British Airways is reported to have launched a review into closing operations at Gatwick Airport due to a freefall in demand caused by the Covid pandemic.

The carrier had considered pulling out of the West Sussex airport during the first lockdown in March 2020 and consolidating its operations into Heathrow Airport.

In the last year, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian have pulled out of the West Sussex airport. The UK’s second biggest airport has become the worst affected in Europe by the pandemic with daily departures and arrivals falling 92 per cent over the last year.

Normal slot rules currently suspended

BA is reported to have concerns about losing its lucrative take off and landing slots at Heathrow. The airline has been hit by the collapse in international travel and domestic flights represent a small proportion of the carrier’s network. Normal rules governing slots requiring airlines to use 80 per cent of their allocation are currently suspended. BA has drastically reduced its operations at Heathrow leaving it potentially exposed to losing its most valuable slots should the waiver not be extended by transport secretary Grant Shapps.

The carrier operates a network of short- and long-haul leisure destinations from London Gatwick, while Heathrow is reserved mainly for business destinations. Data forecasts that growth will be driven mainly by leisure traffic for the foreseeable future, British Airways is considering shutting down its presence at Gatwick and consolidate all traffic at Heathrow to safeguard its main fortress.

Pandemic will “change profile of demand”

Last month chief executive Luis Gallego told analysts: “Gatwick is an important decision that we need to take as a group. It’s true that we have the issue with the slots. Gatwick has some strategic value, but we need to be competitive there. This crisis is going to change the profile … of the demand. So we are analysing the different options.”

A British Airways spokesperson said: “Until the end of October, most of our short-haul flights will continue to operate from Heathrow. This enables us to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted, and efficient operation across our business at a time when demand is yet to return and international travel restrictions remain in place. We’re still flying some of our long-haul flights from Gatwick.”

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