Bonza, saying moves to improve slot access for new entrants and crack down on “anti-competitive behaviour” are “positive steps in the right direction”.

“The current slot system at Sydney Airport is a barrier to entry for new airlines such as Bonza – a fact echoed in the recent ACCC domestic competition report,” he said.

“As an airline, we’re keen to gain access to Sydney Airport as we believe we’d be able to serve about 20 destinations from Sydney Airport and around 80 per cent of those routes currently have no low-cost option for Australian travellers.

“Those 20 destinations would allow low-cost fares for more than two million Aussies living in regional Australia and more than six million locals residing in Sydney, so that’s eight million Australians – nearly a third of the country’s population – benefiting from slots that today produce no economic benefit for anyone other than the effective aviation duopoly.”

Rex has been contacted for comment.

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