British Airways has set out plans to resume short-haul flights from Gatwick next March via a new subsidiary that it says will compete on price with “no frills” rivals.
The carrier, which had suspended European trips from the West Sussex airport in spring last year as a result of the pandemic, said tickets were now on sale from £39 each way.
Plans for a new Gatwick subsidiary were first floated over the summer though initially ran into turbulence as BA sought agreement with unions for the blueprint, which depends on being able to operate on a lower cost base.
It has since ironed out a deal with Balpa, which represents pilots.
British Airways, said flights to 35 destinations including Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Faro, Ibiza, Malaga, Santorini, Palma, Nice and Tenerife would be available.
The subsidiary, BA Euroflyer, will be an “entirely separate entity” from British Airways though operating under its name, in the same way that BA subsidiary BA CityFlyer operates out of London’s City airport.
However, services will initially be operated by BA until a new air operators’ certificate is issued.
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Flights will begin from the end of March with three Airbus short-haul aircraft, ramping up to 18 planes by the end of May.
The airline will offer “fares competitive with those of Gatwick no-frills carriers” – putting it in competition with easyJet at the hub – while still offering “the same high level of service they expect of British Airways” as well as “generous bag allowance, free water and snacks”.
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BA chief executive Sean Doyle said it was a “landmark moment”.
“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 carrier at competitive prices,” he said.
Gatwick boss Stewart Wingate said: “Despite the ongoing public health situation, today’s announcement is a positive signal that consumer confidence is returning as people start thinking about making travel plans for next summer.”
The announcement comes as British Airways received a separate boost as the UK decided to remove all 11 countries from its travel red list.
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