Delta continues London expansion with purchase of two Heathrow slot pairs for $47m

Delta continues its focus on growing its presence at London Heathrow having today announced that as part of its Quarter 1 results release it has purchased two pairs of take off and landing slots at Heathrow for $47m.

The seller of the slots, nor the timings, has not been disclosed. However, it is likely that at least one of the slots pairs has been purchased from fellow SkyTeam member Alitalia. Furthermore, the price paid for the slots indicates that they are likely to be peak arrival slots, which are crucial for airlines wishing to serve time sensitive business passengers.

This follows Delta’s recent acquisition of a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for €360m and its application for anti-trust immunity with Virgin.

Whilst the routes to be operated with the slots has not been disclosed, it is likely one pair will be used to launch a direct flight to Seattle and other options are additional flights to New York (where Delta is seeking to operate a shuttle type service with Virgin to compete against BA and American Airlines), or additional flights to Detroit or Atlanta, or as intimated in its application for anti-trust immunity, a direct flight to Salt Lake City.

Whilst the price paid is some way short of Continental’s acquisition of four slot pairs of Heathrow slots for €208m in 2008 (before the financial crisis triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers) it demonstrates the substantial premium still commanded by peak time Heathrow slots and Delta’s determination to gain a strong foothold at London Heathrow.

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