British Airways Backtracks On Summer London Gatwick-Accra Move

British Airways has updated its schedule for the summer season and will no longer be flying to Accra from London Gatwick. Rather, services will operate from the flagship airport for London at Heathrow. The decision comes after Ghanaian authorities threatened ‘reciprocal action’ for the planned airport move.

British Airways, Airbus A350, Accra
British Airways is flying the A350 to Accra, but not from London Gatwick. Photo: Tom Boon -Simple Flying

BA backtracks on Gatwick for Ghana plan

It was back in January when news first emerged that the Ghanaian government was unhappy with British Airways’ service switch from London Heathrow to sister site Gatwick for the summer 2021 season. The country’s Ministry of Aviation expressed a strong objection to the move, even threatening ‘reciprocal action’ over the planned change of airport.

In a statement carried by GhanaWeb, the Ministry said,

“We are not convinced about the reasons for the movement of the Accra-bound BA service from Heathrow to Gatwick Airport and thus strongly object to the changes.”

“In this regard, we wish to state unequivocally, that the Ghanaian authorities will advise itself and take a reciprocal action on behalf of our passengers in the coming days if our call for British Airways to rescind its decision on the movement to Gatwick Airport is not heeded.”

While no detail on the ‘reciprocal action’ was given, Ghanaian media has reported that BA was ‘reconsidering’ its move. Indeed, just this week GhanaWeb claimed that the British airline had written to the Ministry stating that, “it is giving Ghana’s response a serious thought and will communicate their decision in due course.”

Now, it seems the decision has been made. One Mile At A Time has noted today that, for the Summer 2021 season, the rotation from London to Accra will be using London Heathrow, not London Gatwick, as was previously mooted.

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Gatwick, London, British Airways, Easyjet
The airline is moving the service back to Heathrow. Photo: Getty Images

Did BA give in to pressure?

While it would be easy to say that the decision to move back to Heathrow was one borne out of diplomatic consideration, there’s generally more involved in airline decisions than that. British Airways has, throughout the pandemic, leveraged agility in its business planning to optimize for demand wherever it has been seen.

This has, at times, involved fleet retirements, converting passenger aircraft into freighters, and, of course, changes to routes and networks. In December, the airline announced significant changes to its plans for summer 2021 and is continuing to adjust schedules to fit the demand available.

Indeed, in the early days of the pandemic, Gatwick was one of the first bases the British airline abandoned. Although it returned briefly over the summer months, November saw the airline pause its Gatwick operations once more.

British Airways Backtracks On Summer London Gatwick-Accra Move
Traffic at LGW is still incredibly low. Flight data:

With stringent border restrictions in place from the UK until at least mid-May, it only makes sense for the flag carrier to consolidate its operations. Having more of its long-haul aircraft in one place is going to reduce costs and increase flexibility for the airline. In a statement to Simple Flying today, British Airways said,

​“We keep our network under constant review and will be continuing our long-running service to Accra from London Heathrow.​”

While the knee-jerk reaction from Ghana may have played into British Airways’ planning to some extent, it’s unlikely to have been a major influence in the decision. Nevertheless, its fully expected to be celebrated in Ghana as a win for the Ministry.

What do you think? Did BA give in, or is it just a happy coincidence?