The UK government has confirmed the extension of its airports slot allocation waiver, meaning airlines do not have to operate flights 80% of the time to retain take off and landing times.

The waiver was first introduced last year as carriers slashed capacity owing to Covid-19.

It had been due to expire in the spring, but new legislation means that the extension comes into force on March 26, two days before the start of the summer season.

It will bring the UK in line with the EU, which extended its waiver of the ‘use it or lose it’ rule through the summer earlier this month.

Air travel is expected to remain significantly lower than 2019 levels in 2021, though international travel to and from the UK could resume from as early as May 17.

The government said the legislation would prevent airlines from operating ‘ghost flights’  in order to fulfil the 80% criteria to retain take off and landing slots

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “I want to restart international travel as soon as it is safe and the slots waiver is a critical part of making that happen.

“With airlines flying a smaller proportion of their usual schedules, the waiver means carriers can reserve their finances, reduce the need for environmentally-damaging ‘ghost flights’ and allow normal services to immediately restart when the pandemic allows.”