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Which airlines have the most Heathrow Airport landing slots?

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

The issue of Heathrow slots will be back in the news this Summer, with airlines forced to fly a slot at least 70% of the time in order to stop it being lost. This may even lead to some operators running ‘ghost flights’ with no passengers.

We thought, to put all this discussion in context, we’d look at how take-off and landing slots are actually distributed at Heathrow.

We have taken the data from Airport Coordination Ltd, which runs the slot allocation programme. The numbers below are for a random week in the Summer season (w/c 5th September) which runs from late March until late October.

Here are the 25 airlines with the most slots at Heathrow

‘Slots held’ is the total weekly number of individual slots for the week of 5th September. Two slots are required per flight. Virgin Atlantic, for example, has 394 slots which equals 197 return flights per week.

AirlineSlots held% of total
British Airways4,95351.16
Virgin Atlantic3944.07
American Airlines3223.33
Aer Lingus3163.26
United Airlines2802.89
Air Canada1681.73
Delta Air Lines1621.67
TAP Air Portugal880.91
Air France840.87
Qatar Airways840.87
Turkish Airlines760.79
Cathay Pacific740.76
Air India620.64
Singapore Airlines600.62

Unsurprisingly, British Airways comes out on top with over 50% of all slots allocated (the grand total of slots is 9,680 per week, so 690 departures per day). This is an order of magnitude more than Virgin Atlantic which has a meagre 4.1% in comparison.

The list doesn’t adjust for common ownership. Lufthansa used to be No 2, for example, before transferring many slots to its low cost offshoot Eurowings. In theory you could add in SWISS and other Lufthansa Group airlines to their total too.

Flybe remains on the list because it has been agreed that ‘new’ Flybe, which is not yet flying but which bought the assets of the old airline, can retain Flybe’s Heathrow slots. We will find out tomorrow (Tuesday 22nd) if the ‘new Flybe’ will be flying from Heathrow this Summer, as it publishes its first set of routes.

Aeroflot should retain its slots as there are exceptions to ‘use it or lose it’ for airlines which cannot fly for geo-political reasons.

Who is a likely taker of slots which airlines do not want to fly?

As it happens, we know which airlines are keen on Heathrow slots because the list of failed applications is published by Airport Coordination.

The largest demands for slots for Summer 2022 were from Italy’s ITA (98 per week – I assume they have inherited Alitalia’s slots too?), Loganair (96), Blue Air (72), Aurigny (56), Wideroe (52) and Air China (42).

These airlines were, between them, allocated a grand total of zero slots. The issue is which of the airlines would be interested in a one season slot loan as opposed to permanent slots.

As we covered on Sunday, Loganair has managed to pick up 14 slots per week to run a daily Isle of Man service from Heathrow this Summer.

Slot allocation by alliance

Let’s take a look at alliances. Looking at the top 25 airlines, oneworld comes out on top with 65% of the slot allocation.

Star Alliance trails with 16% whilst SkyTeam is barely in the same league with just over 6% of the total.

All data below is based only on the top 25 slot holders, albeit that the top 25 control 89% of slots:

Heathrow slot allocations by airline alliance:

Star Alliance16.4%

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

Heathrow slot holders by alliance, without British Airways:

Star Alliance16.4%
oneworld exc BA6.9%

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 68.2%
Star Alliance16.4%

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

Comments (66)

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  • Dev says:

    I know Uganda Airlines is after slots, and BA and other carriers flying to places like India where their Government artificially restricted flights with “air bubbles”.

    There must be a mechanism to identify which slot is used on which route to identify which ones are “protected”. That will be interesting to analyse.

  • Skyshare says:

    You say about Air China ‘These airlines were, between them, allocated a grand total of zero slots’. Surely these were extra slots Air China wanted, and their slots that they have used previously remain?

    • Rob says:

      Correct – but the existing slots were not, de facto, allocated because they already had them!

  • Dan says:

    I just wanted to say, I do hope Blue Air get more slots – impressive little airline that got me to a nice weekend destination (Bucharest) for less than the passenger landing charge at Heathrow, and on a brand new 737 MAX!

    • WaynedP says:

      Hmmm, “737 Max” …

      I think we may have the answer right there to the question “why is an airline charging its customers less to fly on its planes than it costs it to land at the airport ?”

      • Dan says:

        You’re wrong – it’s probably the most confortable single aisle aircraft I’ve been on.

        • Rhys says:

          Have you flown the A220?

          • Dan says:

            The A220 is not too bad either!

          • Rhys says:

            Genuinely curious why you think the MAX is better, given the larger windows on the A220, lower cabin altitude etc….

          • buchanan101 says:

            Is that slightly wider than the 737 (in line with 319/320). It makes a difference with seat widths

          • Rhys says:

            The A320 is the widest. The 737 is mid. The A220 is less wide but is also only 2-3, rather than 3-3. So from a width perspective A320 and A220 are both superior to the 737.

        • Mark says:

          I don’t think the point @WayneP was making related to comfort….

          That people still feel that way is a testament to the stupidity of putting a plane into commercial service that should never have been certified in its original form.

          With the amount of scrutiny it had during the grounding and all the work that went into putting it right it ought to be the safest plane in existence now, at least from a design perspective. Yet some people will still be nervous about flying on it, and actively avoid doing so. As the ongoing 787 issues demonstrate, Boeing is finally being forced to up its game considerably by a regulator who, in my view, was equally culpable for the debacle. About time…..

          • meta says:

            737 is doomed and given the China Eastern Airlines crash today people will be avoiding it. The majority of people also can’t tell the difference between aircraft types, all they see is 737.

          • Rhys says:

            I’m not sure the majority of people see the aircraft type, full stop. How many people booking Ryanair flights know that Ryanair operates 737s whilst easyJet A320s? Very few, I imagine.

          • Mark says:

            To be fair that wasn’t a Max. It was the previous generation 737-800 which has a good safety record. We don’t yet know what happened, but considering the proportion of short-haul narrow bodies in service, with the vast majority of those being 737s and A320 family aircraft, a significant proportion of accidents will involve those aircraft types and, in many cases, human error is the primary cause.

          • Lady London says:

            Was there a recent 737 max crash in China @meta? If so that’s scary

          • Rhys says:

            This morning! Google China Eastern. Not a MAX though.

  • buchanan101 says:

    Can’t work out why BA’s number is odd, when all the rest are even (as the slots need to be in pairs)

    • shanghaiguizi says:

      Maybe a repositioning flight in the evening for an early morning return flight to LHR?

    • Erico1875 says:

      was it a Max that crashed?

      • RussellH says:

        Described on the 1300 Radio 4 news as “737-800”

        • Mark says:


          I suspect @Erico1875 was (jokingly) suggesting that could be the cause of the odd number BA slot usage for the week of the 5th September, not the China Eastern Crash.

          • Lady London says:

            You mean they have an odd number of slots per week and not an even number of slots because a certain % of 737 max aircraft won’t come back? A percentage that’s rounded down? 🙂 Enrico you are feeding my anxiety.

          • Mark says:

            I think you can rest easy for now given BA doesn’t operate the 737 Max 🙂

            …at least until IAG firms up on its letter of intent, some of which were intended or BA’s Gatwick services.

          • Erico1875 says:

            No. Somehow reply landed in wrong place.

      • Rhys says:


    • ADS says:

      Presumably an arrival on Monday morning, or a departure on Sunday evening.

  • jjoohhnn says:

    Are there any stats on the numbers of slots that airlines are using currently per week to run alongside this table?

    • Rob says:

      Summer season doesn’t even start for another two weeks. Still lots of negotiating going on with some airlines trying to find someone, anyone, to take their slots for the Summer.

  • Anon says:

    On a related note, note Heathrow but Southeast Asia – if anyone is interested this white paper discusses the slot allocation processes in ASEAN and how they might help or hinder the industries recovery:

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