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A British Airways 747-400 at London’s Heathrow Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

Gatwick and Heathrow Limit Operations Due to Reduced Demand

Traffic movements at London’s main airports have significantly reduced as a result of the worldwide downturn in air passenger traffic. Last week London City airport located near the financial center of London catering predominantly to premium traffic is temporarily closed to all flights. Earlier this week Gatwick Airport announced its single runway would be in operation between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. only with the consolidation of all flight arrivals and departures to its South Terminal. The south London airport is the main base of operation for low-cost carrier easyJet and British Airways’ leisure market.

easyJet announced on Monday that all aircraft will be grounded for an indefinite period and that the airline’s operating crew would be furloughed for two months. On Thursday British Airways announced the airline had reached a deal with unions to furlough more than 30,000 employees. The action of both airlines prevents immediate job losses and follows similar action taken by Virgin Atlantic in mid-March when the impact of COVID-19 first began to have a more widening impact beyond China. The option to put staff on a furlough enables them to receive up to 80% of their normal pay up to a specified monetary limit as part of the U.K. government’s Coronavirus Employee Retention Scheme.

As if further evidence was required of the unprecedented nature of the almost zero demand for air travel, Heathrow airport advised on Friday that it will reduce operations to a single runway from Monday, April 6. A Heathrow spokesperson quoted in the Evening Standard said: “Although we are seeing significantly fewer flights at the moment, Heathrow will remain open so that we can continue to play a crucial role in helping to secure vital medical goods and food for the nation during this unprecedented epidemic.” The U.K.’s only hub airport is currently involved in legal recourse to expand with a third runway but current events will see services alternating weekly between the airport’s two runways.

Among the overwhelming negative stories on the U.K.’s aviation industry, there has been a small, positive development for one carrier. Scottish regional airline Loganair began an ATR 42-500 aircraft service this week to Heathrow, the first in its history to the airport. Business Traveller reported on the airline’s flight between Heathrow and the Isle of Man, a sector that is deemed essential under U.K. government regulations. “The London City to Isle of Man service that Loganair normally operates for BA City Flyer has been moved to London Heathrow temporarily, at least until the end of April. London City has closed [temporarily] and BA has asked us to run the Isle of Man’s essential air service to Heathrow in the short term, so as to keep the route open.”

John Flett
John Flett
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