With air traffic likely to be slack even after the pandemic ends, British Airways is making plans to be a leaner airline, shedding nearly a third of its staff and possibly closing down all operations at London's Gatwick Airport.
While BA has been a big player at Gatwick, even before it became a big base for lower-cost airlines, but Heathrow is its anchor, and its domination of hundreds of flight slots at Heathrow is one of its biggest assets; letting them lie fallow would put them in jeopardy under 'use-it-or-lose-it rules.'
Moving the Gatwick flights to Heathrow would keep the slots active and save staff cost. In a process BA calls 'Preparing for a Different Future" it announced Wednesday that it plans to let 12,000 of its 42,000 employees go, and that it will not be back to full size for years. Gatwick is also a major base for EasyJet.
The situation is complicated by Heathrow issues as well. After years or planning, controversy, reports and demonstrations, Heathrow got permission last year to build a third runway, greatly expanding capacity, a move that now Prime Minister Boris Johnson once, as a local representative, threatened to block with his body. While Johnson hasn't moved to block the approval, which came shortly before he became PM, the Appeal Court has, ruling that the permit was illegal because it failed to account for climate change commitments.
Under the circumstances, it may be too soon to write off a return to Gatwick by BA, even if it pulls out now.