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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)

  • LeMain says:

    Well that’s annoying… extra 90 minutes each way in every trip!

  • Tim says:

    So BA at Heathrow and Vueling at Gatwick. Makes sense. Set Manchester as second BA base and adopt a Lufthansa Munich/Frankfurt approach. Distance between MAN and LHR versus FRA and MUC is only minimally smaller in U.K.; catchment area in U.K. is greater. And although I’m a Northerner, I’d need to be paid to go via MAN. It’s a bloody nightmare. But Gatwick’s not that far behind. So maybe an incentive for both BA and Manchester Airport Group?

    • BJ says:

      Pigs might fly!

    • ChrisW says:

      This could actually mean more flights for regional airports as they may have some additional aircraft spare and the desire to launch/relaunch some ex-Gatwick routes that were canned.

    • Anna says:

      It would be great to have the opportunity to book some of the flights which currently depart LGW from MAN, e.g. BDA and Caribbean routes. Agree MAN is painful but not as much as a (minimum) 4 hour drive either way down south.

    • Aaron C says:

      It would be nice to have more choice ex-MAN than LCCs although for long haul the emirates A380 is hard to beat!

      • Anna says:

        I think after the past 12 months, the immediate future for MAN is less choice, not more, sadly.

  • ChrisW says:

    Makes sense. Don’t they historically mostly only use Gatwick because they couldn’t get enough Heathrow slots?

  • BJ says:

    Did anything ever happen to the 737NAX ‘order’? Dread to think that would be the simplest, quickest and cheapest solution to the metal shortage.

    • patrick C says:

      Is a shitty badly designed plane with tons of issues in the past and likely intonthe future

    • kitten says:

      They renamed the 737MAX to something else apparently. Forgotten what new name

      • mr_jetlag says:

        The 737-8 aka the Angel of Death.

        • BJ says:

          Not that, the 737 800 is a/the predecessor.

          • Bagoly says:

            There – they succeeded in confusing you.
            You are both right, in that the 737-800 is the earlier version, and the 737-8 is the Max fudge.

  • Dev says:

    I for one will be happy, and it’s about time they consolidate ops into one airport!

    Maybe Gatwick can see a build up of Aer Lingus flights as it has a cheaper cost base and a decent-ish product for the leisure markets.

    • Tom says:

      Like back in 2009 when Aer Lingus based 5 aircraft there operating 14 bucket and spade routes… that didn’t work out too well…

  • Iain says:

    With the Elizabeth line going live in 2022 i suspect many in London won’t be too bothered…

    • Mouse says:

      If only the T5 service was better than 1 train per 30 mins. They have royally screwed the planning up on that.

      • James says:

        I think you’d find that’s deliberate, to preserve some business for Heathrow Express; it wasn’t going to go to Terminal 5 at all.

        • Mouse says:

          I’m sure it is deliberate but it still sucks from a user perspective. Some heads need to be banged together.

        • ChrisC says:

          HAL has the concession until 2028 and then the plan is for the service to be part of crossrail

          Remember the tunnels that HEX uses were paid for by HAL and they quite rightly want a return on their investment.

          So 4 hex + 2 crossrail = 6 trains an hour to T5.

          And still more tube trains and more people arrive by tube than by rail.

      • Roger Jones says:

        Only 2 per Hour, how many per hour would suit you, 20?

        • Rob says:

          Having done railway timetable modelling in my banking days, you need a 10 minute of less frequency for passengers to treat it as ‘turn up and go’.

          • Bagoly says:

            Although I’m not sure that TfL personnel really understand that.
            It was only about five years ago that they had posters proudly announcing that they were going to run a “metro service”, (“turn up and go”) although >99.9% of passengers have been thinking of it like that for their whole lives.
            Have they changed the announcements, or do they still announce “severe delays to all trains” on a line, even if that means *higher* frequency in the next hour due to catching up from trains that were timetabled to run earlier?

  • Lou says:

    I wonder if this means lots of the budget airlines now make a dash for the Gatwick slots? Maybe not so much Ryan air, but perhaps Wizz?

    • ChrisW says:

      I could actually see Wizz developing a bit of a two base strategy at LTN and LGW. Keep LTN for the bargain basement Eastern European routes and have LGW for the more premium leisure destinations in Portugal, Spain, Greece etc.

      • Tom says:

        +1 for this if pricing is competitive.

        You can keep the soggy bacon sandwich from the packed galleries lounge – I’ll gladly fly Wizz for £9.99…

        BA doesn’t (didn’t?) do enough to differentiate themselves from the LCCs at LGW anyway, apart, perhaps, from charge more and scowl more.

        My sole experience of Wizz with a paid for row 1 seat, priority security and lounge access courtesy of my credit card was perfectly acceptable for a short flight.

  • NigelthePensioner says:

    I dont think that LGW plays second fiddle to LHR…………it’s actually lucky to be in the orchestra at all!! Vile airport!
    It’s 92 miles from my driveway to the Sofitel car park barrier at LHR T5 – a journey that takes 80 mins and is always a pleasure to drive. I detest the extra 45 mins to get to LGW although Langshott Manor is a reasonable place to stay on the odd occasion.

    • Louie says:

      My journey to LGW is a pleasure to drive. And then I can leave my hire car at the terminal.

      The extra 45 mins to LHR is not. And then I have to get a shuttle bus to the terminal.

      Each to his or her own.

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