British Airways to cancel flights from Gatwick: Bounceback plan under new boss will shift focus to Heathrow – and ramp up luxury breaks to Barbados
British Airways will scale back its operations at Gatwick under a radical transformation plan to come back from the pandemic, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Sources said BA’s new CEO Sean Doyle will operate fewer flights from Gatwick once the airline emerges from the crisis.
BA will shift its operations to Heathrow, where it will counteract the decline in business travel by ramping up premium leisure flights to long haul vacations such as Bermuda and Barbados.
Making Changes: Sources Said New BA CEO Sean Doyle Will Operate Fewer Flights From Gatwick
British Airways has canceled all its short haul flights from Gatwick until March next year, giving it 12 long haul routes from Britain’s second largest airport. Scaling down the airline’s Gatwick business will be part of a broad new strategy under Doyle, who replaced Alex Cruz last week.
Doyle’s 22-year career with BA includes a job with the airline’s business unit at Gatwick. Clearly, his immediate priority is to get travel back on track by working with the rest of the industry and governments in the UK and abroad to agree travel corridors and lift quarantine restrictions.
But his strategy to get BA through the pandemic will also look at how to deal with a significant mid-term decline in revenues from lucrative transatlantic and business travel.
It is believed that by focusing more on a ‘premium leisure’ business model, primarily based at Heathrow, BA could attract wealthy holidaymakers willing to pay extra for the convenience of flying from West London.
Last week, BA switched its flights to the Maldives from Gatwick to Heathrow and launched its first daily flights from Heathrow to Barbados for over 15 years. In March, it will launch its first flights from Heathrow to Bermuda in more than three decades.
John Strickland – an aviation analyst who previously worked as a network planner at BA – said: ‘It is not clear to what extent BA will stay at Gatwick, and it could potentially keep some of its slot portfolio there by renting some slots to others. airlines. ‘
Potential interested parties for BA’s Gatwick slots include budget carrier Wizz Air, which is launching four new routes from Gatwick this week and has called on regulators to have it pick up unused slots from rivals. Strickland said BA is also likely to re-evaluate the size of business class cabs on long-haul aircraft and consider whether to expand or upgrade their premium economy offering.
He said the airline would be forced to cut prices to attract customers until the Covid-19 pandemic was no longer a major problem. “Tactical price offers are likely to fill up excess capacity in premium cabins in the short term,” he added.
The loss of BA’s short haul flights until at least the end of March is a blow to Gatwick, which is owned by French group Vinci Airports and infrastructure company GIP. It is undergoing its own major restructuring after losing £ 321 million for the six months to June due to the collapse in passenger demand.
Previously, BA flew from Gatwick to about 65 short haul destinations a year, with about 48 sailings on a peak day. But in April, BA Gatwick director Adam Carson hinted in a letter to staff that BA might leave Gatwick permanently.
Last night Stewart Wingate, the CEO of Gatwick said, “I know Sean is aware of the tremendous value Gatwick has brought to the airline’s network since his days leading BA’s operations at the airport.
“I look forward to welcoming the airline’s short haul services again as soon as possible.”
But Strickland said, “Heathrow will always be the strategic priority. i would expect [Doyle] to continue the ethos of cost-orientation and use its networking experience to be increasingly flexible and creative in the way they plan their fleet. As BA adapts, there will likely be many more experimentation and trial and error in the strategies they employ, until there is clarity about what will be the new normal in travel markets. ‘
Under Cruz, BA cut costs and changed the airline, cutting about 10,000 jobs and reducing the size of the fleet, including retiring the 31 747 jumbo jets.
BA wants the aviation industry to introduce a pre-flight testing program for passengers up to 72 hours before departure.
It calls on the British government to work with the US to establish a travel corridor between London and New York – normally one of the busiest flight routes in the world – with pre-flight tests replacing the general quarantine.
It currently flies to New York twice a day, compared to up to 12 times a day before the pandemic.
In a statement, BA said: ‘Until March 2021, most of our short haul flights will continue to operate from Heathrow. This allows us to ensure smooth, uninterrupted and efficient operation across our business at a time when demand has yet to return and international travel restrictions remain in place. ‘