MIAMI — American Airlines has reached an agreement to purchase a London Heathrow slot pair from struggling Cyprus Airways for $31 million, according to a press release from the Cypriot national carrier. The slot pair will transfer to American Airlines on September 14, 2014 after the peak summer travel season concludes.
American Airlines has one of the largest Heathrow slot portfolios for non-European carriers at Heathrow, holding 14 slot pairs (196 slots) during Summer 2014. The Cyprus Airways slot pair is scheduled for an afternoon service window, with the current Larnaca – London Heathrow flights landing at Heathrow at 1:15 pm and departing at 2:25 pm.
Cyprus Airways was likely pressured into selling its Heathrow slots by deteriorating financial conditions due to Cyprus’ banking and financial crisis. Demand for air services to and from Heathrow from the financial industry has declined sharply, and Cyprus Airways is suffering from a lack of liquidity, which the slot sale will help alleviate. Interestingly, in 2007, Continental Airlines offered Cyprus Airways $70 million for the same slot pair. However, Cyprus Airways declined given that 2007 represented the height of the country’s economic boom and London Heathrow was its most profitable and prestigious route. But circumstances have changed.
Afternoon slots are not quite peak for US carriers, whose flights arrive mostly in the mornings and depart around mid-day. However, for American Airlines, who operates high frequency services from a number of its American hubs to Heathrow in conjunction with partner British Airways, this slot pair can still be put to extremely effective use. The sale is also useful in continuing to establish a baseline for slot valuations at London Heathrow. Clearly, a slot pair used for long haul flights is more valuable than one used for short haul flights, but the $31 million valuation provides an implied value for Heathrow’s 688 odd slot pairs of more than $21.2 billion, a tidy sum indeed on the balance sheet of airlines around the world.