Flybe confirmed press rumours on Thursday when it announced the sale of its 25 pairs of take-off and landing slots at Gatwick Airport. easyJet will pay £20m for the slots.
Whilst Gatwick is not full, there is a shortage of good slots at peak times. easyJet presumably sees this as a good way of expanding further at the airport. Flybe gets a chunk of cash to help pay of its debts.
This is a pattern we have seen before at Heathrow. As airports get fuller, the only way to increase passenger numbers (to get more duty free sales!) is for airlines to operate larger planes. You do this by adjusting the landing charges so they become more of a flat fee rather than a ‘per passenger’ number, which makes Flybe’s smaller planes uneconomic to operate.
As this BBC article points out, there are concerns over the future of some Flybe services, especially to Scotland and Jersey. The cheap BA flights to Jersey from Gatwick will certainly see price hikes if easyJet does not take over the route.
Nothing will happen until March 2014, though, with Flybe’s Summer and Autumn timetables to continue as planned.
It is interesting to note how the sub-£1m price per slot pair compares to some of the crazy prices paid for Heathrow slots in recent years.