Over the past few years, British Airways has operated summer seasonal weekend flights from its London Heathrow base to European holiday destinations.
Initially, these were charter flights for holiday companies and last year BA launched seasonal weekly flights to Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca. Both of these two destinations are to return to Heathrow next summer.
The use of Heathrow slots for summer seasonal flights ramps up a gear next summer as BA launches twice weekly flights to Faro (also operated from Gatwick), Malaga (also operated from Gatwick and London City), Mykonos, Porto and Santorini.
Flights to Oporto, Faro and Malaga operate from 30 March 2014. Flights to Mykonos operate from 3 May 2014 and flights to Santorini operate from 4 May 2014.
Although it may seem unusual BA is launching these routes from its main hub at Heathrow, instead of Gatwick which has served as BA’s main base for leisure flights over the past years, there is a logic in using Heathrow slots for such flights at weekends when business routes are relatively quiet. No doubt these routes are also supported by bookings from tour operators.
On Monday 23 September 2013, the Financial Times featured an interesting story where the Chief Executive of London Gatwick, Stewart Wingate, postulated, known in politics and the press as “kite flying”, that if a second runway for Gatwick was approved, one of the “Big Three” airline alliances could be persuaded to defect from Heathrow airport.
Some good news for British Airways passengers at London Gatwick. The airline has announced that, from the start of the Summer 2014 season on 30 March 2014, it will increase the frequency of flights on the following routes:
Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) increases from 2 to 3 flights a week
Antigua increases from 5 to 6 flights a week
Kingston increases from 3 to 4 flights a week
St Lucia increases from 6 to 7 flights a week
Orlando increases from 10 to 13 flights a week
The increase in frequency has been enabled by the addition of one more Boeing 777 aircraft, taking the number of Boeing 777s stationed at London Gatwick to 10. This is itself something of an achievement for BA at London Gatwick bearing in mind the number of slots that now need occupying at Heathrow.
It is a little disappointing that BA has not chosen to use the extra capacity to launch a new route, particularly to the East where BA has previously expressed the potential for growth in long-haul leisure routes from London Gatwick. However, there is a logic in adding frequencies to routes not served by daily flights to increase the number of outbound/inbound options for passengers.
Of note is the increase in flights to Orlando, which increase once again to 13 weekly and has historically been something of a stronghold for Virgin Atlantic. It is also interesting to note there has been no increase in flights from London Gatwick to Las Vegas which remain at thrice weekly, and complemented by daily flights from London Heathrow.
Hopefully the trend of steady growth in BA’s long-haul leisure operation at Gatwick is one that will continue.
British Airways has announced it is to suspend its thrice weekly London Gatwick – Tunis route from 27 October 2013.
No reason has been given for the cancellation, but unsatisfactory commercial performance is a likely reason and the route suspension is an indication of the ongoing commercial pressures BA faces in the short-haul market at Gatwick.
At this stage, passengers booked on services after 27 October 2013 only have the option of a refund or moving their booking to an earlier date, as there are no direct or indirect alternatives on BA.
On the morning of the announcement, as per standard protocol, it held a webcast for analyst and the question and answer session that follows provides a lot of useful insight into current strategic developments at the airline group.
Here is a summary of some points of interest from the call:
British Airways has announced it is to launch a new, thrice weekly, route from London Gatwick to Larnaca.
The route launches on 30 June 2013 and will operate in addition to BA’s daily service from London Heathrow.
The flight operates on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. As is common for Garwick the flight operates at different times on each operating day.
Flight BA2674 departs at 08:35 on Monday (returning from Larnaca at 16:10), 14:40 on Thursday (returning at 22:05) and 09:25 on Sunday (returning at 17:00). The flight will be operated with a Boeing 737 aircraft.
From a network development point of view there are a couple of interesting points to note.
First this is another new London Gatwick route which, like Barcelona and Las Vegas, operates in parallel to Heathrow. In recent times London Gatwick and Heathrow have tended to maintain broadly distinct networks but the latest Gatwick routes are a reversal of this trend. Heathrow has also moved into Gatwick’s leisure territory with seasonal routes to Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza and Gran Canaria.
Secondly, this is a relatively long range route which indicates where BA sees growth in the difficult short haul market at Gatwick.
British Airways has confirmed changes to its London Gatwick short-haul timetable for the Winter 2013 season, which starts at the end of October.
The changes announced for so far are relatively minor, but in the context of perennial uncertainty over the future of BA’s London Gatwick short-haul operation, that is no bad thing.
Flights to Salzburg increase from 7 to 8 a week, with an additional flight on Tuesday.
Flights to Paphos continue twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays until 29 November 2013. Flights currently operate four weekly in the summer season.
Flights to Marrakech increase from 7 to 10 weekly, with additional flights on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Note that each additional flight has a different departure and arrival time. Flight BA 2668 departs London Gatwick at 11:35 on Monday (returning 15:50), 06:45 on Wednesday (returning 11:00), and 06:55 on Saturday (returning 11:10).