Aer Lingus Returns London Heathrow Slots To Delta

Irish carrier Aer Lingus is returning some of its slots at London Heathrow to US carrier Delta Air Lines. Slots at the airport are very hard to come by, and these precious ‘commodities’ can sell for millions of dollars (if anyone is willing to sell). That’s why it’s always noteworthy when slots are exchanged at one of Europe’s busiest airports.

Aer Lingus Airbus A330
Aer Lingus is flying its A330 widebody between Dublin and London Heathrow three times weekly this season. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

A slot return after two years

After holding on to 10 weekly slots at London Heathrow, Aer Lingus will return these to Delta Air Lines for the S21 (Summer 2021) season, which stretches from the end of March to the end of October. This piece of news was discovered on the Airport Coordination Ltd. (ACL) website, as it announces completed slot trades when swap request forms are submitted by airlines.

The deal will see Aer Lingus give up the slots, typically used for its service to Dublin, to Delta Air Lines, which will put them to use on a service to New York JFK from Heathrow’s T3. According to the form submitted, Delta plans to use its four-class Boeing 767-400s on this summer service.

As per the initial swap form, Aer Lingus took these slots from Delta for the Summer 2018 season (S18) and was using the Airbus A320 with service to Dublin.

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Delta Boeing_767-400
Paperwork submitted shows Delta will operate a four-class configured Boeing 767-400 between New York JFK and London Heathrow for the S21 season. Photo: Eluveitie via Wikimedia Commons 

Why is Aer Lingus returning these slots?

At this point, we can only guess why Aer Lingus is giving up these slots after holding on to them for two years. It could have been a pre-arranged agreement, which would be a fairly straightforward situation.

A statement from Aer Lingus received on November 25th is as follows:

“Aer Lingus has recently returned a number of slots to Delta following the expiry of a slot lease arrangement. Aer Lingus can confirm that these slots are not within the scope of the commitments made by IAG to the Irish Government as part of the airline’s acquisition in 2015.”

Another explanation might be that the Irish carrier is simply reconfiguring its operations and doesn’t see the need to use the slots anymore. Indeed, the events of 2020 and the years of recovery that are anticipated would mean reduced traffic for almost all airlines globally.

Additionally, Brexit will officially take place at the start of 2021, and while the UK and Ireland have secured agreements for UK and Irish citizens to enter and live in each other’s countries under the Common Travel Area (CTA), there may be a broader effect of reduced travel.

Heathrow runway queue
Slots at busy hub airports such as London Heathrow are scarce and can be sold to eager airlines for great sums of money. Photo: Getty Images

The value of slots at Heathrow

According to The Points Guy, depending on the time of day, slots are known to be worth £5 to £15 million – at least this was the price 10 years ago. Nowadays, however, numbers aren’t disclosed to the public. We do know that an increase in competition and air traffic at Heathrow has driven up the prices substantially.

What do you think of this slot exchange? Let us know in the comments.