Chris Jasper/LONDON

British Airways has unveiled the long-awaited restructuring of its London Gatwick operations. The moves will cost around 1,000 jobs and see Gatwick effectively down-graded as a transfer hub, with longhaul services to be focused squarely on London Heathrow.

A revamp of BA's shorthaul operations is meanwhile expected to see its mainline European Operations at Gatwick (EOG) business merged with the wholly-owned CityFlyer Express subsidiary. The UK flag-carrier will aim to use the latter's low cost base to reduce costs within EOG, and could therefore encounter union opposition.

Though BA says the new Gatwick plan is the result of extensive studies, it closely resembles one understood to have been devised by the carrier's former chief executive Bob Ayling, but ultimately shelved due to worries over the likely reaction of pilots and other staff.

New chief executive, Rod Eddington, says BA's overall strategy had been right, but "did not go far enough, fast enough". He claims Gatwick "will remain strategically crucial" for BA.

A reduction in Gatwick's longhaul operations will see services cut from 43 to about 25, with around six of the destinations affected "suspended" due to unprofitability and "10 or so" (including Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and the Seychelles) transferred to Heathrow from October in a bid to improve their performance. The Gatwick longhaul fleet of 33 Boeing 747s, 777s and 767s will be cut to around 20 777s, while the Heathrow fleet will increase. BA's AML deal, under which JMC crews operate three 777s, should expire by 2002.

BA says a "small number" of short-haul routes will also be cut, and that while short-haul movements will remain "substantially similar" to current levels, improved utilisation will see its short-haul fleet cut from today's 56 aircraft, with details to be finalised.

BA says the management and operations of EOG and CityFlyer will be brought "more closely together", with CityFlyer moving from Gatwick's south to its north terminal alongside other BA activities from early 2002.

All Gatwick services will operate under the BA brand name, but it says its BASE, Brymon, British Regional Airlines, Deutsche BA and GB Airways franchises will be unaffected. Together with others already announced, the changes will take BA's capacity reduction to 20% by 2003 compared with 1999-2000, and its Gatwick cuts to 40% over the same period.

Source: Flight International