Slot co-ordinator ACL which handles slots for some of the important global hubs and airports in the United Kingdom released initial co-ordination for London Stansted – one of the six airports serving the London region. The initial co-ordination is for the Northern Winter 2020 schedule which begins from 25th October 2020.
The demand for slots at London Stansted is down by 17% over last winter initial co-ordination report. There is also a drop of 16.4% in Passenger Air Traffic Movements (ATM). Initial co-ordination report is published for Level 3 airports as classified by IATA, where the airport is termed extremely congested and requiring slot controls. Such airports also have the rights to deny / reject flight requests without asking for a change in time as they are running very close to the peak – either at runway capacity, apron capacity or terminal capacity.
The much restricted and sought after London City Airport is also seeing a drop of 2.5% in Passenger Traffic Movements in initial co-ordination.
Airlines tend to ask for more slots or put in additional requests in the initial co-ordination as they work out the business plan to launch new flights or work with other airports in the region for slots. London for example sees maximum demand at Heathrow and airlines are willing to look for other airports based on the slot availability and allotment at Heathrow.
The last few years have seen IndiGo and Spicejet file for slots at London area airports but not fly even after allocation. Vistara had bagged slots at London Gatwick, while its slot request for London Heathrow was rejected last season. In October 2019, Air India started flights to London Stansted from Amritsar. These were further ramped up with flights from Mumbai, until the airline got temporary slots at London Heathrow.
Since the fall of Jet Airways – which had considerable dominance of the India – London market, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways had adjusted their frequencies to get a slice of the market and it would have looked very different than before had summer schedule of 2020 seen flights from the beginning.
As for London Stansted, it is seeing cancellation of Arkia to Tel Aviv, drastic reduction by Eurowings from 132 Air Traffic movements to 10 and cancellation of all operations to Stansted by Wizz Air.
Indian carriers at Stansted
In the recent filing, Air India has considerably scaled down its operations to Stansted and returned 14 weekly movements while retaining only 6 air traffic movements per week, translating into thrice a week flights. The airline could continue its London Stansted operations from Amritsar.
IndiGo – which in the previous year had filed for flights from Delhi has not asked for any flights for Winter 2020.
Airline slots are discussed, negotiated and finalized at the bi-annual slot conference which was scheduled in June at Montreal and has been cancelled due to COVID-19. Airlines and Airports are remotely co-ordinating the slots and this year the shifting demand is making it even more difficult for airlines to plan the network. Not only is the demand unknown, the regulations and sustainability by end of October when the Winter schedule begins is also unknown.
While most have continued to ask on where will Vistara deploy its B787-9 and will get to go to London soon? I had stuck my neck out in March this year and said that I believe that Vistara will operate Delhi – London Heathrow with the B787-9 and not have to fly to alternate airports in London area.