British Airways revisiting Gatwick short-haul service after fresh negotiations with pilots’ union

Oct 4, 2021

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UPDATE 4 OCTOBER: The Telegraph now reports British Airways has agreed an improved pay and conditions offer with BALPA for pilots to operate their new short-haul, low-cost venture at Gatwick Airport. BALPA will now take this to their members with their recommendation to vote to accept.

The original post below was published on 24 September 2021.

 

British Airways is abandoning its short-haul flights out of London Gatwick Airport (LGW).

The airline made the decision after its plans to launch a budget airline to handle regional and leisure routes from the UK’s second-busiest airport fell apart. The reason being given for that is negotiations with the pilots’ union BALPA reached an impasse over contract terms.

As a result, BA has decided to do away with nearly all of its short-haul operations at the West Sussex airport, except for limited domestic flights that connect passengers to long-haul leisure routes to destinations such as the Caribbean and Florida. An airline spokesperson said creating a low-cost subsidiary to handle local flights was a priority, as the airline has endured massive losses due to the pandemic.

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“With regret, we will now suspend our short-haul operations at Gatwick, with the exception of a small number of domestic services connecting to our long-haul operation, and will pursue alternative uses for the London Gatwick short-haul slots,” the BA representative said.

 

Most of British Airways’ short-haul flights from Gatwick have been suspended for the past 18 months as a result of the impact the coronavirus has had on the travel industry. In fact, the loss of business since March 2020 had the carrier considering exiting Gatwick altogether, and shifting its flights to London Heathrow (LHR).

But with the U.K.’s traffic light travel system being scrapped and the imminent softening of testing protocols, there are positive signs that travel is on the rebound. BA viewed full resumption of its short-haul services and leisure routes to places like Jersey (JER), Malaga (AGP) and Faro (FAO) from Gatwick as a necessary step in its post-pandemic recovery. It had previously discussed relaunching the flights in the summer of 2022, with as many as 17 Airbus A320 planes, to compete with the biggest airline at Gatwick, easyJet.

British Airways now has to figure out what to do with its take-off and landing permits at Gatwick. They hold great value, so they could be sold or leased to other airlines. It could also choose to pass them to Vueling, the Spanish budget airline that is part of the same group, though the airline does not have the good reputation in the United Kingdom that BA does.

Or, it could try and create a stand-alone budget carrier noting its attempts to create a BA-lite version failed.

Featured image by Gareth Fuller/PA Images for Getty Images

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