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‘We should consider buying Heathrow slots as investment’

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GUERNSEY should look at buying landing slots at Heathrow as an ‘investment’ despite the likely high cost.

The first flight from Guernsey into Heathrow for more than 20 years operated yesterday. (Picture by Shutterstock)

Charles Parkinson, who is president of Economic Development, said that the island should be prepared to consider such a step as he revealed that it was ‘reasonably likely’ that the renewed link could continue beyond its seven-month trial.

His comments came before yesterday’s launch of the island’s first Heathrow service for 20 years. The one return flight a day is being operated by Flybe and has been subsidised to the tune of £825,000 for the seven-month test period.

Asked if the service could continue beyond the trial, Deputy Parkinson said: ‘Yes, it could carry on into the winter. I think it’s reasonably likely in fact that it will carry on for another six months, if the trial is successful obviously. If it’s not then it will come to an end.

‘Then beyond that who knows? We are babysitting a pair of slots which is owned by an international airline. Basically if you don’t use your slots 80% of the time, you lose them.

‘So, airlines which have got slots that they don’t have an immediate need for often let other airlines babysit them to ensure that they don’t lose the slots. And that’s what we’re doing.’

He added: ‘Looking further forward, there may be more permanent arrangements available at Heathrow. Of course slots do change hands periodically for large sums of money.

‘Heathrow itself has a policy of trying to encourage and retain some regional feeder routes. And they’ve given undertakings in the context of the third runway debate that if they build the third runway that some of the additional slots available will be reserved for regional routes in the UK.’

Asked if the States would ever consider buying a landing slot at Heathrow, Deputy Parkinson said: ‘I certainly think it’s something we should be prepared to consider. They are expensive but at the same time they are an investment. I think it’s fair to say that it’s not likely they’ll go down in value.’

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A 2017 briefing paper published by the House of Commons said that Heathrow had the most valuable slots in the UK – with the price varying by time of day.

An early morning slot pair was reported to be worth around £15m. and then falling to £10m. at midday and £5m. in the evening.

However, the research also quoted the Centre for Aviation who said that the ‘lack of any consistent reporting of prices paid in Heathrow slot trades makes it difficult, if not impossible, to establish reliable market prices’.

That was compounded by the variety of commercial terms and deals, while the value of slots also varied according to the economic cycle.

Will Green

By Will Green
Business Editor

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