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American and Finnair swap slots at Heathrow

written by Adam Thorn | December 24, 2020
Heathrow airport will begin offering rapid COVID testing for departing passengers (Source: Heathrow)

American Airlines has entered into a slot swap agreement with Finnair covering a daily slot-pair at London Heathrow.

American will use the newly acquired slots to operate daily flights from Seattle-Tacoma International to London Heathrow with its Boeing 777-200ERs. Flights will start next summer.

American Airlines currently operates a single daily route to London Heathrow – from Dallas Fort Worth with Boeing 777-300ERs. It also operates cargo-only flights to the British airport from Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles International.

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In return, Finnair will increase its Helsinki Vantaa – London Heathrow flights from 2x daily to 3x daily from March 2021.

It comes as slot rules again become an industry issue after they caused so-called “ghost flights” at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Usually, restrictions mean airlines must operate 80 per cent of their allocated slots or face losing the right to it for the next season. However, with coronavirus damaging demand, airlines were flying low capacity aircraft to avoid losing their berth in future.

This situation ended after a number of concessions were made around the world.

However, the resumption of domestic and international flying has again raised challenges. Last month, World of Aviation reported how the IATA conceded to budget airlines who demanded rules to the pre-COVID standard sooner rather than later.

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The current waiver on “use it or lose it” requirement expires on 31 March, however will now, once amendments are made, be extended until October 2021.

Regulations on the allocation of airport slots have big ramifications for airline competition and market access for low-cost carriers, which were making ever deeper inroads before the pandemic.

“We oppose the extension of slot waivers into summer 2021 because this will lead to fewer flights and higher fares for consumers,” a Ryanair spokeswoman said.

“Legacy airlines at hub airports will have no incentives to operate flights.

“Slot waivers distort competition by preventing low-fare airlines from expanding while legacy carriers are able to reduce capacity and raise prices.”

The issue has become increasingly divisive among both airlines and airports, pitting budget carriers – largely absent from IATA membership – against traditional carriers.

In a bid to address concerns, the new proposal would restore the “use-it-or-lose-it” principle during the northern hemisphere summer, but reduce the utilisation rate required to keep slots to 50 per cent.

Additional reporting by airlinerwatch.com

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