British Airways to resume short-haul flights from Gatwick

Airline has resolved dispute with pilots' union to re-launch service

British Airways will resume short-haul flights from Gatwick from March 2022. Pixabay

British Airways has announced the return of short-haul flights from Gatwick Airport after resolving a row with a pilots’ union.

The UK’s largest international airline will resume trips to 35 destinations from March 2022, including Ibiza, Milan, Faro, Malaga and Tenerife.

Operations will start with three Airbus SE aircraft, with plans to ramp up to 18 planes by the end of May.

The airline had to overcome union opposition to its plan to resume short-haul operations at the airport, which have been suspended since early 2020.

In September, members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association rejected proposals for BA to run short-haul flights from Gatwick, London’s second-largest airport.

After negotiations, pilots voted in favour of a new subsidiary in October after IAG SA-owned BA said it would scrap European operations at Gatwick if it could not cut expenses.

BA contended that a new unit that could better compete with low-cost rivals such as easyJet and Wizz Air was the only way forward at the airport south of London after years of losing money.

The airline said it has already started a “significant recruitment campaign” to hire staff for the new subsidiary — BA Euroflyer.

Announcing the decision on Tuesday, BA said the flights would be operated by the new subsidiary. While planes will continue to carry British Airways branding, the new airline will exist as an “entirely separate entity”, it said.

“Today is a landmark moment for British Airways,” chief executive Sean Doyle said.

“The creation of a new British Airways short-haul organisation means Gatwick customers will benefit from access to a premium service from the UK’s flag airline at competitive prices.

“We are looking forward to bringing a short-haul network back to Gatwick, with a fantastic flying team in place, to serve our customers from London’s second hub airport, which we feel sure will be a success.”

The vast majority of British Airways’ short-haul flights from the West Sussex airport have been suspended since March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company previously said the flights were loss-making even before the virus crisis, and they would only restart if there was “a competitive and sustainable operating cost base”.

The announcement comes after airline bosses and travel companies hit out at the UK government’s tightened travel restrictions.

When the Omicron Covid-19 variant was detected in the UK last month, the Conservative government imposed strict rules for travellers entering from 11 African countries, requiring them to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine.

PCR tests have once again become mandatory for all travellers arriving in the UK, after they were swapped for less expensive lateral flow tests in October.

Updated: December 14th 2021, 12:14 PM