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Which airlines have all the Heathrow landing slots?

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Which airlines have the most take off and landing slots at London Heathrow Airport?

We have had a lot of dicussion on HfP in recent weeks about whether regulatory agencies should lift the 80/20 slot rules for congested airports. We thought, to put all this discussion in context, we’d look at how take-off and landing slots are actually distributed at Heathrow.

Who has the Heathrow slots?

We have taken the data from the Airport Coordination Ltd report from November 2019 – this is data for the Summer 2020 season which runs from late March until late October.

Under the list we analyse the numbers further by airline alliance. Flybe is still on the list because it was drawn up in November 2019.

Here are the 25 airlines with the most slots at Heathrow:

‘Slots held’ is the total weekly number of individual slots for Summer 2020. Two slots are required per flight. Virgin Atlantic, for example, has 338 slots which equals 169 return flights per week.

AirlineSlots held% of total
British Airways4,88750.57
Lufthansa5125.30
Virgin Atlantic3383.50
Aer Lingus3263.37
American Airlines2943.04
United2382.46
SAS2162.24
Flybe2042.11
SWISS1661.72
Air Canada1541.59
KLM1401.45
Delta1381.43
Iberia1121.16
TAP880.91
Air France840.87
Emirates840.87
Finnair840.87
Qatar Airways840.87
Turkish Airlines760.79
Cathay Pacific740.77
Aeroflot700.72
Etihad700.72
Alitalia680.70
Singapore Airlines600.62
Air India560.58

Unsurprisingly, British Airways comes out on top with over 50% of all slots allocated. This is an order of magnitude more than Lufthansa which has a meagre 5.3% in comparison!

Virgin Atlantic has only 3.5%, which puts its comparatively small size into perspective.

Let’s take a look at alliances. Looking at the top 25 airlines, oneworld comes out on top with 57% of the slot allocation.

Star Alliance trails with 14% whilst SkyTeam is barely in the same league with just over 5% of the total.

All data below is based only on the top 25 slot holders.

Heathrow slot allocations by airline alliance:

oneworld57.27%
Star Alliance14.48%
SkyTeam5.17%

The numbers look very different when you take British Airways out of the equation:

Heathrow slot holders by alliance, without British Airways:

Star Alliance14.48%
oneworld6.70%
SkyTeam5.17%

In such a scenario, Star Alliance has more than double the slots of its competitors.

The numbers vary again when you take into consideration Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic, who are not officially part of an alliance but are quite strongly affiliated with one. Aer Lingus, for example, is oneworld focussed given its ownership by IAG. Virgin Atlantic is a SkyTeam partner in all but name thanks to its joint ventures with Delta, Air France and KLM:

Heathrow slot allocations based on alliance and core partnerships:

oneworld 60.64%
Star Alliance14.48%
SkyTeam8.67%

Star Alliance remains unchanged whilst the inclusion of Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic give oneworld and SkyTeam a boost.

There is lots of other interesting information in the Airport Coordination report. For example, on page 4 you can see who gained slots for Summer 2020. The few new slots allocated went to China Southern (2 return flights per week), Shenzen Airlines (1 flight per week), Norwegian (3 flights per week), Virgin Atlantic (1 flight per week) and Tunisair (2 flights per week). In the end, of course, coronavirus meant that these slots were never taken up.

Comments (24)

  • Mark Rogers says:

    “Two slots are required per flight” – which explains why they’re all even numbers.

    Except that BA isn’t. How does (can) it use the extra slot?

    • Rich says:

      Maybe they have slots for a fortnightly tech run to the yard at CWL or for moving metal between LHR and LGW, or if these don’t count, then it’s a typo.

      • ChrisC says:

        No not a typo. It’s in the table on page 4 in the linked document with a request for one slot

  • John doe says:

    Typo in last pargraph. 2002.

  • mark2 says:

    Are similar figures for other hubs e.g. Frankfurt, Paris available anywhere?

    • Rhys says:

      Probably yes. I know that Lufthansa has a greater proportion of slots at Frankfurt, than BA does at Heathrow.

  • ChrisW says:

    Does this include the slots and airline owns, but leases out other airlines?

    I was unaware lufthansa was every operating 35 return flights to Heathrow every single day!

  • Derek Scott says:

    With all the chat over the years about BA’s ‘dominance’ at LHR it would be interesting to run these tables in comparison to FRA, CDG, AMS, to see how BA compares at LHR to its competitor Flag Carriers in their home airports?

    • J says:

      Lufthansa completely abuse their monopoly in Germany, are extremely expensive and apart from Ryanair were perhaps one of the worst airlines in providing refunds, so I’m not sure what the point of a comparison would be. I’ve a slightly better impression and experience of KLM.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        Well I think Derek was thinking something a little more objective for one, and the actual numbers would serve to put your observations into context – does one lead to the other, for example

    • ChrisW says:

      Is AMS slot constrained with its 6 runways though? EasyJet has enormous operations there.

      • ChrisC says:

        Yes AMS is restricted to 500k movements a year so much so the plans are for some of the LCCs and charters to move to Lelystad Airport that is being redeveloped.

    • Rhys says:

      My understanding is that Lufthansa, KLM and Air France are all more ‘dominant’ at their home airports.

    • AJA says:

      Thats the key point. It would be very surprising if BA with its own terminal did not have at least 50% of the landing slots. On top of this in ‘normal’ times BA was also spread over T5 and T3 though it does relinquish some slots at T5 to Iberia. Plus a number of the airlines in the top 25 are long haul so don’t have anywhere near the number of flights per day or to as many destinations from LHR. What is interesting is the spread of airlines, I thought the transatlantic routes would dominate but there are a number of European and eastern hemisphere routes too. Africa and South America are not represented at all although plainly you can get to those destinations on a number of the airlines listed.

      But if you then compare with AF at CDG, KLM at AMS and LH at FRA & MUC and IB at MAD & BCN or even the ME3 at their hubs I don’t think that BA is that dominant.

    • insider says:

      Slide 7 of the following link:

      https://www.iairgroup.com/~/media/Files/I/IAG/documents/CMD%202019%20Final_PRINT_SICv2.pdf

      AF-KLM @ AMS: 61%
      AF-KLM @ CDG: 52%, ORY: 53%
      LH Group @ FRA: 69%, MUC: 72%

      etc…

  • Roy Thomson says:

    I hope BA will settle permanently in Terminal 5 and stop messing me around with flights from and to Terminal 3. I rarely know for sure where BA will fly me from or dump me at!