Rumours are circulating that British Airways is in talks with the popular holiday airline Jet2 to sell its short-haul operation at London Gatwick. In one anonymous post on a discussion board for pilots, it’s been claimed that British Airways negotiators held talks at Jet2’s head office last week.
Update: August 30, 2023. A spokesperson for British Airways has now confirmed that “there is no truth” to this rumour, which is likely explained by the reasons listed below!
British Airways set up its Gatwick-based short-haul Euroflyer subsidiary in early 2022 after abandoning the airport at the start of the pandemic and threatening to pull out of the market for good.
In the end, British Airways decided its slots at Gatwick were simply too valuable to give up to the likes of easyJet, but for BA to compete with low-cost rivals, it had to create a new carrier with operating costs just as low as its competitors at the airport.
Euroflyer offers the same level of service as BA’s short-haul operation at Heathrow but with much lower operating costs – which comes primarily from the fact that pilots and cabin crew are paid significantly less than their peers at BA’s long-haul operation at Gatwick and at Heathrow.
The subsidiary currently operates 18 aircraft out of Gatwick, and is proving to be so popular that BA wants to significantly expand the fleet. But could British Airways have come to the conclusion that it should retreat back to its Heathrow hub?
Acquiring Euroflyer would certainly be an attractive proposition for Jet2, giving it access to slot-controlled Gatwick for the first time and opening up a new customer base for the rapidly expanding package holiday retailer.
Yet, the rumours just don’t chime with what British Airways and its head parent, Madrid-based IAG, have said about Euroflyer in recent months.
Only last month, British Airways CEO Sean Doyle told investors that the plan was to expand the Euroflyer fleet to 26 aircraft in the coming months. At the height of the pandemic, BA leased out a slew of its coveted Gatwick slots, and Doyle said he was keen to get back those slots – especially from easyJet.
And several months ago, Doyle said the Euroflyer program was “very much on track according to our original plans”.
It seems as if IAG has no intention of permanently giving up the slots it owns at Gatwick, although that’s not to say Euroflyer will be using them all. Instead, Doyle admits that there is “headroom” for capacity growth at Gatwick for Vueling – the Spanish low-cost airline which is also owned by IAG.
IAG said in July that Vueling was performing “very well” at Gatwick and would likely grow further. The airline group say the Gatwick slot portfolio, which used to be solely used by British Airways, come “back into the IAG hand” – although which airline operates these slots remains to be seen.
Could British Airways be willing to give up some of those slots in a deal with Jet2? Well, unfortunately, neither Jet2 nor British Airways replied to a request for comment, so we will just have to watch this space.
What do you think? Do you think British Airways would be willing to abandon short-haul operations at Gatwick and retreat back to Heathrow while allowing Vueling to compete against easyJet?
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.