British Airways aims to relaunch Gatwick short-haul service in March 2022 after union deal

Nov 11, 2021

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A breakthrough in negotiations with the union representing flight attendants has spurred British Airways to target March 2022 for the debut of its new short-haul service out of London Gatwick Airport (LGW).

The airline has registered the name of the venture, BA EuroFlyer, in a clear sign that it expects an imminent take-off. The new operation’s livery is expected to retain the familiar BA branding.

TPG had previously reported that BA had all but decided to abandon its short-haul plans at Gatwick, the UK’s second most-trafficked airport, as negotiations with the unions for pilots and flight attendants had stalled. But in an interview with Bloomberg, Luis Gallego, CEO of British Airways’ corporate parent IAG, said the airline has made great progress with the union representing the cabin crew. Once that deal is finalized, it would leave only an agreement with workers on the ground to reach.

“Our plans for a new BA subsidiary to fly short-haul at Gatwick are progressing well, and whilst we still have some further negotiations to sort, it looks likely that we will be up and running to fly the summer schedule,” BA CEO and chairman Sean Doyle said in a statement.

The new development follows a breakthrough in talks last month with the pilots union. The airline agreed to better pay and other benefits for BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association) members to operate the planes in the new low-cost operation. According to Simple Flying, the union took the new proposal to its members and 82 per cent voted to accept the deal. 

BA’s new budget airline subsidiary will handle regional and leisure routes from Gatwick, which is hugely important to the carrier’s operations. The airline’s short-haul service has been essentially grounded for 18 months due to the pandemic. The loss of business had BA contemplating exiting Gatwick altogether and shifting its flights to London Heathrow (LHR).

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This new BA-run budget offering is designed to keep the airline competitive in the domestic air space. Leisure travel is expected to bounce back in a big way following the past year and a half in which most people were unable to travel and visit family.

With travel protocols being relaxed and the U.K.’s traffic light travel system being scrapped, cautious optimism is permeating the travel industry. BA views getting its short-haul services and leisure routes to places like Jersey (JER), Malaga (AGP) and Faro (FAO) from Gatwick up and running again as key to sparking its post-pandemic recovery.

Related: Why European travel may take longer to rebound than we think

Featured image by Gareth Fuller – PA Images for Getty Images

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