Etihad Adds 2 Extra Daily Flights To Heathrow To Protect Slots

Following the collapse of Jet Airways, Etihad has acquired extra slots at Heathrow Airport. The slots had been leased by Jet Airways from Etihad. However, Jet Airways is now clearly no longer in need of them.

Etihad Heathrow Slots
Etihad is looking to operate five daily flights to Heathrow from Abu Dhabi. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Heathrow slots are worth an awful lot of money and are hard to come by. Essentially, slots dictate when aircraft can land and take off. Without them, the airport would be overrun with aircraft, far exceeding its capacity.

More about slots

Heathrow slots are costly and highly prized. Slots are sold in pairs; after all, what use is it if your plane could land but not take off? Heathrow has 650 pairs of slots available to use each day.

To illustrate slot pairs, let us take a look at a previous slot sale. Kenya Airlines sold a couple of slots to Oman Air. These were valid each day for a 6.30am arrival and a departure at 8.25am. These sold for a staggering $75 million.

The reason that these slots sell for so much is that Heathrow is one of the world’s most sought after airports. JetBlue is reportedly looking to purchase Heathrow slots for the launch of its London to New York service.

Etihad Heathrow Slots
Etihad flies the A380 and Boeing 787 to Heathrow. Photo: Etihad Airlines

So what about Etihad?

Focusing back on Etihad, the airline is set to launch two new flights to London. Etihad owned Jet Airways’ three slots at Heathrow. As Jet Airways was not using these slots, they were transferred back to Etihad. If slots are not being used, the airport will reclaim them and sell them on. This is why Heathrow has many empty ghost flights operating each day.

Now, with no aircraft in operation, Jet Airways is not using its slots. Had Etihad not reclaimed them, they would have been recovered. However, Etihad is now faced with using the slots themselves, lest they lose them. This means operating additional flights even if there is a lack of demand.

According to Business Traveller, the new schedule from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow will likely see aircraft depart Heathrow at the following times:

  • 0930 – Boeing 787 – EY10
  • 0935 – Airbus A380 – EY12
  • 1500 – Airbus A380 – EY20
  • 2045 – Boeing 787 – EY18
  • 2120 – Boeing 787 – EY26
Etihad Heathrow Slots
An Etihad A380 lands at Heathrow on Runway 27R. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Flights would land at Heathrow at:

  • 0645 – Boeing 787 – EY9
  • 0730 – Airbus A380 – EY11
  • 1250 – Airbus A380 – EY19
  • 1755 – Boeing 787 – EY25
  • 1845 – Airbus A380 – EY17

Of course, this is very likely to change, if not just for matching aircraft types.

Should this be allowed?

The whole story does beg the question about whether airlines should have more flexibility with their slots. The proposed new schedule will see two Etihad aircraft departing for the same route within five minutes of each other.

In a day and age where passengers are increasingly worried about climate change, it seems insane that two flights are being operated simultaneously just for the sake of holding onto slots. Especially, when demand for two simultaneous flights is likely relatively low.

One mile at a time recommends that Etihad considers leasing their slots to other airlines. However, it will need time to work out agreements. Etihad is currently set to lease the third pair of slots to Air Serbia.

What do you think? Is the current slot system fair? Let us know in the comments!