Not long ago, I wrote about BA’s plans to launch a low costs subsidiary at Gatwick for short-haul flights. Currently, only a small number of long haul leisure flights, such as the Caribbean, fly from Gatwick.
Gatwick Airport has always been extremely competitive for short-haul flying. According to BA, even with all the cuts to service such as the removal of free food and drink, at the peak of flying in 2019 British Airways’ Gatwick short-haul business was not profitable. BA believes that the competitive environment will be even tougher when travel restrictions are lifted than it was pre-pandemic. I personally think there is a huge pent-up demand for travel, so actually, it may well be better than before!
At one point it looked like BA could abandon Gatwick altogether. However, BA is now saying that they will only resume Gatwick operations if there is a way to make it profitable. This is obviously where the low-cost subsidiary comes in.
There is some good news – the new airline will be British Airways branded and they will offer the same full standard of service that BA currently has, with the usual competitive fares. This sounds very similar to the Cityflyer model that operates at London City and some regional airports. So you would have the usual Club Europe service, status benefits, Avios lounges etc.
At the moment it is not a done deal as there are ongoing union discussions and a BALPA (pilots) ballot. The only savings will come from staff, which seems to mainly be the pilots. Many of the routes at Gatwick area seasonal which then leaves BA with a surplus of pilots in the winter. Other low-cost airlines lay off the pilots in quiet times or have agreements for reduced working. I would guess this is what BA aims to introduce to make it competitive on similar routes.
Interestingly BA say that they are also “in parallel running a process of evaluating alternatives for the London Gatwick slots” whatever that means. I’m guessing this could include selling them which obviously they may have stated to sharpen the minds of staff that may object to the new proposals. In the long term, I can’t see them managing to provide a full short-haul schedule at Heathrow as there simply won’t be room.