British Airways Proposes Ending London Gatwick Short Haul Flights

British Airways is proposing not to return to operating short-haul flights at London Gatwick following the suspension of such flights due to COVID-19. In such a scenario, a new short-haul subsidiary would be created to fill the gap in the competitive environment.

British Airways, London Gatwick, Short Haul
British Airways has proposed ending its short-haul operations at London Gatwick. Photo: Getty Images

London Gatwick Airport has suffered immensely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On one day in April 2020, the airport had just six flights, with the airport remaining closed for a significant part of the day. While things have recovered slightly since the airport is still losing out to Heathrow

Is British Airways leaving Gatwick?

In a letter to colleagues seen by Simple Flying and first reported by Head for Points, British Airways proposes replacing its short-haul operations out of London Gatwick with a new subsidiary. In the letter, staff are told,

“[Gatwick] was previously a highly competitive market, but for us to run a sustainable airline in the current environment, we need a competitive operating model… We are proposing a new operating subsidiary to run alongside our existing long-haul Gatwick operation… This will help us to be both agile and competitive, allowing us to build a sustainable short haul presence.”

British Airways, United Kingdom, Green List
The airline cited the impact of the pandemic as the driving reason. Photo: Getty Images

Effectively, this means that British Airways won’t leave London’s southern airport for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the airline plans to continue long-haul flights from the airport as they are currently operated. Secondly, the current suggestion is only a proposal at this stage rather than a concrete plan.

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Speaking to Simple Flying, a British Airways spokesperson commented,

“We are working with our unions on proposals for a short-haul operation at Gatwick. We are not prepared to comment further while this process continues.”

What would replace British Airways?

Given the early stage of these proposals and how little information was presented in the letter to staff, it’s unclear precisely what the airline has in mind. Head For Points speculated that it is unlikely another IAG airline such as Vueling or LEVEL would replace the carrier’s Gatwick operations.

British Airways
At this point, the plans are simply a proposal. Photo: Getty Images

Instead, the publication identified two other possibilities which it feels are more likely. The first would see the airline creating a subsidiary like BA Cityflyer for London Gatwick. With such an operation, the airline would be able to seek lower operating costs for flights to and from Gatwick.

The other possibility presented by the publication would see British Airways retaining its short-haul operations at London Gatwick but creating a new ‘subfleet’ of crew with lower fixed costs. This, they report, would be “messy and may face strong resistance from the unions.”

Do you think British Airways should stop operating short-haul flights from London Gatwick Airport? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!