Etihad Airways says it has no plans to use the five slots it purchased from Alitalia at London Heathrow airport, having acquired them purely as a mechanism to help finance the Italian carrier.
Abu Dhabi-based Eithad purchased the slots for €60 million ($80 million) as part of its €1.7 billion tie-up with Alitalia, to which it will lease them back under an arrangement similar to that reached with Jet Airways after the purchase of a 24% stake in the Indian carrier last year.
"They are leased back to Alitalia; we aren't going to use them. [It is] part of the way the transaction was created," says Etihad chief executive James Hogan, adding: "We, in fact, also purchased the slots of Jet Airways in India – their London slots – and leased them back. That gives us the ability to invest cash back into the business. When we looked at the construction of the transaction to ensure the cash was there to go into Alitalia, that was one of the options."
Data from UK slot co-ordinator ACL shows that Alitalia has five daily slots at Heathrow, Etihad has three, and Jet Airways also has three.