Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Is British Airways permanently ending short-haul flights from Gatwick?

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

On Friday evening, British Airways told the majority of its staff whether or not they still had jobs.  The anecdotal evidence is that London Gatwick was hit substantially harder than London Heathrow which has led to increased suspicion that the short-haul network will be permanently shuttered.

It’s not just that Gatwick-based cabin crew appear to have been disproportionately made redundant.  More important is that the British Airways hangar at Gatwick appears to be closing, with staff laid off.  This will mean that anything other than basic maintenance will require an aircraft to be at Heathrow.

The implication of this is that British Airways no longer intends to operate its 30+ short-haul aircraft from Gatwick and that the London Gatwick short-haul operation is now gone for good.  It appears that the long-haul operation, consisting of 14 aircraft, will remain.

British Airways Gatwick Airport

It is worth noting that The Telegraph ran a piece yesterday, behind a paywall unfortunately, stating that the South terminal at London Gatwick will not reopen in the near future, and certainly not in 2020.  This also implies that there will not be a British Airways short-haul operation for some time.

This is, of course, still entirely speculative, but British Airways no longer has the cabin crew or engineering facilities at Gatwick to support much of an operation.

Why would BA close down short-haul at London Gatwick?

There are a lot of reasons why closing short-haul makes sense.

Gatwick has very little connecting traffic.  British Airways will not be losing any £5,000+ business class fares by closing short-haul, as virtually no-one was connecting to long-haul.  Apart from Jersey, I don’t think there were any other United Kingdom flights which could connect.

Gatwick is very low yield.  No explanation needed – we all know that Gatwick flights are substantially cheaper than Heathrow flights due to competition from easyJet etc.  Some costs, such as crew salaries and landing fees, are lower too but not enough to compensate.

British Airways may have to use its Heathrow slots this Winter.  Even if the ‘use it or lose it’ rules are not reintroduced in October, it is highly likely they will be in March.  BA needs to get every single flight it possibly can into Heathrow.  The only reason to keep the Gatwick long-haul operation going is, I imagine, to manage passenger numbers in Terminal 5.

It saves a lot of overhead.  Running a terminal at Gatwick is expensive when you are already paying the fixed costs of keeping Terminal 5 open.  The Gatwick long-haul flights can, it appears, be operated from Gatwick North with premium passengers using the Aspire lounge.

Gatwick second runway

Is IAG going to launch a new low cost carrier?

British Airways has, of course, a substantial portfolio of slots at London Gatwick.  It is only a year or so ago that it bulked up via the acquisition of the Monarch slots.  Is it going to let them go?

easyJet, Wizz and Ryanair would be desperately keen to get their hands on these slots.  Whilst British Airways seems to have decided that ‘point to point’ flying, without any connecting traffic, is no longer profitable, this has never worried the low cost carriers.

There is another option.

IAG could use this opportunity to launch its own low cost carrier from Gatwick.  Branding is an issue, of course.  LEVEL has been mostly shut down in recent months, apart from the Barcelona operation.  Vueling is an option but the brand has a tarnished reputation.  The Air Europa name will be available if IAG’s acquisition completes but the name doesn’t mean anything to travellers in the UK.

IAG could launch a new brand, but the middle of a pandemic is never a good time to do that.  This leads to me think ….. how about Aer Lingus?  The airline has a good reputation in the UK and is already a low cost operator in all but name on short-haul.  I don’t think that UK customers would necessarily find it weird to book Aer Lingus to fly them from London to Palma.

Let’s see.  Much will rest on how long the EU allows airlines to keep hold of their slots without operating any aircraft.  There is an outside chance that the ‘use it or lose it’ rule will restart from the Winter season, launching in late October.  Realistically it is more likely to be Summer 2021, which runs from the last week of March.

Would IAG be able to launch a new low cost carrier from scratch, ready to fly from March 2021?  Does it even want to?  Let’s see.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (89)

  • Nick says:

    If I recall correctly, Aer Lingus in 2009 did try to fly to traditional summer sun destinations from LGW but it failed.

  • Richard says:

    Air Europa branding brings back memories of Harry Goodman and Air Europe for some of us…
    Annoying losing the Glasgow, Edinburgh and Amsterdam flights but more reason for me to use city, which funnily enough doesn’t have much connecting travel either.

    Cramming in extra rows on shorthaul was a big mistake, in my opinion, as it further watered down the difference between BA and Easyjet.

    I was at Gatwick Friday. I think the long haul may be operated by 12 777s

  • Bob says:

    The moment the government announced in mid May quarantine requirements for air travellers the writing was on the wall for Gatwick. No sensible management such as using testing stations and follow up methods just idiotic sledge hammer actions. 30,000 people were employed at Gatwick and I would expect at least half of them to be redundant by Christmas.

  • Tony says:

    Bad news for those of us living, as I do, oin Malaga as BA were often cheaper than Easyjet into Gatwick.
    BA by the look of the article is going to be a shadow of its former self post the pandemic.
    Feel sorry for the cabin crew as many joined after the collapse of Monach.

  • Ian says:

    The article in the Telegraph doesn’t say very much other than there is “speculation” over whether BA will resume short haul operations from LGW. Whilst LHR is more convenient for me personally, I’ll be sad to see the excellent Gatwick fleet crew lose their jobs.

    Finally, I too was shocked by the appalling low standard of the lounge Qatar uses at LGW, particularly compared to the superb quality of their offering at LHR T4. Hope they relocate back to T4 once it reopens.

    • Lady London says:

      Sadly that’s probably the best available lounge in that Terminal @Ian

  • pigeon says:

    Smart move to replace a BA base with Level at Gatwick. On the wafer-thin margins of short haul a family or two of gold card holders that maxes out the lounge experience could be the difference between a profitable and an unprofitable flight. Status benefits are not affordable at Gatwick and this gets rid of them nicely.

    It might not be the end of BA at LGW, though. They could fly LHR-BOD-LGW-BOD-LHR on a single frame, putting the lower yield midday flights into LGW.

  • Michael Jennings says:

    In normal times I fly LGW-BIO return about three or four times a year. In recent times I have had two IAG airlines to choose from on that route – Vueling and BA. I’m totally happy to fly either, so I have flown whichever gave me the best fares and timings. Hopefully I will still have at least one airline on that route once things are back to more normal.

  • John says:

    Level France has not been shut down, it is subject to union negotiation.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.