How Do Slots Work for Private Jet Flights?

While one of the major benefits of private jet travel is being able to fly at short notice and at your preferred times, some airports operate a slot system for private jet take-offs and landings – or institute a slot system for special events, like the Super Bowl or the World Economic Forum.

And while your flight adviser will know how to deal with slot systems and how to secure your flight arrival & take-off, it can be useful to know what slots are – and what they mean for aviation traffic.

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Slots – officially known as PRP procedures (Prior Permission Required) – are the specific time windows that an aircraft is given to land or depart from an airport. These are arranged in advance of the flight date and aircraft must keep to their pre-booked slots or risk being unable to land until another slot is available.

A slot system is usually used to control the number of aircraft in the air, but it’s also employed around the runway at an airport. Slots are applied at airports where there is high demand for use of the runway, whether that’s all year-round or in special cases like seasonal peaks or special events.

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Many slot-controlled airports are shared by airlines and private jets, and often the airlines are given slot priority. This can mean that private jet users must sometimes book further in advance than usual; cannot deviate from their schedule; or – in a small number of cases – need to use a different airport altogether.

London Heathrow International Airport is a clear example of this. Highly congested every day of the year, it has very little availability for private jet customers. It’s one of the reasons we recommend using London City or London Luton for easier access and flexibility.

When discussing a flight to or from a slot-controlled airport, our Flight Team will always advise clients of any likely restrictions. And when a flight is booked, we work with the aircraft operator and the airports to get the best possible time slot to fit the client’s needs.

Here are some other examples of airports where slot restrictions can impact private jet flights – and our advice on how to avoid potential snags.

Winter Demand

When the peak ski season hits in the Rocky Mountains (or other ski resort hotspots!), many of the airports near popular ski resorts will employ a slot system to cope with the increase in demand.

Aspen-Pitkin Airport, that services the Aspen/Snowmass resorts, relies on a slot system to ensure smooth private jet movements in the winter months. If the pilot or operator does not secure a landing slot in time for the flight, jets can circle in the air for several hours before the air traffic controllers can squeeze them in.

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In general, the slot system for Aspen is decided on a “first come, first served” basis, after the commercial airlines.

The peak weeks in Aspen fall from December 14 – January 4, February 16 – 21, and March 15 – April 4 usually.

Eagle County Regional Airport, which primarily services Vail, also applies a slot system in the busy winter months.

Summer Demand

The summer peak hits the European islands particularly hard – spots like Ibiza, Mykonos, and Nice become so busy that they use a slot system between June and September to ensure smooth flying.

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American destinations like the Hamptons and Nantucket also see a seasonal spike in the summer and can sometimes employ the slot structure too.

Special Events – Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, Coachella, Oh My!

Another instance where slot systems may be put in use would be hot-ticket events like the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, or Coachella.

As the location of the Super Bowl changes each year, the host city’s airports must adjust anew each year as well – and each city will present its own logistical challenges. For example, the 2018 Super Bowl took place in Minneapolis, thus posing a weather challenge that other cities may not encounter.

The Super Bowl typically sees around 1,500 private jet movements over its weekend – which is usually several times the average amount at most airports!

Events of 30,000 people or more also tend to induce a Temporary Flight Restriction, which can further heighten the need for organization and forward-planning.

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The Kentucky Derby, held in Louisville, Kentucky each year, also makes use of the slot structure for the few days around the biggest horse race of the year.

The Coachella Music & Arts Festival, held in Indio, California each year, can be accessed via a few airports – but still uses a slot system to ensure safety and efficiency.

For advice on slot restrictions or a custom quote for your next private jet flight, please contact us online or call us at (866) 726-1222.