In an unusual move for a low-cost airline, EasyJet is trying to find slots for flights into London’s Heathrow airport. And with slots in high demand, it won’t be easy.
The airline has flown from Luton, Stansted and Gatwick in the London area. The latter is their current base, with good links into the city. But EasyJet’s latest move involves Heathrow. The airport will have 299,642 slots in the financial year starting in April 2021. Unfortunately for EasyJet, they haven’t managed to get any yet. They were hoping to get 98 of them per week.
And EasyJet are not alone. JetBlue has also been unable to secure Heathrow slots, finding some in Gatwick and more in Stansted. This is not what they had in mind. JetBlue’s Atlantic crossing won’t really be a low-cost affair, focusing on business/premium low-cost travel. But Easyjet’s Heathrow slots are a bit more of a mystery.
The airline recently posted its first-ever full year loss. It has also increased the numbers of aircraft it has sold and leased back, now owning a bit under half its fleet. That leaves 152 wholly-owned aircraft. As a percentage, this is better than many airlines, though not as good as some other low-cost carriers. And like EasyJet, other low-cost carriers don’t go to Heathrow either.
A Heathrow Move To Ease EasyJet’s Recovery?
EasyJet should be able to weather the winter, hoping for a vaccine-assisted spring and summer. The airline would still like government assistance in the mean time, to avoid more redundancies. But its Heathrow plans, if it goes through with them, put EasyJet in an odd place, as a low-cost carrier. That is if they wish to compete with low-cost carriers.
But perhaps that’s not the point. Commenting on the rejection of Heathrow to their requests for slots, EasyJet stated:
“As Heathrow is one of the very few top 50 airports in Europe where we don’t currently operate, we remain interested in potentially starting operations there as we believe we could lower prices and bolster competition at the airport”.
It sounds like EasyJet are positioning themselves as a competitor to more traditional carriers, instead of other low-cost carriers. Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary apparently thinks so. He recently commented that he believes EasyJet will not emerge from the crisis as a low-cost carrier. Actions like this attempt at Heathrow slots are a good example of why.