London Heathrow Airport is becoming more accessible to business aircraft operators thanks to the downturn in airline traffic. Following the controversial abolition of opportunity slots in 1998, the UK gateway had become almost unusable for ad hoc corporate flights. But, according to Heathrow FBO Metro Business Aviation, an increasing number of slots are becoming available and slot coordination company ACL appears to be exercising greater discretion in issuing them to non-scheduled operators.
Metro’s Heathrow operations manager, John Coles, told AIN that, with airline movements down by as much as 20 percent, slots are suddenly appearing on ACL’s Web site (www.acl-org.uk). For example, at 6 p.m. on November 30 a dozen slots had become available for use between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. the following evening.
Officially, slots can be applied only for 10 days before a trip. However, Coles said that his customers have been able to secure slots at less than a day’s notice and have also been able to book trips by as much as two to three months in advance.
However, access to Heathrow for business aviation operators could have been further improved if the European Commission (EC) had decided to enforce its “use it or lose it” policy on airlines that do not operate all their allocated slots. The EC decided to waive the market access rule in view of the rapidly deteriorating trading conditions being experienced by major carriers. This has allowed airlines to sit on unused slots in the hope that they will be reactivated as demand picks up.