British Airways has confirmed a policy of “tactically cancelling” services from Heathrow so it can maintain the use of slots without increasing capacity.
BA controls more than 50% of the take-off and landing slots at Heathrow and recently acquired up to 11 further pairs following the demise this year of Virgin Atlantic’s domestic operation Little Red and the collapse of Russian carrier Transaero.
These were slot pairs the competition regulator required BA hand over following the acquisition of BMI by parent IAG in 2012. The collapse of Little Red and Transaero mean the slots have reverted to BA.
The Sunday Times reported IAG chief executive Willie Walsh had told analysts: “The slots have reverted to us and we are required to use them.
“So we’ve increased some domestic capacity, but we are looking at tactical cancellations across the network to operate within the 80/20 rule so as to minimize the overall increase in capacity.”
The ‘80/20’ rule refers to the requirement on holders of slots at Heathrow to ‘use or lose’ them. A slot must be used 80% of the time or go into a central bank of slots to be reallocated to another carrier.
BA is acting entirely within the rules. Yet the Sunday Times suggested the carrier’s scheduling added “a fresh dimension to the debate about airport expansion”.
The carrier has announced a number of new short-haul routes for 2016, including to Chania, Kalamata and Menorca, but the only long-haul route so far announced will be to San Jose, California.
However, aviation analyst Chris Tarry told the Sunday Times: “The real value of a slot is to a long-haul destination. BA hasn’t enough long-haul aircraft to really make money out of these slots.
“As the planes come through it will give BA an opportunity to grow its long-haul fleet.”
Walsh told a CAPA Centre for Aviation conference in October that he did not foresee capacity growth on short-haul routes next year.
IAG’s dominance at Heathrow was further increased by its acquisition of Aer Lingus this year.
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