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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)

  • Greenpen says:

    I have flown on Qatar and Turkish a few times from Gatwick as the price has been much cheaper than the same airline, with the same onward connecting flight, from Heathrow. However, it is much more difficult to get to from the Midlands.

    Nice Gatwick BA lounge, with the Business better than the first!

    • John says:

      Usually only cheaper by £15 or so because of the lower airport fees levied.

      • ChrisC says:

        Don’t know about long haul but for a SH to AMS Next March the UK airport fees are

        LGW – £ 15.33
        LHR – £ 17.77
        LCY – £ 37.73

    • Sam G says:

      Turkish is often quite a bit cheaper than from Heathrow & if you want a business miles ticket then often Gatwick has availability and not Heathrow. But usually you can get a long haul seat out of LHR vs a recliner out of Gatwick

  • The cyclist says:

    BA leaving LGW, It would be a real pain in the butt if this goes ahead, however I’m sure that competitors will slide in and plug any slots that become available.

  • Terri says:

    Just a few years ago I flew BMI from Birmingham to Jersey and then BA Jersey to Gatwick to catch an Orlando flight. Also got a great fare in PE from Jersey. It was less stress than the M25 and took not much longer from home as BHX almost on doorstep. So I will say hurray if BA ditch LGW.

    • John says:

      Avoiding APD by starting in Jersey helped.

      What does that have to do with ditching LGW? It might still be cheaper to fly BHX-JER and then a BA ticket where you connect in LHR.

      • Dubious says:

        I think the point is that Gatwick is hard or troublesome to reach by ground transport from many parts of the Midlands.

        I’ve done something in the other direction. I’ve flown LGW-NQY-MAN and LGW-JER-DSA before now for similar reasons.

        • tony says:

          Utter tosh, sorry. Bedford-Gatwick, direct train, under 2hrs. Leicester-Gatwick, one change at St Pancras, 2hrs 10 mins. Sheffield-Gatwick, 3hrs one change at St Pancras. Birmingham-Gatwick, 3hrs 10 mins via Reading and so on. All of which avoid the underground.

          If you want to kid yourself you’re better off with 2 x 1hr flights and an unprotected connection to achieve the same then good for you, but please don’t just BS folk…

          • Dubious says:

            The LGW-NQY-MAN flights were on one ticket and given that I was travelling for work on a Sunday and was going to be spending the night at an airport hotel in MAN prior to my Monday morning meeting (at MAN) it meant I turned the journey into a mini day trip (longish connection in NQY) as well as avoiding any replacement bus services affecting the Sunday services on the rails.

            The LGW-JER-DSA route was admittedly more for the opportunity/novelty to fly into DSA than an avoidance of the trains (I took a train home) but the point being made here is when you compare timings, costs and hassle it can actually works out more appealing to take these odd routings (albeit less environmentally friendly).

          • Economist_Nearby1 says:

            You would have to be completely bonkers to want to travel from Birmingham, Leicester or Sheffield to Gatwick by train. I think I’d rather not travel at all.

          • Rob says:

            Easier than Heathrow by train from those cities.

  • Peter says:

    That’s great news, finally more Wizzair flights for much better prices without having to collect any points.

  • Mike says:

    For various reasons some leisure travellers cannot countenance being forced to use Heathrow if they wish to fly to European destinations using BA. At least we can now swop all our Avios points refunded for cancelled flights to Nectar and cease using Amex, if and when the time comes.

  • Itsme says:

    Wizz in the south, easyJet in the north terminal. Healthy competition.

  • Dan says:

    Sad times. Used to live and work in Brighton and with the Gatwick express, I was able to get to the airport within 25 mins. Useful for visits up to Glasgow every fortnight to see family and also other weekend breaks within BA’s Gatwick European network – also with a nice lounge. Helped me get my Silver status pretty much 2 years ago.

    Having said that, now that I no longer live in Brighton, having a lot of these routes consolidated to LHR would still suit me with a far superior airport experience. LGW during June – September was pretty rammed with people, heading off to their annual beach break

  • Pete says:

    Fairly irrelevant for the three quarters of the population that London Airways abandoned years ago.

    • Andrew says:

      So who are they then?

      On a normal Friday night, you can’t miss the Scottish accents at Heathrow.

    • Bagoly says:

      Does it not increase the number of connections possible at LHR, if coming from NCL, MAN, GLA?

    • bafan says:

      *Yawn*. BA are more popular than ever. Every time they try anything outside of LHR it seems to flop so unless they are supposed to operate loss making routes to satisfy the provincial types then there isn’t much they can do.

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