BA plan for new low cost “BA Lite” at Gatwick, for short-haul flights, abandoned
At the end of August British Airways announced that it hoped to start a new low-cost airline, called “BA Lite” to operate from Gatwick, and compete with Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz. BA would therefore move short-haul flights back to Gatwick, after deciding to move them to Heathrow because of the pandemic. BA had consultations with trades unions – telling them that change was essential if it was to return to Gatwick. But the contracts for staff were less generous than before. Now the plan to create “BA Lite” has been scrapped, as agreement could not be reached with the pilots’ union, BALPA. The union says the benefits and protections its members would have under the new company are not good enough. So BA has shelved the plan and will now cut the short haul routes it already flies from Gatwick.The news may come as a blow for Gatwick Airport as well, as it looks to grow passengers numbers and bring its emergency runway into regular use to increase its capacity. The loss of BA and its routes means Gatwick has even less need for its costly, climate-wrecking, expansion plans to bring its standby runway into full use, by 2029.
British Airways’ Gatwick short haul plan shelved after failing to reach agreement with pilots union
The airline had planned to launch a subsidiary to operate low cost flights from Gatwick to European destinations
A plan by British Airways to operate cheaper short haul flights to European destinations from Gatwick Airport has been scrapped after an agreement could not be reached with a pilots’ union.
BA wanted to launch a new subsidiary company to fly short haul from Gatwick to make its operation from the airport more profitable as it says it has been losing money for years on the short haul routes it already flies.
But the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) does not support the company’s plan following reported discussions over the benefits and protections its members would have under the new company. As a result of the union pulling out of talks, BA has shelved the plan and will now cut the short haul routes it already flies.
BA said in a statement: “We’re disappointed that our plans for a new short haul subsidiary at Gatwick have not received Balpa’s support.
“After many years of losing money on European flights from the airport, we were clear that coming out of the pandemic, we needed a plan to make Gatwick profitable and competitive.
“With regret, we will now suspend our short haul operations at Gatwick, with the exception of a small number of domestic services connecting to our long haul operation, and will pursue alternative uses for the London Gatwick short haul slots.”
The news may come as a blow for Gatwick Airport as well, as it looks to grow passengers numbers and bring its emergency runway into regular use to increase its capacity.
British Airways might abandon Gatwick, for Heathrow, if 80% slot use rules are reinstated
British Airways has revived plans to abandon Gatwick and concentrate operations at Heathrow, according to industry sources. This is due to fears by BA’s owner, IAG, that it could lose lucrative take-off and landing slots at Heathrow. BA first considered leaving Gatwick more than a year ago in anticipation that demand for air travel will remain depressed for a number of years. The landing slots at Heathrow are very much sought-after and expensive, each costing tens of millions of pounds. Usually airlines have to make use of 80% of their slots, or risk losing them. This was suspended due to Covid, and this waiver was initially due to end in late March. Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, then extended it, with no given end date. If the waiver is finally ended, then British Airways would want to be sure of keeping its lucrative Heathrow slots, by moving more of its activities there, from Gatwick – where the slots are less valuable.
British Airways planning new budget airline at Gatwick to take on easyJet and Ryanair
The new airline would restart BA’s short-haul services at London Gatwick, after it moved all European flights to Heathrow at the height of the Covid pandemic last spring
British Airways is planning a new subsidiary that will operate short-haul flights at Gatwick Airport and rival budget airlines such as Ryanair, Wizzair and EasyJet.
A “BA Lite” operation is underway under plans to help make the Sussex airport profitable, after BA suspended domestic and European routes serving Gatwick during the coronavirus pandemic.
It coincides with the ending of the government’s furlough scheme next month with new British Airways chief executive, Sean Doyle, hoping to cut costs to make BA more competitive again.
The airline has launched consultations with trades unions – telling them that change is essential if British Airways is to return to the Sussex airport at scale.
But the move is likely to put the IAG-owned carrier on a collision course with unions if staff are put on less generous contracts.
An internal letter to staff, seen by the PA news agency, said: “This was previously a highly competitive market, but for us to run a sustainable airline in the current environment, we need a competitive operating model.
“Because of that, we are proposing a new operating subsidiary to run alongside our existing long-haul Gatwick operation, to serve short-haul routes to/from Gatwick from summer 2022.
“This will help us to be both agile and competitive, allowing us to build a sustainable short-haul presence at Gatwick over time.”
The letter said that the “cautious approach of governments” has undermined customer confidence and means the recovery of air travel “remains far behind where we need it to be”.
Employees were told that the airline’s pay costs will “steeply increase” once the UK’s furlough scheme ends on September 30, which is “bad news”.
The message stated that BA’s schedule and operating costs for the remainder of the year “will not line up”.
It added: “We believe that this will be a temporary problem, but it’s a serious one which we need to manage.
“This means we’re going to have to be as flexible as possible when it comes to the way we work, to help mitigate the situation over the coming months.”
BA had 47 short haul routes from the airport before the pandemic hit. They have been on hold since spring 2020
BA said in a statement it is “working with our unions on proposals for a short-haul operation at Gatwick”.
Informally, some people have dubbed the venture “BA Lite”. Other likely names are British Airways Express, mirroring Iberia Express – the lower-cost offshoot of BA’s Spanish sister airline.
The carrier is likely to begin operations at the start of the next summer season in late March 2022 – in time for the Easter school holidays.
Martin Chalk, acting general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: “Balpa cautiously welcomes this decision to restart BA short-haul operations at London Gatwick and create a number of much-needed new pilot jobs.
“Balpa and BA are in the final stages of negotiations over the revised pay and conditions for Gatwick-based BA pilots and we hope to bring these talks to a conclusion shortly.”
IAG already has several low-cost airlines including Vueling and long-haul specialist Level. BA itself created a budget brand, Go, in 1998 as it fought easyJet and Ryanair but sold it three years later.
Last year British Airways reported a 70% fall in annual revenue that drove it to a £3.9billion operating loss.
On Wednesday Gatwick announced a £500million plan to create a permanent second runway by widening the main taxiway.