BA boss Sean Doyle promises ‘a premium service from the UK’s flag carrier at competitive prices’
The initial destinations are Amsterdam, Larnaca and Paphos in Cyprus, the Spanish airports of Seville and Tenerife, and Verona in Italy.
Initially it will operate with just three Airbus A320 jets, but by the end of May the fleet will expand to around 35 European destinations.
The scale of BA’s presence will be around half what it was in 2019.
As with its operation at London City airport, the British Airways Gatwick product will be a standalone business. BA is recruiting crew on different terms from its mainline operation at London Heathrow.
But the airline stresses the product will remain the same: “Customers will receive the same high level of service they expect of British Airways as well as enjoying the benefits of travelling with the UK’s flag carrier including a generous baggage allowance, free water and snacks, free seat selection and frequent flyer benefits which include lounge access.”
British Airways suspended all short-haul flying from Gatwick at the end of March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
Many leisure routes previously served from Gatwick were moved to Heathrow. BA says that links to Faro, Ibiza, Malaga, Marrakech and Tenerife will be served from both London airports.
BA’s network is almost entirely served already by easyJet, Britain’s biggest budget airline, which has its biggest base at Gatwick.
Most are leisure destinations, including the key Spanish airports of Alicante, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Malaga, Menorca and Palma.
In Italy, Bari, Cagliari, Catania, Milan Malpensa, Turin and Venice will be served. The Greek islands of Crete (Heraklion), Kos, Rhodes and Santorini are on the schedule, along with the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Antalya and Dalaman are the targets in southern Turkey.
France gets two British Airways routes from Gatwick: Bordeaux and Nice.
The only Portuguese destination is Faro, serving the Algarve.
Other destinations include Malta, Marrakech and Dubrovnik.
But there are significant business and “VFR” (visiting friends and relations) routes include Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin and Madrid.
BA’s chairman and chief executive, Sean Doyle, said: “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.”
Gatwick airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said: “This significant news will be very welcome for many people connected to the airport.
“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 airline schedule analyst Sean Moulton said: “Despite no decision being made on slot rules for summer 2022, it is widely thought that a large proportion of slots will be needed to be used, otherwise they will be lost.
“British Airways has responded by offering destinations attractive to the leisure travel market – which has seen a quicker recovery than business destinations – in addition to offering city break destinations.
“The network largely competes with easyJet and it will be interesting to see the routes develop as certainty improves.”
The Independent has invited easyJet to comment on the move.