Ryanair has accused the transport secretary of giving British Airways “an unfair advantage” by allowing it to retain the best take-off and landing slots without running flights.

According to the Telegraph, the budget carrier has criticised Grant Shapps’s decision to extend a pandemic waiver over “use it or lose it” rules.

A Ryanair spokesman told the newspaper: “We oppose the extension of slot waivers into summer 2021 because this will lead to fewer flights and higher fares for consumers as legacy airlines at hub airports – Lufthansa, Air France or BA, for example – will have no incentives to operate flights because the normal ‘use it or lose it’ slot rules have been waived.

“Ryanair believes slot waivers distort competition by preventing low-fare airlines from expanding, while legacy carriers are able to reduce capacity and raise prices.”

MoreEC extends airports slot waiver to late March

In normal times, airlines are required to operate 80% of the maximum possible flights to retain their slots. Failure to comply would result in slots being reallocated to other airlines.

The waiver was originally introduced by the European Union last year to avoid carriers operating empty services to keep their slots. At the end of January, Shapps extended the moratorium.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport told the Telegraph: “While demand for air travel remains low, it’s critical that we support the aviation sector so that carriers are able to immediately restart normal services when the pandemic allows.

“The slot waiver is a vital part of that, supporting the aviation sector while also reducing the need for environmentally damaging ghost flights.”