British Airways May Not Resume Gatwick Operations

British Airways may not resume operations from Gatwick once the current crisis has passed. The airline hasn’t operated a scheduled passenger flight from Gatwick for around a month.

British Airways coronavirus grounding bournemouth
British Airways has floated the idea of closing its London Gatwick base. Photo: Getty Images

Earlier this week, British Airways’ parent IAG announced that the airline could look to make up to 12,000 members of staff redundant in the wake of the current crisis. Understandably the airline is expecting to come out of the crisis smaller than when it went in. However, exactly how much smaller is unknown. Now, the BBC has suggested that the airline could permanently close its Gatwick hub in response to the crisis.

Shaking up operations

British Airways is currently attempting to work out what its future post-crisis will look like. The British flag carrier was operating over 300 flights per day from London Heathrow before the current situation. However, in a letter to staff earlier this week, the airline’s CEO, Alex Cruz, admitted that this had fallen to “just a handful.”

Many other airlines have already announced that they will return as a smaller operation. The Lufthansa Group, one of British Airways’ biggest rivals in Europe, has so far announced several aircraft retirements, in addition to the end of its Germanwings airline.

British Airways
The airline is currently facing an unprecedented situation. Photo: Getty

Bye-bye Gatwick?

According to a memo seen by the BBC, the head of British Airways’ Gatwick base has warned that it may not reopen once the current situation has passed. It’s relatively essential to stress that this is just a memo that appears to be indicating a worst-case scenario for the Gatwick hub, as nothing has been confirmed either way.

British Airways’ London Gatwick operation is typically more focused on major holiday destinations, while Heathrow is more angled towards a more general travel market. According to information from FlyerTalk, 46 aircraft are based at London Gatwick. 15 long-haul and 31 short-haul. The vast majority of the airline’s 274 aircraft are based at London Heathrow.

Given Alex Cruz’s recent letter, it seems that all options to weather the storm are currently on the table. Currently, 22,626 of the airline’s employees have been furloughed. However, the airline has warned that up to 12,000 could be made redundant. Of course, the 12,000 figure is another worst-case scenario.

Single European Sky
Closing the London Gatwick base would be some reasonably extreme action. Photo: Getty Images

If the airline does downsize so considerably, then it is possible that axing its Gatwick hub is on the cards. However, this, in turn, would lead to British Airways losing its slots at the airport. Most European airlines are currently planning for demand to take two to three years to return to normal. However, if British Airways were to take such drastic action right now, it would not be so easy to undo a few years down the line.

What do you think? Will British Airways close its Gatwick Base, or is it just a worst-case scenario? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!