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Was it a Bluff? British Airways Could Still Set Up at Low-Cost Airline at Gatwick Airport

Was it a Bluff? British Airways Could Still Set Up at Low-Cost Airline at Gatwick Airport

British Airways may not in fact abandon London’s Gatwick Airport as had been feared after last-ditch negotiations with pilots over a new low-cost subsidiary resulted in more concessions from the BALPA pilots union.

Just over a week ago, British Airways said it was cutting its losses at Gatwick Airport and would move the vast majority of its short-haul flights to Heathrow after failing to do a deal with pilots that would have seen them paid less than their peers at easyJet.

British Airways said it would only keep a handful of domestic flights and a small number of long-haul flights to leisure destinations operating from London’s second-largest airport, while the vast majority of the airline’s slots would potentially be sold off to low-cost rivals.

The airline signalled that this really was the end of the line for Gatwick after it removed from sale its short-haul services for next summer but could it have been a very public negotiating strategy all along?

According to several sources, British Airways and the BALPA pilots union have continued discussions over the last week and a new ballot could be put to pilots as soon as Monday.

British Airways hopes to turn its loss-making Gatwick operation around with a new low-cost subsidiary that would offer the same level of service to passengers as they have become accustomed to.

But in order to compete with the budget airlines that now dominate Gatwick, British Airways wants to save money by paying its pilots significantly less. Even though the deal would see BA pilots on lower wages than their peers at low-cost rivals like easyJet, the subsidiary would be a route into the mainline airline where earnings would shoot up.

Acting general secretary of the BALPA union Martin Chalk said last week that despite the union’s “best efforts” it couldn’t reach an agreement with British Airways.

A spokesperson for BA said the airline had been forced to “suspend” its operations at Gatwick but the airline will need to either use its slots or sell them. BA could try to transfer them to another airline owned by its parent company or concede its place at Gatwick by selling the slots to a budget rival.

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