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British Airways May Cease Gatwick Operations Permanently


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

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

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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