Hong Kong’s civil aviation authority has extended a waiver for a “use it or lose it” rule relating to slot utilisation, giving carriers more flexibility to adjust their schedules amid the challenging Covid-19 environment.

The Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines (WASG) rule stipulates that airlines need to operate from their slots for 80% of the time during the period allocated in order to be allowed to retain them.

The Hong Kong Schedule Coordination Office (HKSCO) has been “closely monitoring” the impact of Covid-19 on airline operators’ slot usage at the Hong Kong International Airport, the city’s Civil Aviation Department, which oversees the HKSCO, says.

“In consideration of the situation and to facilitate planning by airline operators, the HKSCO has on 31 July 2020, informed airline operators at HKIA that the ‘use-it-or-lose-it rule’ will continue to be suspended for operations at the HKIA for the Winter 2020 IATA season (i.e. from 25 October 2020 to 27 March 2021),” the Civil Aviation Department says in a statement sent to Cirium.

In June, IATA said that a continued relaxation of the “use it or lose it” regulations is essential to aid airlines’ restart of operations and ensure connectivity in the longer term. Earlier in the year, several bodies, including the US Department of Transportation and the European Council, announced that they would temporarily waive the rule in their respective jurisdictions.

Last month, airports body ACI World said it does not completely oppose a waiver of the 80:20 slot rule in the Northern Hemisphere winter season, but argued it should only be applied with strict conditions attached.

Both of Hong Kong’s major airlines, Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines, welcomed the move in statements sent to Cirium.

The waiver “affords our airlines greater flexibility to plan our network and flight schedules over the coming months in accordance with market demand and the easing or tightening of travel restrictions around the world”, Cathay Pacific says.

For Hong Kong Airlines, it gives it “the flexibility to adjust our operation based on market demand for the Winter 2020-21 season and also preserve our respective slots for future service recovery”.