The chief executive of British Airways has said that the airline is in “advanced” talks with its unions over the launch of a new low-cost carrier at Gatwick Airport.
Speaking at an event at Heathrow, Sean Doyle said that BA wanted to set up a unit with a “competitive cost platform”.
However, he warned that if the negotiations failed, it would be unable to compete at the Crawley airport, where it has lost money for decades.
“We would consider alternatives for the slot portfolio,” Doyle said, raising the prospect of selling them.
BA stopped operating flights from Gatwick last spring as the coronavirus pandemic forced the airlines industry to all but stop services.
The new carrier, which has been dubbed “BA Lite” by some, is slated to start operating next spring.
Initially it will fly services on 17 Airbus A320s, with plans to size up according to demand over the coming years.
It is understood that pilots’ union BALPA is in favour of the plan, despite reports yesterday that BA pilots working for the new subsidiary would be paid less than rivals at Easyjet.
BA has also rejected suggestions that it will provide a “no frills” service, saying that passengers can expect the same level of service as it offers on its usual flights.
Not everyone has greeted the plan with enthusiasm. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary last week called it the “definition of insanity”.
He said it was far more difficult to run a low-cost service out of Gatwick than out of London airports like Luton and Stansted due to the comparative fees.
UK travel rules ‘not fit for purpose’
Speaking at today’s event, Doyle also branded the UK’s current travel regime “not fit for purpose”.
He said that the traffic light system, which is next due for review next week, needed to be “simplified”.
“We’d encourage the Government to look at seizing that opportunity in the next few weeks”, he added.
“Aviation needs the same crack of the whip economically as other sectors are getting domestically.”