International Airlines Group, Virgin Atlantic, Wizz Air are reportedly circling to swoop on Thomas Cook’s valuable take off and landing slots at Gatwick.
The slots, which could be worth tens of millions of pounds, are expected to attract a bidding war from rivals, potentially including easyJet, British Airways owner IAG and Tui, because of a lack of capacity at peak times at the single runway airport.
Wizz Air chief executive Jozsef Varadi told the Financial Times it was looking closely at failed Thomas Cook slots as part of a plan to grow in London.
“We are not interested in the airline. We are not interested in other assets but we have an interest . . . in the airport slots of Thomas Cook at Gatwick,” he said.
The eastern European budget carrier accounts for more than 40% of capacity at Luton airport but is looking for alternative ways to grow its business from the UK capital.
Virgin Atlantic has also signalled its interest in Thomas Cook’s position at Gatwick, particularly its night slots.
Willie Walsh, chef executive of BA owner International Airlines Group, said the organisation was interested in slots at Gatwick that may be available following the collapse of travel firm Thomas Cook.
“If there’s an opportunity to acquire some slots through the administration process, we will be looking at that,” he said. “We see Gatwick as an opportunity for us.”
Thomas Cook has around 15 daily slot pairs during summer at Gatwick, and around eight in the winter, according to the Airports Co-ordination Limited, the independent body that allocates airport slots.
This equates to about 3.5% of total slots at Gatwick during the peak summer period.
A spokeswoman for ACL said: “Thomas Cook Airlines’ operating licence remains valid and therefore it continues to hold slots at airports co-ordinated by ACL.”
BA bought 20 prime take-off and landing slots at Gatwick from collapsed airline Monarch in 2017, while Wizz Air acquired Monarch’s slots at Luton airport. The deal was worth £54 million for Monarch’s administrators, of which the large proportion came from the Gatwick sale, according to the FT.
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