What exactly is a Slot?

We’re always receiving questions about a wide range of different subjects to do with air travel, and of course Austrian Airlines itself. This week, we chatted to one of our pilots, Christina Domweber, about slots – and what they actually are? So over to you, Christina!


So what is a slot?

How many times have you been sitting on an aircraft, I wonder, with all your fellow passengers ready and waiting to go, everything loaded, only for nothing to really happen? As the minutes tick by, you slowly start worrying about making your connecting flight. Then comes an announcement that because of a ‘slot’, you’re going to have to wait in your parking position for another few minutes before starting the engines. And you find yourself wondering: where does this ‘slot’ come from? The weather’s fine, and there certainly isn’t a tailback on the runway…

A slot is a time window of 15 minutes (5 minutes before and 10 minutes after a specified time) when an aircraft has permission to arrive at a certain point, airspace border or airport. In Europe, this is usually issued by EUROCONTROL.

Air traffic is continuing to increase, and the number of flights is rising steadily – particularly during the summer months, the peak travel season. The amount of ‘space in the sky’ is not rising with it, however, and is limited. Weather phenomena can often play a role too, ensuring some sections of airspace can’t be used fully. The reasons for a slot being delayed can also originate on the route itself, or at the departure or arrival airport.

So if there are delays, please try to make yourselves as comfortable as you can. Rest assured your crew is doing everything they can to operate your flight as punctually as possible – and most importantly of all, of course, safely – despite a slot, and to get you to your destination. All in all, slots – like any restrictions in aviation – are put there to help keep all of us safe, and do just that.

Thanks very much, Christina, for explaining the subject of slots to our Community, and for filling us in on all that background information!

Header photos: © Austrian Airlines_Patrick Huber und ©Austrian_Airlines_Arno_Melicharek

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