Flybe sells Gatwick slots to easyjet

It has been confirmed today that a deal has been struck between the two UK-based, low-cost airlines, Flybe and easyjet, for easyjet to purchase all of Flybe’s slots at Gatwick airport.

Flybe has sold its 25 arrival and departure slots at Gatwick to easyjet for £20 million. Flybe’s shareholders will need to approve the deal prior to an expected official transfer of the slots in the summer of 2014.

In a statement easyjet said, ‘The slots will transfer from summer 2014 and will allow easyJet to provide additional frequencies on popular existing routes from Gatwick, as well as add new destinations across the UK and Europe.’

Whether easyjet’s plans for the slots will include any of the eight routes currently operated out of Gatwick by Flybe remains to be seen. These include Belfast City, Guernsey, Jersey, Inverness, Isle of Man, Newcastle and Newquay in the UK, and Bergerac in France.

Flybe says that the sale has been forced upon it by increased airport fees for smaller aircraft at Gatwick, which it says have risen by 102 percent within 5 years, in addition to the added impact of increased Air Passenger Duty.

In its statement Flybe said, ‘The proceeds from the proposed exchange will reduce the indebtedness of the group and be used to help finance the restructuring plan announced on January 23, 2013 and for general working capital purposes.’

‘It is anticipated that under the agreement with Easyjet, Flybe will continue to operate all of the slots until March 2014, during which time there will be no changes to flights, frequencies or timings to or from Gatwick. Flybe would then intend to exit its seven routes operated to and from the Gatwick market.’

It added that the increased costs at Gatwick mean that, ‘Flybe has a significant per seat cost penalty at Gatwick against the operators of larger, 150+ seat aircraft, such as Easyjet and IAG.’

‘It is the view of the board that the increase in charges, combined with the penalistic levels of Air Passenger Duty imposed on UK domestic airlines by successive governments, have resulted in Flybe’s services to and from Gatwick becoming unsustainable in the long-term.’