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A British Airways A320neo landing. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

British Airways May Cease Gatwick Operations Permanently

British Airways may permanently withdraw all operations from London’s Gatwick Airport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. BBC News cited a memo to staff from the airline’s head of operations at Gatwick which stated: “As you know, we suspended our Gatwick flying schedule at the start of April and there is no certainty as to when or if these services can or will return.”

The possibility of the withdrawal follows news earlier this week that the airline may make 12,000 staff redundant as a result of a dramatic drop in passenger demand. Currently, over 30,000 staff are furloughed under the U.K. government’s job retention scheme which has been extended until the end of June.

The airline’s Gatwick operations predominantly include short-haul and long-haul leisure routes and a move to consolidate all operations to its Heathrow hub would result in significant savings. The availability of capacity at the formerly constrained Heathrow Airport would allow the airline to manage its network from the U.K.’s only hub airport. The airline has not publicly commented on the speculation which has dominated U.K. media following this week’s earlier announcement.

In a letter to staff earlier this week, Sky News reports the airline’s chief executive Alex Cruz set out the case for a drastic evaluation of the airline’s strategy to survive and compete after the devastating impact of the pandemic and that subsequent worldwide restrictions on travel which may result in significant job losses.

Cruz said: “The impact on British Airways and the industry in general is like no other previous crisis we have gone through before. We are now at a critical juncture and must table proposals for structural change so that our business is in a credible position to respond to what will be a challenging and uncertain trading environment for a sustained period of time.”

Unlike a number of European carriers, British Airways is not seeking a bailout from the government but instead undertaking its own plans for restructuring. Low-cost rival easyJet has been the recipient of a government cash injection but long-haul rival Virgin Atlantic has had its bid rejected pending reapplication.

The U.K. opposition spokesperson for Transport Jim McMahon commented: “The whole aviation industry is critical to the UK economy but staff should not be being laid off by those at the top who have reaped the rewards from their hard work. It was always clear aviation needed a sector-specific deal to alleviate the immediate financial pressures that exist, yet the Government has failed to act leaving people without jobs.”

John Flett
John Flett
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