By Vanni Gibertini
British Airways Considers Abandoning London Gatwick
British flag carrier British Airways is considering permanently shutting down its operations at London Gatwick airport in order to consolidate all its operations at London Heathrow and therefore maintain the pool of slots it holds at the airport even after temporary waivers are lifted.
As the airline industry struggles to recover from the unprecedented crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, carriers are trying to position themselves to be in the best possible position to allow them to compete and thrive in a new world of air travel.
British Airways has been heavily hit by the collapse of international travel demand since domestic flights represent just a tiny percentage of its network. Furthermore, the carrier has its main base at one of the most congested airports in the world — London Heathrow — and the need to drastically reduce its operations during the peak months of the pandemic has left it potentially exposed to losing the grandfather rights to a large number of slots it holds at the airport.
Rules normally require carriers to operate takeoffs and landings in each of their slots 80% of the time during a season in order to maintain the same slots during the following season. British Airways is considering consolidating all of its flights into and out of London to its main Heathrow hub in order to fully utilize all the slots at the most sought-after airport in Europe and protect them from possible incursions by the competition.
British Airways had developed a strong network of short- and long-haul leisure destinations from London Gatwick, reserving Heathrow mainly for business destinations. Now that data seems to show that growth will be driven mainly by leisure traffic for the foreseeable future, British Airways is considering shutting down its presence at Gatwick and consolidate all traffic at Heathrow to safeguard its main fortress.