Susannah was the principal regulatory adviser to ACL, the UK’s regulator of airport slots, for approximately three years. Access to slots at a number of UK airports is regulated under EU law due to the need to manage and fairly allocate access to scare airport space. The value of airport slots at regulated airports, most notably Heathrow, are estimated to be as high as £25-30 million per city pair, due to the revenue earning potential of operating from this highly significant airport which operates as a worldwide hub. There are over 1,000 regulated slots per day at Heathrow alone, making access to these slots highly valuable.
Slots are subject to use it or lose it rules and were originally allocated back in 1992 on the basis of grandfather rights. The EU regulations have been amended on a number of occasions to deal with new developments in relation to many aspects of slot regulation including the exchange of slots and the circumstances when exceptions to the ‘use it or lose it’ rules applied. Given scarcity of slots in the most popular UK airports and the constant demand by airlines to obtain access, the need to interpret and apply the rules accurately and fairly, often in novel situations is paramount for ACL. Although the role of the UK Airport Slot Regulator is on that involves the careful balancing of numerous interests and the application of difficult and sometimes less than clear principles of EU Regulation, there were no legal challenges to any of ACL’s decisions during Susannah’s period as an adviser.
In April 2011 the UK exemption in relation to land agreements was repealed leaving many restrictions over land subject to competition law for the first time. Restrictive covenants, such as those contained routinely in commercial developments for shopping malls and in outdoor advertising agreements are all likely to be affected. The review of land agreements to determine the enforceability of such restrictions (and their ability to attract fines) will be important exercise in understanding any risks posed by them for many businesses.