British Airways has canned plans to launch a budget subsidiary based out of Gatwick airport and will instead pull out of the airport permanently.
BA pulled operations out of Gatwick at the beginning of the Covid pandemic and had planned to relaunch there, but with a budget unit.
However, the launch a short-haul subsidiary at Gatwick is no more after it failed to reach an agreement on pilots’ contracts.
A BA spokesperson said: “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.”
Airport slots, effectively the right to operate a certain number of flights per day from a base, are valuable assets for airlines, but they exist on a “use them or lose them” basis.
If BA isn’t going to use its Gatwick slots without this low-cost subsidiary it could sell the slots to rivals such as Easyjet, Ryanair or Wizz Air, or offering them to budget Spanish carrier Vueling – also owned by BA owner IAG.
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.
“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.”
The airline had hopes to transfer at least some of the flights formerly scheduled to run from Gatwick over to this budget subsidiary. Pre-Covid BA served 47 short-haul destinations from the airport.
Cirium data shows BA is the second-largest scheduled carrier at the West Sussex airport, so if the airline doesn’t signifcantly return to Gatwick in some form the airport and surrounding businesses could take a hit.