UK low-cost carrier EasyJet has struck a new long-term deal at its biggest base, London Gatwick airport.

The airline is the largest operator at the south London airport, even as it prepares to return some of the slots it has leased at the facility from rival British Airways.

Gatwick tower-c-NATS

Source: NATS

Speaking during a full-year results call on 28 November, EasyJet chief financial officer Kenton Jarvis said: ”We were in a seven-year deal that was due to end in April 2024, and yesterday we signed a new long-term deal with Gatwick that we are very pleased with and secures EasyJet as an anchor partner for Gatwick. So we’ve got a deal agreed now that moves us forward for the next six years.”

Cirium schedules data shows that Gatwick accounts for around 10% of EasyJet’s November seats, more than double the amount of its next biggest airport. EasyJet represents more than a third of total seat capacity from Gatwick.

EasyJet biggest bases by departing seats (Nov 23)
 Source: Cirium schedules data Nov 23, departing flights only
London Gatwick 3,447 612,748 810,528,995
Geneva 1,446 266,595 271,748,038
Paris Charles de Gaulle 1,418 255,995 215,590,522
Milan Malpensa 1,404 251,969 288,308,499
London Luton 1,381 242,526 289,512,467
Manchester 1,311 241,986 339,069,502
Amsterdam Schiphol 1,366 239,991 171,369,521
Belfast International 1,228 218,418 121,520,600
Bristol 1,152 212,895 245,630,241
Edinburgh 1,107 201,344 177,444,831
TOTAL 34,691 6,235,516 7,249,520,142

The airline’s presence has been bolstered by a deal struck during the pandemic under which it has leased some slots from British Airways while the latter was restructuring its Gatwick operations. BA also leased some slots to sister carrier Vueling. 

EasyJet chief commercial officer Sophie Dekkers says the airline will next summer return around 3,000 slots to BA – representing about three aircraft worth of flying.

“We will hold over 90,000 slots [at Gatwick] and we are only giving back 3,000. So that will take us down from 81 to 78 aircraft,” she explains. “BA originally had 32 [aircraft] at Gatwick, they went down to 16 aircraft – we picked up eight [aircraft worth of slots] of those.” It will return the remainder of the slots over the coming years, ultimately leaving it with a 73 aircraft-sized operation at Gatwick.

BA has for its part since restructured its Gatwick flying under its new Euroflyer brand, an operation it expects to increase to 22 aircraft next summer.

Deckers says EasyJet is also adding more buffer into its Gatwick schedule next year following air traffic control (ATC) disruption and congestion last summer across the network. The carrier cancelled around 1,700 flights from its summer schedule, blaming European airspace and ATC challenges, most of which involved consolidating departures from Gatwick.

“We took some capacity out in the middle of the summer due to air traffic control issues and congestion over the southern Med,” she says. “We recognise from Eurocontrol stats, that that is not going to improve next year. So let’s be on the front foot and build that in from June.”