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British Airways considers quitting Gatwick airport permanently – report

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According to a report in The Telegraph, British Airways is considering leaving London Gatwick for good.

A review has reportedly been launched into the mechanics of concentrating all mainline flights at Heathrow.

Why? What a surprise – it’s the slots.

British Airways leaving Gatwick Airport

The Telegraph says that the order has come from parent company IAG – possibly implying that British Airways management is not in favour – which is paranoid about the long term impact of losing take-off and landing slots at Heathrow.

As we have covered many times on Head for Points since covid appeared, an airline has to use an airport slot on 80% of dates. If it fails to do so, the slot is automatically forfeited and made available to any other airline which wants it.

There are two slot ‘seasons’, Winter and Summer, with switchover dates in late March and late October. There are separate slot pools for each season.

Since Spring 2020, the slot rules have been suspended. With some caveats, British Airways can run as few flights as it wants at present with no risk of having the slots taken away.

At some point, possibly next Spring but almost certainly in Autumn 2022, this waiver will end.

Without a waiver, British Airways will have to start running its full pre-covid schedule or it will start to forfeit slots. This simply isn’t possible – with the retirement of the Boeing 747 fleet, I doubt it has enough aircraft to do so, even if it wanted to.

Without a slot waiver, moving British Airways flights from Gatwick to Heathrow is the easiest – and probably only – way to ensure that the airline keeps its full slot portfolio.

Luis Gallego, chief executive of IAG, reportedly told analysts last month that:

“Gatwick is an important decision that we need to take as a group. It’s true that we have the issue with the slots.

“Gatwick has some strategic value, but we need to be competitive there. This crisis is going to change the profile … of the demand. So we are analysing the different options.”

The Telegraph article is here (paywall).

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Comments (109)

  • Memesweeper says:

    Check the small print in the article : mentions BA mainline. That implies CityFlyer could move in, or another (new) franchise.

    • Sam G says:

      I believe that union agreements previously prevented CityFlyer operating LHR/LGW flights – these might have been changed during the recent negotiations though or changed in future

  • Peter Taysum says:

    TBH since BA stopped flying NCL to LGW flights from LGW have been a pain in the backside, either Nat Express coach (not bad) or private transfer. So I’d rather they drop LGW. Mind if they don’t bring the NCL lounge back; KLM to AMS or AF to PAR looking more likely…

    • Phil says:

      NCL to LGW is a real nuisance to be avoided. My solution is to shoot up the A68 to EDI. And TBH I might consider that an option for LHR legs as well considering the NCL lounge situation.

  • Richie says:

    If slots at Heathrow are so valuable and are forecast to retain their value in the longer term, can’t BA just sub in aircraft from Titan airways, Hi-fly etc. and offer avios when the moaners complain that they’re not getting the BA onboard experience?

    • Rob says:

      Could do, but if there are no passengers …..

    • ChrisC says:

      those leases come at a huge cost and BA isn’t spending money unless it absolutly has to at the moment.

  • bafan says:

    Website made me reply to wrong thread ;).

  • Pierre says:

    I am missing something :
    “an airline has to use an airport slot on 80% of dates”
    “Without a waiver, British Airways will have to start running its full pre-covid schedule or it will start to forfeit slots.”

    Should I understand that VA was using its slots at 80% capacity pre-covid? Given the value of those slots, this seems odd.

    Also a 20% cut in both LHR and LGW in Autumn 22 (in order not to lose any slots) seems big to me. BUT a cut of 20% in LHR and 100% in LGW seems absolutely huge. How much would it represent on the overall LON program compared to pre-covid levels?

    Maybe this is a sneaky way for IAG to cut costs but without necessarily losing slots in LGW. They could ramp up Vueling massively with cheaper staff etc… With BA code-share as they already do.

    • Rob says:

      Vueling vs easy or Wizz – no change.

      BA costs at Gatwick are rock bottom anyway. Pilots earn less that easyJet.

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