By David Casey with additional reporting by Victoria Moores
Ryanair is to take over more than 300 weekly slots at London Stansted (STN) at the start of the summer 2021 season that are being vacated by rival easyJet.
A slot swap notice filed with the UK-based Airport Coordination Limited reveals that 312 weekly slots are being transferred between the carriers, equivalent to around 22 arrivals and departures per day.
EasyJet confirmed in August plans to close its base at STN blaming the “unprecedented impact” of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine measures imposed by the UK government. However, the airline said it would continue to serve the London airport from other bases.
“Following the closure of our base at Stansted, we no longer require these slots and so can confirm we have completed a transaction with Ryanair to transfer the slots to them. We aren’t providing any further details on the slots transaction,” an easyJet spokeswoman told Aviation Week Network.
Prior to the coronavirus crisis, easyJet was the second largest carrier at STN behind Ryanair. Data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows easyJet offered 1.6 million departure seats from the airport in 2019, giving it a 10.2% capacity share. Ryanair commanded a 73.8% share of the market, providing almost 11.7 million departure seats during the year.
The closure of easyJet’s base at STN and transfer of slots will leave leisure carrier Jet2.com as the biggest challenger to Ryanair at the airport. Jet2.com offered 1.2 million departure seats in 2019, giving it a 7.3% share of capacity.
Speaking on an analyst call on Nov. 17 following the publication of its annual financial results, easyJet CFO Andrew Findlay described the transfer of slots at STN as an “opportunistic disposal.” He affirmed that the airline has no plans to relinquish slots at other airports, saying it would protect its position at locations which are valuable to its overall network strategy.
EasyJet posted a headline loss of £835 million ($1.1 billion) for the 12 months through September as passenger numbers dropped 50% year-on-year to 48.1 million. Group revenues fell from £6.39 billion to £3 billion over the same period.
Based on the current travel restrictions imposed across parts of Europe, easyJet expects to fly no more than 20% of pre-pandemic capacity in the three months to the end of December 2020.
CEO Johan Lundgren said the LCC would maintain a “disciplined approach to cash generative flying over the winter,” retaining the flexibility to “rapidly ramp” up when demand returns.
“We know our customers want to fly with us and underlying demand is strong, as evidenced by the 900% increase in sales in the days following the lifting of quarantine for the Canary Islands in October,” Lundgren said.
"EasyJet has not only withstood the impact of the pandemic, but now has an unparalleled foundation upon which to emerge strongly from the crisis. Our unmatched short-haul network and trusted brand will see customers choose easyJet when returning to the skies.”
Photo credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week Network