British Airways has announced it will be highly unlikely to re-open its base at Gatwick Airport, London’s second primary airport with direct access to London.
The airline has competed there with Norwegian, easyJet and and Virgin Atlantic from the airport, which it has occupied since it took over British Caledonian.
It mostly operates holiday and leisure routes from there, as indeed do Virgin Atlantic.
However, historically Gatwick has been more costly to operate because staff have been on different types of contracts, although over time BA worked hard to rid itself of the legacy.
The airlines predecessors, BEA and BOAC, operated out of Gatwick all the way back to 1950.
Back in the 1987 BA moved in to the then stunning new North Terminal it took on from British Caledonian – I remember it when there wasn’t even one shop there, but over the years, even though it developed expensive trial terminals for self check in, it grew tired of the facility and swapped to the South Terminal, letting the airports biggest airline, easyJet take on the North. BA’s rather low grade excuse was it was easier for its customers to get to the railway station to London and Brighton.
In some respects, while it would be a blow to Gatwick, the space will be vacant for years, and there will be a chance to return.
Some 20% of BA’s aircraft operate form Gatwick and will be withdrawn, and as it expects to cut at least that many aircraft from its fleet, it would leave Heathrow relatively intact.
Right now, passenger numbers at BA are at 1% of last years levels. Figures lower than the mid 1950’s.
Indeed things are so bad the airline has warned pilots, it may cease operating completely for a couple of weeks in May.
BA’s unions are fuming about the way IAG – based in Madrid – is seemingly riding roughshod over recent agreements with them. BA is the engine that drives IAG’s overall business, and it seems London is having far less to say about how it’s going to move forward. These moves have Willie Walsh – who was due to retire in March but decided to stay and oversee the crisis – are all over them. he’s ruthless and won’t give an inch when it comes to protecting the company and will do whatever is necessary, and whatever cost to bring it through. If it means mass redundancies, that’s what it will be.