British Airway’s new short-haul airline to Gatwick ready for take off
British Airways to launch new short-haul airline at Gatwick after reaching key agreement on wages and conditions for cabin crew with union leaders
British Airways is expected to announce the launch of its new short-haul airline at Gatwick a few weeks after reaching a key agreement on salaries and conditions for cabin crew with union leaders.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that BA finalized negotiations late last week with the Unite union, which represents more than 10,000 airline cabin crews as well as engineers and ground staff.
Closing a deal with Unite, which has been one of BA’s fiercest critics during the pandemic, was the last major obstacle to launching the new airline. This means that BA can start hiring staff before the first flights from next April.
Ready for take off: British Airways finalized negotiations with Unite union
In an internal staff update on Friday afternoon, BA Managing Director Sean Doyle said: “Our plans for a new BA-branded subsidiary to fly short-haul to Gatwick are progressing well, having received support from Unite this week.
“While we still have other negotiations to work out, it seems likely that we will be up and running to follow the summer program.” Final talks are taking place with ground support personnel and Gatwick, which Doyle expects to conclude “imminently”.
BA first announced its plans for BA-branded Gatwick airline in August, but said this would only be possible if it had a “competitive cost base”. Staff employed by the new company – dubbed âBA-Liteâ – will be asked to sign more flexible contracts, which should include part-time or seasonal work. It is believed that around 160 pilots and several hundred cabin crews could be hired for the new airline, which will operate up to 17 planes for short-haul European journeys.
BA struck a deal with the Balpa pilots union last month after weeks of tense negotiations. Balpa had previously withdrawn from the talks, putting the future of the airline at risk.
It is understood that Unite’s negotiations with BA have focused on compensation and flight schedules to ensure that cabin crew employed at Gatwick earn the same pay as staff in other BA lines of business. Cabin crew earn a base salary plus variable compensation, based on the number of hours flown and a commission on in-flight sales.
Unite Aviation Officer Oliver Richardson said variable pay can run up to “tens of thousands of pounds,” adding: “We wouldn’t want a position at Gatwick where people are invited to revert to a short-haul operation on radically inferior flights terms and conditions. ‘
Relations between Unite and BA are still freezing after the airline cut around 10,000 jobs last year. Unite called the strategy “opportunistic” and criticized BA’s plans to bring back some former cabin crew members now that travel resumes, saying they are being rehired on “significantly reduced terms.”
But union bosses agree that BA’s new short-haul airline will create jobs at Gatwick and in areas that depend on the airport such as hotels, restaurants and transport.
Gatwick is one of the worst-hit airlines after a series of major airport-based airlines – including BA, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian – cut or cut flights during the pandemic.
BA’s parent company IAG said on Friday it would suffer a loss of â¬ 3bn (Â£ 2.57bn) this year, following a loss of â¬ 452m (Â£ 387m) ) for the three months ending in September. This followed a Â£ 1billion fundraiser for BA last Monday.
As the aviation industry continues to struggle despite the gradual lifting of restrictions on international travel since May, Tory MP Henry Smith, whose constituency of Crawley includes Gatwick, welcomed BA’s move last night. He said: “This is further proof that the aviation industry and the local economy are starting to recover from the damage caused by the pandemic.”