LONDON – In late 2011, IAG, owner of British Airways, agreed to a legally binding acquisition of BMI from Lufthansa for £172.5m.
The major component of the deal was securing their portfolio of slots at London Heathrow, representing 8.5% of the total capacity.
With the prospect of an increase of slots at an already oversubscribed and capacity-constrained airport, the purchase drew the attention of the European Commission competition authority.
Similar mergers and takeovers had been prevented in the past, especially for those operating within the same country, such as was the case with Ryanair and Aer Lingus and Olympian and Aegean.
The final outcome of the European Commissions investigation was published on the 30th March 2012, Case No COMP/M.6447.
Serious concerns were raised regarding the number of destinations and the level of competition available.
These destinations were Aberdeen and Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and internationally to Nice, Moscow, Cairo, Amman, and Riyadh.
The requirements of the decision are to release up to a total of seven frequencies per day in total on the domestic pairs and in addition, up to five frequencies per day on the international city pairs (including the domestic city pairs).
By the set deadline of the 10th September 2020, both Aeroflot and Saudia informed the monitoring trustee of their proposed slot request for the Summer 2021 season.
Whilst Aeroflot continued the use of their slots on their London – Moscow services, Saudia did not take up the slots at that time.
Filed on the 8th November 2021, Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) reports that British Airways and Saudia have completed a slot swap as part of the “BMI/IAG Remedy” commencing at the start of the Summer 2022 season.
Saudia will operate a daily flight, utilizing a 777-300ER, arriving at 06:30 and departing at 09:00 every day except Wednesdays, when it will depart at 09:10.
This is in addition to the 28 weekly slot pairs the airline currently holds.
Saudia currently utilizes their slots daily on Riyadh and Jeddah rotations utilizing a mix of Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft. Both flights have operated continuously for the past month.
For an airline like Saudia, this is quite a feat given the amount of competition there is surrounding slots at London Heathrow.
But of course, this is ample opportunity for the airline to get its foot further in the door when it comes to penetrating that market from the Middle East against the likes of Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and others.