Virgin Atlantic and Wizz Air are reportedly eyeing up Thomas Cook’s lucrative take-off and landing slots at Gatwick.
Wizz chief executive Jozsef Varadi told The Financial Times it was looking closely at Cook’s footprint at Gatwick as it seeks to expand its presence in London.
The paper reports Virgin has also “signalled its interest” in Cook’s slots at Gatwick, and adds easyJet, BA owner IAG and Tui may also be interested.
Like Heathrow, Gatwick is currently operating near its capacity. While Heathrow looks set to significantly boost its take-off and landing capacity with the addition of a third runway, Gatwick is now looking to bring its back-up runway into full-time operation to grow its traffic.
The Sussex airport ran against Heathrow in a bid to be the government’s preferred site for additional airport capacity, but was snubbed in favour of Heathrow.
Thomas Cook Airlines ceased operations during the early hours of Monday morning (23 September) amid the collapse of Thomas Cook Group.
However, unlike its German (Condor) and Nordic (Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia) sister airlines, which have this week either continued flying or resumed operations after a brief hiatus thanks to more progressive insolvency legislation and/or support from their respective national governments, Cook’s UK airline division has been placed in liquidation along with the rest of the group.
According to The Financial Times, Cook’s slots at Gatwick could be worth “tens of millions of pounds”.
Norwegian recently offered up its slots at Gatwick as collateral against the extension of two bonds worth in the region of £305 million, stating the value of the slots exceeded the value of the two bonds. The airline is the third largest at Gatwick, with 4.6 million annual passengers and more than 1,500 UK-based pilots and cabin crew.
Following the collapse of Monarch, British Airways bought 20 take-off and landing slots at Gatwick for a reported £50 million, with the slots attracting interest from eastJet, Norwegian and Wizz.