easyJet (U2, London Luton) has beaten competing carriers to acquire lucrative slots at London Gatwick and Bristol Int'l for GBP36 million (USD46 million).

Other interested airlines for the slots included IAG International Airlines Group (IAG), parent of British Airways (BA, London Heathrow), as well as several other carriers including low-cost carrier (LCC) Wizz Air (W6, Budapest) and Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow).

The slots became available following the collapse of 178-year-old tour operator Thomas Cook and its leisure airline Thomas Cook Airlines UK (MT, Manchester Int'l) in September and were considered one of the most valuable assets resulting from the liquidation.

easyJet reported on November 8 that it had acquired 12 summer slot pairs and eight winter slot pairs at Gatwick, as well as six summer slot pairs and one winter slot pair in Bristol. The LCC intends to provide route plans for the newly acquired slots when it reports its full-year results on November 19.

This move only goes to bolster the airline's position at Gatwick, already its biggest base, as it is the London airport's biggest airline, commanding 39% of weekly capacity and 43% of weekly frequencies. The story is the same in Bristol, where the LCC is also the largest carrier, with 57% of weekly frequencies and 63% of weekly seats.

When low-cost carrier Monarch Airlines (ZB, London Luton) collapsed in 2017, the victors in the scramble to buy slots were British Airways and Wizz Air, which acquired slots at Gatwick and London Luton airports, generating GBP54 million (USD69 million) for the administrators. Reports at the time suggested that the Gatwick slots accounted for as much as GBP50 million (USD64 million) of the purchase.

At the same time as easyJet's announcement, fellow LCC Jet2 (LS, Leeds/Bradford), the UK’s third-largest airline, announced the purchase of Thomas Cook’s slots at Birmingham Int'l, London Stansted and Manchester Int'l airports for an undisclosed amount.