‘BA Lite’ to resume British Airways short-haul flights to Gatwick Business News

British Airways will create a separate low-cost subsidiary for European and domestic flights to Gatwick, which will allow it to compete with low-cost airlines.

A “BA Lite” operation has been considered many times by the bosses of British Airways seeking to make Sussex airport profitable.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, BA’s short-haul network at Gatwick has been dormant, although some long-haul flights continue.

With the government’s leave program ending next month, British Airways’ new chief executive, Sean Doyle, has decided to continue his cost-cutting plans and make BA more competitive with easyJet.

The airline has launched consultations with the unions – telling them the change is essential if British Airways is to return to Sussex Airport on a full scale. BA has consistently criticized the UK government’s travel restrictions and the subsequent undermining of passenger confidence.

The plan is to use the same staff, planes and slots as in March 2020, but under a new, separate airline.

Informally, some people have nicknamed the company “BA Lite”. One likely name is British Airways Express, reflecting Iberia Express – the lower-cost offshoot of BA’s Spanish sister airline.

The carrier is expected to begin operations at the start of the next summer season at the end of March 2022 – in time for the Easter school holidays.

For decades, BA struggled to make profitable its domestic and European operations out of Gatwick. After taking over British Caledonian and then Dan-Air, British Airways found itself with an inconsistent portfolio of routes departing from Sussex Airport. Many were to Mediterranean destinations, and some services duplicated from BA’s much larger hub, Heathrow.

British Airways briefly established a hub-and-spoke operation at Gatwick’s North Terminal, calling it “the hub without the hubbub” and offering a connection time as short as 26 minutes.

In addition, BA has set up a low cost subsidiary, Go, based in Stansted. It was sold to senior executives backed by private capital in 2001, and a year later acquired by easyJet – which merged Go into its operations.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the immediate downturn in air travel at the end of 2001, easyJet made a large-scale establishment at Gatwick, which is now the low-cost airline’s largest base. Subsequently, easyJet acquired GB Airways, which previously operated services to destinations such as Spain, Morocco and Egypt on behalf of BA.

While British Airways had a busy long-haul leisure business at Gatwick until the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining profitability on short-haul while competing with easyJet has always been a challenge.

According to data specialist Cirium, in the height of the summer month of July 2022, BA is currently expected to be the second-largest airline at Gatwick, behind easyJet.

British Airways offers 1,881 short-haul flights from Gatwick, Jersey, Malaga and Faro in Portugal being the main destinations.

Ryanair is increasing its operations to and from Gatwick, including a link on the key route to Malaga in southern Spain, and Wizz Air is also known to be interested in establishing a presence there.

According to the latest traffic report from air traffic provider Eurocontrol, Gatwick has been hit harder by the drop in passenger numbers than any other major European airport.

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This notice was published: 2021-08-26 15:58:14

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