UK government stops Russian airlines from cashing in on £50m airport slots
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The latest in a string of measures against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, the British government has imposed further sanctions on Russian airlines to thwart them from selling their unused landing slots for up to £50m.
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Among the carriers now unable to sell these lucrative spots are Aeroflot, Ural Airlines and Rossiya Airlines – the former of course being Russia’s flagship (and state-owned) carrier which was already suspended from the Sky Team Alliance and prohibited from flying within U.K. airspace earlier this year.
“As long as Putin continues his barbarous assault on Ukraine, we will continue to target the Russian economy,” said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “We’ve already closed our airspace to Russian airlines. Today we’re making sure they can’t cash in their lucrative landing slots at our airports. Every economic sanction reinforces our clear message to Putin – we will not stop until Ukraine prevails.”
These developments appear to have been timed to coincide with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps taking up the Presidency of the International Transport Forum, where he’s expected to call on more to be done in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The U.K. was one of the first nations to implement sanctions on Putin and his allies,” said Shapps in a statement. “We forbade entrance to their ships and planes, strangling them of the privilege to benefit from global trade and commerce.
“Today, the U.K. Government has built on the strong action we have already taken against Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot, along with Rossiya and Ural Airlines. This means they will be unable to use their expensive landing slots at U.K. airports. Our actions will also prevent Russia from selling the slots, and cashing in on up to £50 million.”
In a strongly worded message from Downing Street, officials said the latest round of sanctions were designed to slow down and ultimately halt Russian leader Vladimir Putin “and his war machine”, revealing that even Russia’s Central Bank has admitted that sanctions are a major challenge for Russian supply chains.
Make no mistake, landing slots are big money — not least at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) which boasts some of the most expensive retail estate in the world. For pilots, it must be akin to landing on Park Avenue on a Monopoly board such are the huge fees that regularly exchange hands in a bid to control those spots.
As reported by The Points Guy prior to the pandemic, Oman Air set a record by paying £58 million for a pair of take-off and landing slots at Heathrow in early 2016. A year later, Scandinavian Airlines sold two slot pairs at Heathrow for almost £60 million.
British Airways is the biggest holder of slots at Heathrow, with more than 50% of those available, even growing its portfolio through secondary slot trading, which has ensured the airline remains Heathrow’s most dominant player.
Following the U.K’s initially sanctions on Russia which involved banning Aeroflot from landing its airliners in the U.K, Russia wasted no time in it’s own retaliatory ban on BA from landing in Russia, in what officials called a ‘tit for tat’ response — expect the Kremlin to follow-up with a response of its own this time too.
According to senior officials in Whitehall, Russia is heading for the deepest recession since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Additional reporting: Alex Macheras.
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