Examination of Witness (Questions 402
THURSDAY 23 JULY 1998
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.
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
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
411. You started to answer my next question.
You presently have six coordinators. How are they distributedthat
is rather a blunt wordgeographically? Or is it geographical?
A. It is. As
a business we actually have four office sitesone at Heathrow,
one at Gatwick, one at Manchester and one at Birminghamfrom
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
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
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 KingdomNational Air Traffic Services
(NATShas 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 airportthe
runways, the terminal, the parking places, the capacity of the
baggage halls and so on.
417. All of that you manage?
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.