Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

EXCLUSIVE: British Airways could close Gatwick short-haul after BALPA pulls pilot ballot

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

The British Airways plan to relaunch its short-haul operation at London Gatwick on a low cost model appeared to be on the verge of collapse last night.

BALPA, the British Airways pilot union, terminated a ballot of members after claiming that British Airways had gone back on assurances it had made.

The airline has previously said that it would not go ahead with the new carrier if it could not reach agreement with BALPA and could instead pull out of Gatwick short-haul flying entirely.

BA may close Gatwick after BALPA pulls pilot ballot

As we covered here, the cost of pilots for the new Gatwick operation represented one of the few areas where British Airways felt it could reduce costs.

BALPA would never have allowed the airline to hire new pilots on lower pay. The two sides had been working on a deal which would allow Heathrow Airbus pilots – some currently flying, some in the ‘holding pool’ – to be seconded to the new Gatwick airline. Whilst pay would have been reduced, in line with Gatwick’s more seasonal schedule, pilots would have retained their place on the seniority list and would have a guaranteed path to return to Heathrow in the future.

According to a letter circulated by BALPA last night, which we have seen:

“….. we have been trying to insert a clause in the contract of employment which would have protected the contractual rights of LGW-based pilots by placing an obligation on BA to ensure that Newco complies with any collective agreements or procedures agreed between BALPA and BA.”

In plain English, BALPA wanted Gatwick pilots to automatically receive any pay increase or other benefits negotiated by Heathrow crew.

BA may close Gatwick after BALPA pulls pilot ballot

BALPA claimed that British Airways had agreed to such an obligation but, when it came to making it legally binding, refused.

BALPA continued:

“we have received an email from BA making it clear that the company is not prepared to include the protection clause we require.”

and concludes:

“we can no longer recommend the proposed LGW shorthaul agreement. As such we have terminated the consultative ballot with immediate effect.”

It isn’t clear what happens next. British Airways won’t risk a pilot strike by recruiting a new pilot fleet on lower salaries for Gatwick. BALPA may be willing to see BA lose its Gatwick presence rather than see a split in the pilot fleet – after all, legacy cabin crew saw their pay reduced to nearer the level of newly hired Mixed Fleet in the restructuring last year.

Who blinks now? Will BA put the Gatwick slots on the market? Will BA agree to give Gatwick pilots the automatic right to new benefits given to Heathrow pilots? Will the LCC idea now be dropped and Gatwick short haul put back in its original state? Will the slots be given to Vueling – although that could also lead to a strike? We will see.

How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (84)

  • Pablo says:

    The concessions offered with regards to pay have been enormous. Equally the scheduling and training agreement changes are a chasm of where they should be. I sincerely think this actually sets back safety standards that were hard fought for over many years. It’s quite clear we want BA at LGW to succeed and nothing has been put in the way against that. The industry is on its knees. The amount of pilots without jobs is eye watering and deeply saddening. If what’s been said about verbal promises not being put into writing when the cuts being made are so deep, then at some stage you might have to step away. Is it really worth it? I can’t honestly say that a new BA operation at LGW will be a safe affair. It’s not about pay for the vast majority of us. If there is a sincere wish to work together, it can be done, and vastly to the benefit of the company. Over to them…

  • L. says:

    So the external headline says “close Gatwick”, but the article actually says “close Gatwick short-haul”. There is a big difference there, and I’m sure this wasn’t done by accident. The first one is more shocking, and it will attract more views. But it’s also inaccurate. It is very sad that a respected travel website thinks they need to do cheap clickbait tactics like this one, that add to the misinformation and stress of those directly or indirectly involved in the BA Gatwick operation, especially given that long haul is currently going and won’t be affected by the new subsidiary. Just sad, really.

    • Rob says:

      The headline says ‘short haul’ – look on Google News, Apple News etc.

      The tweet on Twitter says ‘short haul’.

      The clickable link on Facebook does not use the word ‘short haul’ but the phrase is in the line of text above it which everyone sees.

      It’s possibly the worst piece of clickbait ever written if that was the intention 🙂 I also don’t quite understand why you think I would want more page views for this topic. It is worthless to us, financially. We’re not going to sell any credit cards to someone who comes across to read this story, and such people are unlikely to become regular readers.

      All of the key adslots today are pre-sold for a fixed price so even 1 million page views today wouldn’t make us any extra ad revenue. If I was bothered about our bottom line I wouldn’t have run this and would have kept the Star Alliance credit card article which was originally meant to run there, which would have made us a few quid.

      • TB says:

        Actually, on my Google News feed, the headline doesn’t include the words “short haul”. I’ve been following the story though so I knew it would be about BA’s short haul operations.

        • Rob says:

          It depends where you look. In the dedicated HfP feed, the phrase ‘short haul’ does appear. The version that Google inserts into mixed feeds does seem to drop the ‘short haul’ text – I only just saw this (if Google doesn’t put it into my own feed, I don’t see how they run it).

    • MD says:

      Notwithstanding Rob’s comprehensive dismantling of your whining, the only thing ‘sad’ here seems to be your reading comprehension.

  • Paul Pogba says:

    Heathrow in dogfight with airlines over plans to double airport charges

    “Leaked proposals, seen by The Telegraph, reveal that long-haul charges will rocket from £38.33 per traveller this year to £67.86 in 2022.”

    Do the current negotiations with pilots at Gatwick make it harder for BA/IAG to fight this as they don’t have a credible threat to move (some) flights away from Heathrow?

  • fred says:

    Union prefer no jobs to any compromise, thank goodness BA is weak at LGW. Lets hope the union stranglehold at LHR can be endef.

  • Matarredondaaa says:

    I have long thought BA would be better served by dumping Gatwick short haul effectively closing the base and moving it to somewhere much cheaper, eg Stansted or Southend failing a southern base move north with Manchester conveniently situated to attract passengers from Scotland and the Midlands.
    The newco could be a genuine new project with many pilots currently operating out of LHR/LGW made redundant but able to apply for jobs at the newco if they wish.
    In this day and age to BA really need two bases so close together?

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.