MIAMI – British Airways (BA) has announced the cancellation of most short-haul flights at Gatwick (LGW), London’s second-largest airport.

The airline attributed the decision to pilots rejecting a plan to establish a new low-cost subsidiary to better compete with EasyJet (U2) once the pandemic ended and flights resumed. BA expressed its disappointment today that BALPA, the pilots’ union, had rejected its idea for the subsidiary, which would have been named British Airways.

As the epidemic ravaged BA’s income, the airline, which is controlled by parent IAG, relocated most of its flights to its main hub at London Heathrow (LHR), the UK’s busiest airport.

The airline had stated that it would rebuild its European network only if it could make it profitable from LGW, where it would compete with U2.

Airport slots, or the right to operate a particular number of flights per day from a base, are precious assets for airlines, but they are only available on a “use it or lose it” basis. British Airways may now be able to sell its short-haul slot portfolio at the airport. Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air (W6) has long expressed interest in expanding its presence at LGW.

Photo: Gatwick Airport

Comments from British Airways, BALPA

“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,” a BA spokesperson said.

“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.”

On his part, BALPA union acting general secretary, Martin Chalk said, “Despite our best efforts Balpa was unable to reach an agreement with British Airways on revised Terms and Conditions for London Gatwick (LGW) Short-haul, that was acceptable to our members.”

Chalk added, “The company has informed us it is now pulling out of LGW short-haul and is considering what to do with its LGW slots. BALPA remains open to future negotiations with British Airways to address our members’ concerns with the proposal for LGW short-haul or about any other part of the business.”

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Featured image: British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner G-ZBJM. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways