LONDON (Reuters) - The administrators of failed British airline Monarch are seeking clarification in court about whether or not they have the right to sell Monarch’s airport slots, potentially the most valuable remaining part of the business.
The status of Monarch’s airport slots has been ambiguous since the airline went bust at the start of October.
Administrators at KPMG have maintained they have the right to sell the slots, reportedly worth 60 million pounds ($79 million), and said on Thursday they wanted to establish that right in court.
“Given the complexity of the slot exchange process, we are seeking a judicial review on this particular matter,” Blair Nimmo, partner at KPMG and joint administrator, said in a statement.
“We believe this to be in the wider public interest, with the intention of resolving this matter quickly and with the greatest chance of maximising the continued use of the slots.”
Monarch’s owner Greybull Capital declined to comment.
The chief executives of British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L) and Norwegian Air Shuttle (NWC.OL) have both told Reuters they are interested in using the slots, even though the process by which they might be acquired was unclear.
Monarch went bust at the start of this month, and it was immediately grounded, meaning Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority had to repatriate thousands of passengers who were overseas at the time.
Airport slots are assigned to airlines twice each year by Airport Coordination Limited (ACL), with the initial co-ordination for the schedule for summer 2018 occurring at the end of October.
A briefing paper by the British parliament in June said “there is conjecture about who has legal ownership of airport slots,” but they can be bought and sold between airlines in a secondary market, as happens at Heathrow, where slots are in short supply but high demand.
SAS (SAS.ST) sold two slot pairs at Heathrow to American Airlines for $75 million earlier this year.
They can also be taken on by carriers in the event of a takeover, such as has happened with Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) buying large parts of insolvent rival Air Berlin AB1.DE.
ACL was not immediately available for comment.
($1 = 0.7572 pounds)
Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mark Potter