Three of the most valuable commodities in the world: gold, silver…and LHR slots?
Take a worldwide financial hub and throw in an airport bursting at the seams and you have a classic supply and demand dilemma. But the ironic result is empty flights to nowhere.
Perhaps it’s not so ironic when you consider an airline profits not only from its own flights, but by keeping its competition at bay. Heathrow slots are strictly controlled and highly coveted. If an airline fails to utilizes its slots, it loses them. That leads to some creative solutions during slower travel months.
The subject of the video below is a flight between Heathrow and Cardiff, Wales that British Mediterranean Airways ran without passengers…just to keep its Heathrow slot alive during a transition period.
(In case you wondered, British Mediterranean was bought by bmi, which was bought by British Airways.)
Back in the day, United Airlines used to run a service from London to Brussels during the winter when it cut its Dulles schedule from three flights daily to two. Unlike the British Mediterranean flights to Cardiff, these Fifth Freedom flights were offered for sale..and for cheap. Even so, they routinely went out mostly empty and there is no question this route lost money. But it didn’t matter: with a use-it-or-lose-it policy at LHR, United had to do something and lost less money flying to Brussels than an unnecessary extra segment to the USA or losing the slot.
Slot controls lead to interesting behaviors. As Heathrow demonstrates, flights to nowhere can make sense. Take time to watch the video above. It’s worth the five minute investment.