British Airways will limit its operations at Gatwick airport. Under a radical transformation plan to overcome the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
However, the new British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle will be operating fewer flights from Gatwick. Once the airline emerges from the crisis.
The airline will shift operations to Heathrow. There it will cope up with the drop in business travel by operating more flights to long-haul holiday hotspots. Such as Bermuda and Barbados.
No Short-haul Flights
Whereas, there will be no short-haul flights from Gatwick until March next year as the airline has canceled them. However, there will be only 12 long-haul routes from Britain’s second-biggest airport. Shrinking the airline’s Gatwick operations will form part of a wide-ranging new strategy under Doyle, who replaced Alex Cruz last week.
However, Doyle has been working at the airline’s business unit at Gatwick for the past 22 years. His top priority, for now, is to get travel moving again by working with the rest of the industry and governments in the UK. And abroad to agree on travel corridors and remove quarantine restrictions.
But his strategy for steering BA through the pandemic will also look at how to contend with a significant medium-term drop in revenues from lucrative trans-Atlantic and business travel.
It is thought that focusing more on a ‘premium leisure’ business model, primarily based at Heathrow, would allow BA to attract affluent holidaymakers willing to pay extra for the convenience of flying from West London.
Shifting Flights to Heathrow
However, the airline has also switched its Maldives flights from Gatwick to Heathrow last week. Moreover, it operated its first daily flights from Heathrow to Barbados for more than 15 years. Next March, it will launch its first flights from Heathrow to Bermuda for more than three decades.
John Strickland, an aviation analyst who previously worked as a network planner at BA. He said, “It is not clear to what extent BA will stay at Gatwick. And it could potentially maintain part of its slot portfolio thereby leasing out some slots to other airlines.”
As the BA slots will be empty there are some interested parties for its slot at Gatwick. The potential buyer is budget carrier Wizz Air. As it has recently added four new routes from Gatwick and has called on regulators to let it pick up rivals’ unused slots.
He said the airline would be forced to cut prices to attract customers until the Covid-19 pandemic was no longer a major concern. “Tactical pricing offers are likely in the short term to fill the excess capacity in premium cabins,” he added.
Previously, BA was operating flights from Gatwick to around 65 short-haul destinations a year. With around 48 departures on a peak day.
Importance of Gatwick Operations
Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive, said, “I know Sean is aware of the immense value that Gatwick adds to the airline’s network from his days running BA’s operations at the airport.”
“I’m looking forward to welcoming back the airline’s short-haul services as soon as possible.”
But Strickland said, “Heathrow is always going to be the strategic priority.”
“I would expect [Doyle] to continue the ethos of being cost-focused. And using his network experience to be increasingly flexible and creative in the way they schedule their fleet.”
“As BA adapts, there is likely to be a lot more experimentation and trial and error in the strategies they adopt until some clarity emerges about what will be the new normal in travel markets.”
In a statement, BA said, “Until March 2021, most of our short-haul flights will continue to operate from Heathrow. This enables us to ensure smooth, uninterrupted, and efficient operation across our business at a time when demand is yet to return and international travel restrictions remain in place.”