BA today declared an intensification of its war with LCC’s Norwegian, Transat, WOW, Westjet, and even Virgin Atlantic on the long haul routes it serves from London Gatwick.
Announcing new routes to Toronto from May 1st 2018, with three flights per week, and three to Las Vegas from March 27th 2018 adds yet more competition. BA’s habit is to run 3 a week, then 5 then go daily as soon as it’s justified. BA has added 6 new long haul routes from Gatwick this year, all of them in direct competition with other carriers operating from Gatwick.
BA has long held the belief that the real cost of flying on Norwegian or Westjet is little different to the prices they charge, and several fare examples I’ve run tend to suggest they’re not wrong. Much of the fares are consumed by the UK’s ludicrously high APD – Airport Departure tax, the actual costs, by the time you’ve added in pre-flight essentials and any on-board in flight options, soon start to balance out. Only if you choose the base cost, with no luggage and carry on your own food and drink in hand luggage, that you purchased airside, do any of the low costs seriously undercut BA on price.
This has been BA’s plan all along and they’ve now advanced a long way down the path of making their aircraft suit their strategy. With the declaration that BA would keep its Boeing 777-236’s until they were at least 30 years old, in full service, the next phase was a major refurbishment.
With 46 772’s split up into five different configurations and across LGW and LHR, the refit, taking place in winter 2017/18 has a big change in economy, gone is the 3-3-3 layout, welcome to 3-4-3 and ten seats across. That’s the same as in an A380 but with considerably less space to jam them in. 25 of BA’s 772ER’s will get the refit. BA says it will give them lower seat costs than a Norwegian 787 – and have no doubt Norwegian is the main target – that slide is from BA’s own presentation. However Heathrow passengers had better watch out to, only 10-15 772’s are based at Gatwick, that means 10 of these are coming your way.
BA seems to feel that at Gatwick, the answer is to act as its competitors do, cut prices, cut amenities, cut service but somehow persuade people that it’s a superior product. They think the The BA Brand is enough – and that’s too often a big mistake to make. The public soon see when a brand is demeaning itself and taking advantage of them. BA seem to have gotten the wrong end of the stick, because as anyone who has flown Norwegian will tell you, it’s a far superior experience to anything BA has to offer if you do opt in to paying roughly the same fares.
In any event, BA is shadowing its major opposition at Gatwick, and at the very least it will keep everyone on their toes.
BA recently returned to JFK, (against Norwegian) started an Oakland service (against Norwegian, Thomas Cook), Orlando (against Norwegian, Virgin Atlantic and potentially Thomas Cook), never mind the dozen routes it operates in direct competition from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, mostly to the Caribbean. One can only assume BA has every intention on continuing to slash its service levels to meet the prices and compete with the new airlines.
Personally, I think its going the wrong way about it.