SAS just sold two of its London Heathrow slots to an unspecified buyer for $75,000,000.
Under the deal, SAS will have use of the gates for up to three years. SAS drops from 19 daily slot pairs to 17, but the number of daily seats ex-LHR on SAS will not drop. To compensate for two fewer slots, SAS plans larger aircraft for other departures. Could we even see a wide-body service like Finnair’s daily A350 flight between Heathrow and Helsinki? We’ll see.
So few details here, which leads me to the point of this post–
Who did SAS sell the slots to?
Let the rampant speculation begin.
No carriers have announced new service to Heathrow yet and that announcement may be quite far off considering SAS will maintain use of the slots for three more years.
But here’s my
dream speculation —
Buyer One: JetBlue
JetBlue has hinted about London service for years. At an investor’s meeting last autumn London Heathrow was specifically singled out as the largest plausible unserved market from Boston.
But there’s a problem — with which aircraft? The answer: Airbus A321LR. JetBlue ordered 30 aircraft last year, 15 which will have the capacity to reach London. Deliveries will begin as early as 2019, but likely in 2020.
The LR variant of the aircraft has a range of 4,000 nmi (7,400 km) which is more than sufficient to reach London from Boston or New York.
JetBlue’s MINT Business Class product is highly competitive, frankly outdoing what all of the competition offers on the same route.
Buyer Two: Hawaiian
Hawaiian Airlines wants to fly to London from Honolulu non-stop. Like JetBlue, a new aircraft from Airbus may make this possible. Hawaiian ordered six A330neos (converted A350 orders) which will be delivered in 2018 and 2019. Airbus predicts the new -800 variant of this aircraft will be able to easily reach London non-stop from Honolulu (7,237 miles, so hardly world’s longest route).
The carrier is also considering acquiring (now cheaper) used A380s. Don’t look for the superjumbo on a new London route, however. More likely will be to see potential A380 flights to Tokyo or Los Angeles.
It does seem less likely to me that Hawaiian bought these slots, however, because I cannot imagine why it would need two instead of one. Then again, all we know is that SAS sold two…not if they were sold directly to a carrier or some sort intermediary.
It is fun to speculate about new U.S. carriers serving London. With Heathrow so severely overcrowded, slots attractive incredible sums of money. The slots could well have been acquired by a Chinese airline (like China Southern’s recent slot acquisition from Air Canada) but I’m secretly hoping its JetBlue or Hawaiian.