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Travel industry news

24 Jun 2019

BY James Chapple


Virgin Atlantic demands 150 slots at expanded Heathrow airport

Virgin Atlantic will demand 150 of the new runway slots due to be created at Heathrow airport, boss Shai Weiss has said.

Virgin Atlantic A350

Virgin Atlantic demands 150 slots at expanded Heathrow airport

A new third runway at Heathrow, which is forecast to be brought into operation by 2026, will help the airport grow flight capacity nearly 60% from 476,000 to 756,000 over the next 30 years (through to 2050).

Weiss though, who assumed the role of Virgin Atlantic chief executive in January, says the carrier should be given 43% of the 350 new take-off and landing slots at Heathrow.

Virgin has long complained of British Airways owner IAG’s stranglehold at Heathrow, and wants to position Virgin as a “second flag carrier”.

IAG is currently understood to hold more than 55% of capacity at Heathrow, spread across its group airlines – BA, Aer Lingus, Vueling, Level and Iberia.

Virgin, by comparison, even when combined with its partners Delta and Air France-KLM, accounts for less than 10% of Heathrow’s slots, The Times reports.

In a letter to Lilian Greenwood, chair of the government’s Transport Select Committee, Weiss said the current rules around slot allocation – governed by Iata – allowed IAG to hold an effective monopoly at Heathrow.

“As things stand, International Airlines Group holds more than 55% of all take-off and landing slots at Heathrow, with no other airlines having more than 5% of capacity,” said Weiss in his letter, reported by CityAM.

“One group’s stranglehold on our nation’s hub airport means other airlines do not compete effectively on anything approaching a level playing field, and passengers are paying the price.”

He added: “Expansion offers a genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shake up the market in favour of creating strong competition, greater choice and lower fares for consumers and business.”

Weiss said the current slot allocation system favoured established operators at a particular airport and therefore put airlines like Virgin at a competitive disadvantage.

An IAG spokesperson said: “Cost-effective expansion of Heathrow will enable more airlines to fly from the airport and we welcome the additional competition. However, slot allocation should be undertaken according to Iata’s internationally agreed and very effective world slot guidelines.”

Earlier this month, Iata said airport operators, airlines and slot operators would in future play an “equal role” in determining guidelines for airport slot allocation.

According to Iata, the new regime would allow airports and airlines to make best use of existing infrastructure while planning for new infrastructure.


“This fully reformed governance sets the ideal ground to regularly review the slot allocation process with the appropriate level of ambition and in line with an increasingly competitive and highly connected global network,” said Iata in a statement.

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