Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 402 - 419)




  402.  Mr Morrisroe, good morning. We do thank you very much for coming at really very short notice, but the more we looked into the proposed Airline Regulations the more we realised the importance of slots and slot allocations, and we are still somewhat mystified as to the system, despite your two very excellent February 1998 papers which we have read. Before asking you to give us a short explanation as to how the system works, could I ask you whom you are owned by and what sort of staff you have?
  (Mr Morrisroe)  Thank you, my Lord Chairman. Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) as a company is an independent company owned by 11 United Kingdom airlines. Their role is strictly in the management of the company. They do not have any role to play in the allocation of slots, which is undertaken by coordinators who are appointed by the company. So the slot allocation decisions are made by individuals called coordinators, and the 11 airlines which own the company do not have a role in that.

  403.  Could you tell us who the 11 are and whether any has a predominant shareholding?

  A.  They have an equal shareholding. The companies which own ACL are British Airways, British Midland, Virgin Atlantic, Airtours International, Britannia, Monarch, Air 2000, City Flyer, GB Airways, Air UK, and the most recent member is Flying Colours Airline.

  404.  Who?

  A.  Flying Colours Airline. They are based out of Manchester.

  405.  What about staff?

  A.  The company has 21 of its own staff and we have on secondment to us six computer staff from a company called Logica, the company is quite IT/computer intensive, so we have a big computer support.

  406.  You mentioned that you as a company appoint coordinators, is that right?

  A.  That is correct.

  407.  It is the coordinators who actually allocate the slots, is it?

  A.  That is correct.

  408.  How many coordinators are there?

  A.  There are six.

  409.  That is a permanent number, though they themselves may change?

  A.  No, it is a growing number, in the sense that our team is changed as the demands on us change, so as more airports become more congested and require greater management, so we have increased the size of our team. At one point one coordinator could manage two or three airports, but now one coordinator may manage just one airport. I should add that my role in the company is that as well as being the Managing Director of ACL with business responsibility, I am actually coordinator at Heathrow Airport.

  410.  So you have two hats on?

  A.  Yes, I have two hats.

  411.  You started to answer my next question. You presently have six coordinators. How are they distributed—that is rather a blunt word—geographically? Or is it geographical?

  A.  It is. As a business we actually have four office sites—one at Heathrow, one at Gatwick, one at Manchester and one at Birmingham—from which we run a number of airports. We have one coordinator at Manchester, one coordinator at Gatwick, and the remaining four coordinators are based at Heathrow, but the airports are juggled around our company as the resources and the workload dictates.

  412.  So if we understand your paper correctly, you say in your second paper, page 2 of 6, that you now serve 12 airports, and you list them?

  A.  That is correct.

  413.  Who serves and who is responsible for slot allocation at any other airports? Or is it not a problem?

  A.  The short answer is that it is not a problem. If you imagine airports in the United Kingdom on a spectrum, with Heathrow at one end, the most saturated airport in the United Kingdom, possibly one of the most saturated airports in the world, and at the other end of the spectrum———

Lord Skelmersdale

  414.  —— Leeds Bradford.

  A.  Your choice not mine, my Lord. It is when an imbalance arises between supply and demand that ACL as a company is called in to manage that supply and demand relationship. At the moment in the United Kingdom we only have 12 airports where there is an imbalance between supply and demand.


  415.  Just so that we can be quite clear, the slots which you administer are air slots and not gate slots, is that correct?

  A.  No, if I may correct you, my Lord Chairman, the slots which we are responsible for managing are ground slots not air slots. On the day, air traffic control in the United Kingdom—National Air Traffic Services (NATS—has the responsibility for allocating and agreeing the air movements, the air slots, for each aircraft movement. That is negotiated, flight by flight, between the aircraft captain effectively and air traffic control on the day. There is a process which lies behind that, but those are air slots. The responsibility of ACL is for ground slots, for airport slots. The best way I can describe it is if you imagine an airport as a cake, it is divided into slices, the slices are the capacity of the airport, the maximum number of flights which can be accommodated in a given period. As a very simple example, at Gatwick we can accommodate 48 flights in an hour. That is a mixture of arrivals and departures so, if you wish, there are 48 slices of the cake which are there to be shared out, and ACL is given responsibility by the airport operator for the allocation, the sharing out of those pieces of the capacity of the airport.

  416.  So they are take-off and landing opportunities?

  A.  They are taking off and landing opportunities, but it is perhaps a popular misconception that slots are only to do with runways. In fact, in our view, a slot is a package of infrastructure at an airport, so when we say to an airline, "You can come at 10 o'clock", we are really saying that "All the pieces of infrastructure which you as an airline need will be available at that time; there will be somewhere to land, somewhere to park the aircraft, somewhere for the passengers to go within the air terminal." So we look at airports as a multi-dimensional problem, and we look at the supply and demand for all the facilities at the airport—the runways, the terminal, the parking places, the capacity of the baggage halls and so on.

  417.  All of that you manage?

  A.  Yes.

  418.  I have one more fundamental question. Who owns slots?

  A.  That question has been the subject of enormous speculation by many lawyers recently. My understanding of it is that airports strictly own slots. The best description that I have heard is that a slot is a permission to trespass on private land, and by appointing ACL the airports are effectively giving us permission to issue permissions to the airlines. That is a separate issue from the issue of slot trading which goes on between airlines, but it is some sort of rights which are being traded between airlines, without any property rights or ownership rights in slots being exercised by the airlines.

  419.  I am glad you brought up the trading aspect. How are slots traded, and for what?

  A.  I should stress at this point that ACL is an administrative organisation, and the scope of our responsibilities is in confirming or otherwise the feasibility of slot allocations. It is not our responsibility to look behind that to arrangements which go on between carriers. Indeed, we have no more knowledge of those arrangements than anybody can from reading the newspapers, I guess.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1998