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BA imbued with ambition to grow long-haul network: Cruz

British Airways is imbued with a "sense of ambition" when it comes to adding new long-haul routes from London's airports, despite the slot constraints faced by the UK carrier, chief executive Alex Cruz discloses.

Speaking at Routes Europe in Bilbao today, Cruz says that over the last few years the British flag carrier has managed to add new short- and long-haul routes despite the "completely slot-constrained environment" at London Heathrow.

"It is just tremendous to get a sense of the degree of ambition that we have to continue growing the network at Heathrow," he states.

By reducing frequencies on existing services, the London-based airline was able to add new flights to Nashville and New Orleans from Heathrow.

The airline is "committed to [adding] new services" from the gateway, he adds.

The addition of a third runway at Heathrow will lead to more UK and European airports being connected to the hub, Cruz predicts.

But he cautions that the construction of any new runway must be accompanied by a "a neutral effect on taxes" as prices at Heathrow are already "extremely high".

Elsewhere, Cruz says the acquisition of Monarch’s slots at London Gatwick gives the IAG-owned carrier more opportunities to add new long-haul routes from the gateway.

He adds that BA is using the slots for short-haul leisure destinations such as Malaga this summer, as this was "what we could in a short period of time with a combination of our own aircraft and some leased aircraft".

"The big emphasis right now is what do we do next year. Everyone has an ambition to add more long-haul routes, no doubt about it," he adds.

Cruz notes the flag carrier is currently determining "what the options are", adding that it will need to find the aircraft to fly long distances.

Using refurbished Boeing 777s at Gatwick gives BA the platform to compete with long-haul low-cost rivals, he adds.

Meanwhile, BA CityFlyer is "experimenting" with new routes both from London City and from points in the UK that "don’t touch London", Cruz states.

The regional carrier’s leisure routes are proving "successful" and business-class seats are being sold on some services.

He believes further growth by BA CityFlyer at London City will be “linked to the degree of investment that they make and how willing they are to engage with airlines such as ourselves”.

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