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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)

  • Chris says:

    The Sunday times BA fluff article has more hints about giving up on LGW as its not /premium/ enough. https://apple.news/AK8v7BoyAQE6mv8p8x2Zziw

    • Sam G says:

      No idea on yields but I have noticed that the LHR flights have been going out with huge CE cabins and quite often busy up front and quiet down the back.

      • Tariq says:

        Probably says more about the demographic that can afford and are inclined to travel right now during hostile restrictions.

        • Phillip says:

          You’re forgetting that BA has been selling Club flights for absolute peanuts between last autumn and March. Having booked a number of £180-199 return fares to places like Cyprus, some had got cancelled, so I am now using them for more peak periods currently retailing back up to £700-800! BA will be accommodating both changed tickets and taking in passengers willing to pay over the odds! I don’t think it’s just a case that there are so many people able and willing to pay the higher prices. I’d say a mix of both. That said, pre-Covid, there were many occasions I recall some routes during busy periods had extra large Club sections! Whatever makes the most profit!

  • Sam G says:

    It could make sense for IAG as a group to put some resources in instead of BA though vs using the resources elsewhere in Europe and letting Wizz and all take the slots. London is still a great aviation market long term

    Perhaps BA long haul and Vueling short haul

    • ChrisW says:

      Vueling had an awful reputation though doesnt it??

      • WillM says:

        I’ve heard of this bad reputation that Vueling has, but I’ve flown with them dozens of times and never had a bad experience myself. Clearly IAG are aware of this, otherwise they wouldn’t have launched Level as a separate brand.

  • George K says:

    From (deep) south London I’m closer to Heathrow than I am to Gatwick, but I still prefer the latter in terms of accessibility via rail. Losing it as a BA base would be a loss as far as I’m concerned…

  • Paul says:

    LGW, particularly North Terminal, was once very nice, then it was expanded and they made a pigs ear of it. I used it last August and it was a vile experience even empty.
    South terminal the previous February was a building site and appeared

  • Lynne says:

    Living in the Channel Islands its much better for us to stay at Heathrow much better for connecting worldwide for us as easy jet got the slots still to Gatwick there’s no problem for us much prefer Heathrow

    • planeconcorde says:

      Totally agree. But if BA do drop Gatwick then in the short term it’s good for the Channel Islands. But long term when Heathrow becomes slot constrained again we could loose the Heathrow connection yet again and there is a risk we will have no BA flights. However the third runway may change the route viability equation.

      • Phillip says:

        So HAL are working their political arguments for expansion back up again?…

  • Laura says:

    Think I’m in the minority, but I much prefer flying from Gatwick than Heathrow, so this is a shame

  • Peter Clancy says:

    For most families travelling from the South East, East Anglia and nearby areas, LGW is a far more comfortable experience than LHR and I suspect many would look for other LGW using airlines if BA pull out. Goodbye LGW, goodbye BA?

  • gordon chalker says:

    Cost cutting and shoddy service has turned the “worlds favourite airline” into broken airways, Let’s see if Sean Doyle can turn it around ?

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