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Which airlines have the most Heathrow airport take-off and landing slots?

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

We thought we’d take a look. We have taken the data from Airport Coordination Ltd, which runs the slot allocation programme. The numbers below are for the full winter season which runs from late October until late March (22 weeks).

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

Here are the 25 airlines with the most slots at Heathrow

‘Slots held’ is the total number of individual slots for the entire winter flying season divided by the number of weeks.

Two slots are required per flight. Virgin Atlantic, for example, has 392 slots which equals 196 return flights per week.

AirlineSlots held% of total
British Airways4,77951.84%
Virgin Atlantic3924.25%
Aer Lingus2883.12%
United Airlines2783.02%
American Airlines2702.93%
Scandinavian Airlines2162.34%
Swiss International Air Lines1681.82%
Delta Air Lines1641.78%
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines1441.56%
Air Canada1121.21%
Air France981.06%
Qatar Airways900.98%
Turkish Airlines880.95%
TAP Air Portugal760.82%
Cathay Pacific740.80%
Etihad Airways700.76%
Singapore Airlines580.63%
Air India560.61%
Austrian Airlines560.61%
ITA – Italia Trasporto Aereo520.56%

Unsurprisingly, British Airways comes out on top with over 50% of all slots allocated (the grand total of slots across all airlines is 9220 per week, so 658 departures per day). This is an order of magnitude more than Virgin Atlantic which has a meagre 4.25% in comparison.

The list doesn’t adjust for common ownership. In reality, Lufthansa Group has many more slots than it seems because they are listed by individual airline, rather than the group as a whole. In theory you could add in SWISS, Eurowings and other Lufthansa Group airlines to their total.

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 new requests are published by Airport Coordination.

The largest demands for fresh slots for Winter 2023 were from British Airways (154 per week), Loganair (76), ITA (68), Aurigney (56), Virgin Atlantic (56) and Emirates (48). These would be slots which come up from airlines forfeiting their existing ones due to non-use.

British Airways and Loganair succeeded in gaining some new slots. New airlines include LATAM Peru, which is launching daily direct flights to Lima this winter, as well as Tunisair and Croatia Airlines. Not all airlines which receive slots end up using them, as some require at least one daily slot pair to make it worthwhile.

Slot allocation by alliance

Let’s take a look at Heathrow slot allocation by airline alliance. Looking at all airlines, oneworld comes out on top with 60% of the slot allocation. This isn’t surprising given that British Airways, a oneworld member, is the single largest Heathrow slot holder.

Star Alliance trails with 18% whilst SkyTeam is barely in the same league with just over 10%. This is a substantially better performance than in previous years, before Virgin Atlantic joined SkyTeam.

Heathrow slot allocations by airline alliance:

Star Alliance18.2%

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

Heathrow slot holders by alliance, without British Airways:

Star Alliance37.7%
oneworld exc BA16.6%

In such a scenario, Star Alliance has the same number of slots as its competitors combined.

The numbers vary again when you take into consideration Aer Lingus and Eurowings, who are not officially part of an alliance but are strongly affiliated to an alliance member. Aer Lingus is oneworld focussed given its ownership by IAG. Eurowings is a subsidiary of Lufthansa and therefore closely aligned with Star Alliance:

Heathrow slot allocations based on alliance and core partnerships:

oneworld 60.0%
Star Alliance19.0%

Comments (52)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Paul says:

    Brilliant article- very insightful- thanks

  • Alice says:

    I’m more interested in who has the fewest slots. Which are the rarest airlines to fly to Heathrow?

  • Marcin says:

    Would be interesting to see an article what are the rules for granding new slots. Obviously they can be bought from another airlines, what about allocation of new ones from those lost etc. is priority given to new destinations/ airlines not serving the airport. Any other rules?

    • Rob says:

      ACL is an independent body but what its guidelines are is not clear. Obviously it does NOT have a remit to encourage competition, or BA would never get any new ones. I’ve also seen it give out slots to new entrants which will realistically never be used, eg one flight per week. No-one would set up a Heathrow operation for that.

  • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

    BA should be recalling its own slots that it leased out first before getting any more from the pool.

    Giving them more and more simply reduces the amount of competition at LHR which suits BA but not the consumer.

  • BBbetter says:

    Shows how important it is for government to intervene and improve competition. Less slots for BA and more for VS please.

    • JDB says:

      It isn’t within the power of the government; it has given the power away to an independent body. Either way if the government or any government body made such an arbitrary decision as to take slots from BA and give them to Virgin, both BA and other airlines who want slots would almost certainly challenge that decision by way of Judicial Review and they would have a very good prospect of winning.

      • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

        What powers the government hath given away it can take back.

        It already has an aviation regulator so it could give the CAA slot regulation powers or pass regulations for ACL to implement.

        I don’t think @BBbetter was advocating taking slots from BA just not giving them any new ones.

      • Marcin says:

        It would be great to have a concept of periodic reviews, customer service requirements for an airline with largest amount of slots: if let’s say BA slips in customer satisfaction ranking (based for example on number of complaints or other metrics like independent customers surveys), they would automatically loose some slots which would need to be given to a competitor.

        That would have encourage a monoplistic player to actually care about customer experience which otherwise they don’t have so much incentive on!

        • Dubious says:

          Unfortunately I suspect a competitor might feel compelled to generate false complaints with that metric. A nice idea but I probably needs a bit more tinkering to refine.

      • BBbetter says:

        Re-distributing slots doesnt have to mean an authoritative snatching of their slots. Govt can pass a law mandating the regulator to increase competition.

    • Dubious says:

      They tend to follow the Worldwide Slot Guidelines. Not ever country that uses slots follows them, but I think Heathrow does.

      What you might need to do to effect change would be to adjust these guidelines rather than look directly to the government of the day.

  • Error says:

    The article has a mistake. Croatia Airlines did not gain any new slots. In fact, it gained no new slots in almost three decades.

  • Dev says:

    One thing I never understood was how a “freebie” can end up being monetised but the user. Airlines either have to be very lucky and get the slots free of charge by ACL (and then can sell them) or have to purchase them.
    For the former, why doesn’t the UK government not tax (capital gains).

    E.g. Kenya Airways sold its 2nd pair of slots (early morning arrival and departure to Oman Air for about $80m which was a world record). That is $80m capital appreciation on an asset. The UK government should have swiped $16m straight away.

    (Btw, Kenya Airways are desperate to get that slot back now!)

  • PeterK says:

    When the owners of GB Airways sold the airline to easyJet 15 years ago, easyJet paid circa £100m for the airline and its 30 or so daily LGW slot pairs; separately the owners traded the airline’s 4 daily LHR slot pairs for circa £50m!

    Perfect timing for the GB Airways owners as in the same year the US and EU signed an open skies agreement allowing carriers to switch more of their LGW US services to LHR (e.g. ATL, DFW, IAH, MSP). Quite a few LHR slots were traded in that year!

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