Flybe has sold its arrival and departure slots at Gatwick, blaming its decision on a 102 per cent rise in airport charges over the last five years.
The regional airline sold its 25 slots to Easyjet for £20 million. It will continue to operate its Gatwick routes until the end of March 2014.
Flybe has been forced to issue a succession of profit warnings over the last year and is currently restructuring its struggling UK operation, including the loss of 300 jobs.
In a statement, the carrier said: “The decision is as a result of the pricing regime applied by the airport’s owners to the operators of smaller, regional aircraft which, in Flybe’s case, has resulted in a 102 per cent rise over the last five years.
“In a well-publicised, lengthy and expensive complaint, the airline used the Airports Act 1986 to argue to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in 2010 that Gatwick was acting in an anti-competitive and discriminatory manner.
“Despite support from other airlines, communities and governments around the British Isles, the fact that Flybe operates more UK domestic flights than any other airline and has won the airport’s Gold Award for punctuality in every quarter since its introduction in 2009, the CAA ruled in September 2012 that Gatwick was within its rights to raise their landing fees for smaller aircraft, thus paving the way for today’s regrettable announcement.”
Flybe will continue to operate all its seven domestic Gatwick routes – from Belfast City, Guernsey, Inverness, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Newcastle and Newquay – until March 29 next year.
The funds generated by the sale of the slots to Easyjet will be “re-invested in the remaining 159 Flybe routes”, the airline said.
Easyjet today confirmed it has purchased the Flybe slots at Gatwick.
A spokesperson 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.”
Earlier this month, Flybe announced that passengers can now guarantee ticket prices on the airline’s website for up to 24 hours. The “Price Lock-Down” service allows customers to pay a fee to freeze any quoted fare at flybe.com for a day (see online news, May 10).
Report by Graham Smith