India UK market – Winter Schedule 2020

I have keenly followed a couple of markets and the most interesting ones have been those between India and UK, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE. No wonder that these are also the most sought after markets for airlines from India. While India – USA is open skies, the rest four have seen airlines clamour to get the rights, slots, codeshare arrangements and everything possible to not just get a slice but a larger one!

The last few years have seen airlines be ambitious about long haul travel with narrow body aircraft with Spicejet and IndiGo achieving those ambitions as they inducted the new generation aircraft – the Boeing B737 MAX and A320neo family respectively. This helped opened up routes like Delhi – Hong Kong from Spicejet and Bengaluru – Hong Kong for IndiGo. Narrow body not only gives the range, but the ability to operate the long route without a larger risk and costs associated with inducting a wide body in the fleet.

Last year, when Network Thoughts covered the India – UK market extensively – a lot of readers came back with suggestions of having a single blog which gets updated often than having a new blog and I have taken that suggestion for Winter Schedule 2020. The data released by ACL – helped this website break the news of total seats in the B787-9 of Vistara and also about IndiGo’s ambitions to the other markets in UK beyond London. Some of the links below could help readers with the last few years

Vistara’s B787-9 to have 299 seats, bags slots at London Gatwick
IndiGo, Spicejet and Vistara had filed slots at London Heathrow for Summer 2020
What summer 2020 could look like for India – UK market?
Virgin Atlantic to connect Manchester to New Delhi this October
IndiGo intends to fly the A330-300 to Manchester in Summer 2020
Virgin Atlantic opens reservation for its third flight to India; India – UK market gets exciting

For those interested in global narrow body ambitions of Indian LCCs – the three part series can be found here – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

India – UK market bilateral

Like most markets, the India – UK market is also governed by bilateral rights. While the air services agreement can be restricted by frequency or capacity or a combination, the India – UK bilateral has restrictions only between Mumbai/ Delhi and London Heathrow. There is a cap of 56 weekly frequencies from each side, translating into eight daily flights for each side.

There are no restrictions to operate to any other airport in India from London Heathrow or to operate to any other airport in the London Area from any airport within India.

Slot Allocation

London Heathrow is one of the most congested airports in the world. However, Stansted and Gatwick – the alternate airports in the London region are also congested and getting a slot is no cake walk. Airlines make an initial submission which is reviewed by the slot co-ordinator and an offer is made – which either matches the requested slots or a nearest available slot is offered. At times, the request is rejected due to non-availability.

Airlines and slot co-ordinators meet at the bi-annual slot conference to discuss, exchange and negotiate slots to come to a conclusion. The initial filing is followed with initial co-ordination, the slot conference and a final season start schedule. Airlines are allotted timelines to return the slot, which is then handed over to other airlines who wanted a slot in the same time band or wanted a new slot.

Initial co-ordination phase

This section would cover the initial co-ordination phase for winter schedule 2020

London Stansted

Air India (AI): Requested for 6 air traffic movements per week, translating into three weekly departures. The airline is likely to continue operating to Amritsar with a thrice a week B787-8 Dreamliner with 256 seats.

IndiGo has not filed for any slots at Stansted. Last year it had filed for slots to connect Stansted with New Delhi.

London Gatwick

London Gatwick is considered the second best after Heathrow and with Virgin Atlantic vacating slots at London Gatwick – the going is expected to be better than before.

Vistara (UK) – Vistara has filed for a daily service between Delhi and London Gatwick. The airline already has one B787-9 in its fleet and another could be delivered any moment. The airline has been allocated one pair of daily slot for services between Delhi and London Gatwick but only 5 of the 14 slots have been as requested and one slot being offered is an hour or more away than requested.

Spicejet (SG) – The airline has requested for double daily services from Gatwick – which looks like a daily each to Mumbai and Delhi. However, Spicejet has been allocated only 18 air traffic movements, i.e. nine departures per week. While the aircraft to be operated is not declared, the calculation translates to an aircraft with 267 seats – most likely an Airbus A330! The airline has not asked for slots for the entire season but to start later in the season.

London Heathrow

If there is one airport where every airline wants to be – it is London Heathrow (LHR). The airport also allows selling and leasing of slots and a slot held for long has been a savior for many airlines! Airlines have tried obtaining slot at Heathrow for years before they could get one!

Air India holds 56 slots at London Heathrow – translating to four daily departures. The airline had asked for four additional departures per week, which stands rejected. Vistara filed for a daily flight which has been rejected.

Neither IndiGo nor Spicejet filed for a slot at London Heathrow.


Air India (AI): Maintains 12 air traffic movements per week and would likely continue current operations from Amritsar and New Delhi. The six weekly operations at Birmingham is with the B787-8 Dreamliner.

IndiGo has approvals to operate to Birmingham in summer schedule 2020 with a 341 seat A330 – a type the airline does not currently have in its fleet or on order.

Tail Note

A lot will evolve over the next few weeks. IndiGo and Spicejet have repeatedly filed and not operated in the past which gives them a slight disadvantage when it comes to requesting for newer slots and bagging them.

However, current times are different. A lot of airlines have either vacated or would vacate slots in the London Area airports as demand plummets.

This blog will be updated as and when more information is available.


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