Alitalia’s London Heathrow Slots Will Return To Etihad In March

Defunct Italian airline Alitalia will return its lucrative Heathrow slots to Etihad in March 2022. All 68 of the carrier’s weekly slots, which are currently being used by new Italian flag carrier ITA Airways, will head to Etihad on March 27th, 2022. Etihad is the owner of these slots but has leased them to Alitalia since 2016.

Etihad Airways B787
Etihad Airways will regain 68 weekly slots at Heathrow Airport in March 2022. Photo: Getty Images.

Alitalia Heathrow slots going to Etihad

Before ceasing operations in October 2021, Alitalia held 68 weekly slots at Heathrow Airport. Now, these lucrative slots will be returned to Etihad Airways in time for Summer 2022.

All 68 weekly slots will be returned to Etihad on March 27th, 2022, and will expire on October 29th, 2022. ITA Airways currently uses the slots for its London Heathrow to Rome (six daily flights) and Milan (four daily flights) services. ITA Airways inherited the slots from Alitalia after commencing operations on October 15th.

Alitalia’s Heathrow slots were acquired from Etihad Airways on lease. Photo: Getty Images

Prior to Etihad Airways buying a 49% stake in Alitalia in 2015, the Italian carrier held its own Heathrow slots. However, the sought-after slots were passed over to Etihad and then leased back to Alitalia. Alitalia ended up paying 3.76 million euros ($4.25 million) a year in leasing fees, which works out at over 10,000 euros ($11,000) per day to use these slots.

ITA Airways requests slots

The current operators of Alitalia’s Heathrow slots, ITA Airways, could be left in a difficult spot once the slots are transferred back to Etihad. The Italian carrier has requested a total of 98 weekly slots at Heathrow, with plans to offer eight daily London-Rome flights and six daily London-Milan flights.

ITA Airways has requested 98 weekly slots from Heathrow Airport. Photo: Getty Images

However, Heathrow authorities are unlikely to grant so many slots to a startup carrier at the bottom of the waiting list. Instead, ITA Airways could use Alitalia’s 72 weekly slots at London City Airport. This would likely prove impossible for ITA as London City Airport cannot accommodate the carrier’s fleet of Airbus A319 or A320 jets.

Etihad and ITA in talks

There is every chance that Etihad Airways will reach a similar agreement with ITA Airways on slot leasing. The two airlines are in talks over the Heathrow slots and have also recently signed a codeshare agreement which could further smoothen negotiations.

ITA Airways A320
ITA Airways and Etihad Airways are expected to strike a deal on the slots. Photo: Getty Images

ITA Airways will likely continue to use the Heathrow slots once an agreement has been reached with Etihad. According to aviation experts, Heathrow slots have lost around 15% of their value over the COVID pandemic. While Alitalia was paying over 300,000 euros ($340,000) a month to Etihad for the slots, ITA could snap up the slots at a cheaper rate.

Do you think Etihad and ITA will strike a deal on the Heathrow slots? Is it more likely now they have signed a codeshare agreement? Feel free to share your insights in the comments.