After Monarch Airlines sadly collapsed last October, there was a great deal of speculation around what would happen to their valuable slots at airports around the country but particularly at crowded Gatwick in the south east. They could have reverted back to the airport authority to be distributed among other airlines flying out of the airport but they weren’t. They were all bought up by IAG, the company that owns British Airways. Newspapers were very quick to make predictions about what would happen to these slots and most were aware that the increase in capacity at Gatwick of 28% was greater than British Airways had the staff or planes for so what was the plan?
What is Planned for the Slots?
Some people speculated that the slots might be used for another of IAG’s airlines, Level, which currently fly out of Barcelona and plan to fly out of Paris later in the year. The group’s chief executive Willie Walsh said he had no plans for Level to operate out of the UK this year and was going to use the slots to expand British Airways presence at Gatwick. As well as taking up some of Monarch’s old routes, British Airways are also adding new longer haul routes to Las Vegas, Toronto, Oakland and Fort Lauderdale.
As British Airways aren’t able to procure the aircraft and staff required to fly these new routes from Gatwick overnight, they are using a practice called ‘wet leasing’ which means another airline will be flying these routes on their behalf. That means that a person can book a flight with British Airways but actually be flying with someone else.
How Will this Affect Service?
Some travellers will be concerned that they won’t get the service they expect from British Airways from another carrier but some of the longer European routes will be taken over by Titan airways who can fill in with a very similar fleet of craft to British Airways and are committed to offering customers everything that British Airways would offer for those routes.
Is this Normal Procedure?
Although many people wouldn’t have heard of this kind of arrangement before, it’s actually perfectly normal practice for airlines to ‘wet lease’ in this way. It allows airlines to take advantage of opportunities like the slots coming up at Gatwick which, if they didn’t use them, would be taken off them. Having the flexibility of ‘wet leasing’ allows airlines to meet demand, keep planes in the air and, thereby, keep prices low.
How Long will it Last?
However, as some customers don’t like the idea of booking with one airline and travelling with another and it’s cheaper for airlines to run their own planes, this is likely to be a temporary measure until British Airways have grown their fleet and their staff sufficiently to fill these places themselves.
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