British Airways Weeks Away From Decision On New Gatwick Airline

British Airways
Credit: Rob Finlayson

LONDON—British Airways (BA) is deliberating whether to launch a new London Gatwick-based short-haul airline in summer 2022 to better compete with LCCs like easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air.

Before the pandemic, BA operated both long- and short-haul flights from Gatwick, but the crisis forced the suspension of these flights for the past 18 months.

“We’ve been honest about what it would take to go back in [to Gatwick] and compete. We need a subsidiary; we need an efficient platform,” BA chairman and CEO Sean Doyle said during a one-to-one interview Sept. 7.

“We think we can actually sustain the BA brand, but it needs flexibility, and the way to do that is through an independent subsidiary,” Doyle said. “And that’s what we’re looking to develop at Gatwick. But I think, if we don’t get that efficient operating platform, we wouldn’t go back in.”

The new airline would not be an LCC. However, it would operate Airbus A320 family aircraft and follow BA brand guidelines.

“It would have the autonomy to run the business the way it needs to compete at Gatwick,” Doyle said. “And I think that’s what we would need to do to recommit to the short-haul business down there. I think we’ve been very clear, but if we can make it work, it’s a great opportunity.”

BA and its unions have been locked in lengthy negotiations over the project. Doyle is hoping to finalize plans for the new venture over the coming weeks.

“We need to move quickly here, because next summer is when we want to get our operation up and running and the clock is ticking. We are a matter of weeks away from making a final decision and time is important,” Doyle said. “We’ve tried a lot of other things down through the years and none of it has worked in the way that we need to reinvest [at Gatwick].”

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.