Heathrow has entered a very different period in its history.
It’s always been known as an airport that is very difficult for airlines to gain access to.
Slots rarely become available. When they do this is usually so for competition remedy purposes, such as the merger of BA and bmi, or BA’s transatlantic joint-business with American Airlines.
One option is to buy them from another airline. As Oman Air did in 2016 when it bought a single slot pair from Kenya Airways for $75m. Selling Heathrow slots is something struggling airlines often do to raise cash, not that it ever solves their underlying problems.
Another way is to simply ask for them. A small number of slots are available and slots can be released into a pool on the rare occasion airlines choose to hand them back.
Most get absolutely nothing. And if they do, as all airport slots are not the same, they may not be taken up.
In Airport Coordination Ltd’s interim report for the winter season, the following airlines all asked for slots and did not receive anything:
Alitalia Cityliner (98)
Arkia Israeli Airlines (6)
Aurigny Air Services (56)
Brussels Airlines (40)
China Airlines (10)
CZA Czech Airlines (14)
DHL Air (12)
Eastern Airways (38)
Regional Jet OU (22)
Ukraine International (28)
Just three airlines gained a very small number of additional slots: China Southern, Shenzhen Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
It should be emphasised that this is only an interim report – there is an oddity in that Flybe has 190 weekly slots, when these should now be with BA.
That’s not to say you won’t see any of these airlines at Heathrow in the near future. Even if some airlines like SpiceJet and Vistara may no longer be minded to launch new long-haul routes in the current climate, a fair number such as Aurigny and WestJet already serve London at City and Gatwick.
All airlines at Heathrow will be reducing their schedules over the next 12 months. “Use it or lose it” slot rules have been waived until the end of October. If this is not extended beyond October, existing airlines at Heathrow will have no choice but to either operate “ghost” flights or lease them to other airlines. In which case, the airlines above may only be too happy to oblige.