Last week we covered the announcement that British Airways was planning to set up a new low cost subsidiary at London Gatwick.
This was a very vague announcement, made internally to staff and not to the outside world, which did not specify where the ‘low cost’ elements of the proposal were going to fall. It wasn’t clear if ‘low cost’ applied to the airline itself or just to its cost base.
Over the last couple of days, the fog has begun to clear.
A BA pilot made a detailed post on Flyertalk a couple of days ago (see post 191) which I have been able to independently verify. I have also received a statement from British Airways itself.
It seems that:
- the new Gatwick airline will retain British Airways branding and will look and feel as it does at Heathrow (Club Europe cabin, Avios-earning, free water and snack etc)
- around 16 A320 aircraft will initially be transferred from Heathrow to Gatwick – this implies that the remaining A319 aircraft may be pensioned off
- pilots will be asked to take a secondment from Heathrow to Gatwick on new, seasonal, contracts on the basis we outlined in our article last week – BALPA is balloting pilots about this but is recommending acceptance
- the new operation will have its own operating licence and be a stand-alone subsidiary of British Airways along the lines of BA CityFlyer
To go back to the original question, the ‘low cost’ element appears to come entirely from changes to pilot and cabin crew terms. There will be no obvious change to the customer-facing operation and we will not see the launch of Vueling UK, LEVEL UK, Aer Lingus UK, Air Europa UK etc.
British Airways told us in a statement that:
“customers will continue to benefit from the same full standard of service that they currently receive from us, alongside competitive fares”.
It is worth noting, however, that the statement continued:
“Alongside this British Airways is in parallel running a process of evaluating alternatives for the London Gatwick slots.”
This may be posturing for the benefit of BALPA, but Vueling UK or indeed a Gatwick slot sale to easyJet or Wizz Air may not be completely off the table.