South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) is contemplating selling one of its two daily slot pairs at London Heathrow airport to gain much-needed cash, Business Day has reported citing unnamed officials.

The airline did not officially confirm the plan.

South African Airways is currently using a landing slot from one slot pair and a departure slot from the other to run its daily A330-300 services between Johannesburg O.R. Tambo and Heathrow. It is reportedly contemplating changing the schedule to fully utilise one slot pair and free the other up for sale.

According to the ch-aviation schedules module, SAA's flights arrive at Heathrow at 0625L and depart after a near 12-hour turnaround at 1805L. Changing the schedule would have the added benefit of reducing the long turnaround time and thus increasing the productivity of the aircraft.

On the other hand, the airline's overnight flights are attractive for passengers and rescheduling one of the flights to another time could lower the demand.

British Airways operates 2x daily between Heathrow and Johannesburg, also flying overnight and with a 12 to 13-hour turnaround at the South African gateway. Virgin Atlantic also plies the route 2x daily in a similar manner. BA's 2x daily flights to Cape Town face the same problem. However, the airline's 3x weekly services to Durban King Shaka are operated overnight southbound and during the day northbound with a short, two-hour turnaround in South Africa.

Given their scarcity, slots at Heathrow have been known to retail for tens of millions of dollars.