British Airways is making a return to Gatwick Airport today, following a nearly two year pause on flights from the East Sussex hub.
The first BA flight from the East Sussex airport departed at 6.25 AM, headed for Larnaca, Cyprus – just two days after Gatwick’s South Terminal reopened to passengers.
The terminal, which contains the airline’s First and Club lounges, reopened on Sunday after nearly two years unused.
Today’s flights are the first offerings from BA’s new Gatwick-specific, short-haul operation, which will eventually become a subsidiary of the brand, “EuroFlyer” – similar to its “CityFlyer” programme from London City Airport.
“Initially services will operate under the British Airways Air Operators Certificate (AOC), before moving operations to a new British Airways branded subsidiary, BA Euroflyer later in the year,” says a statement from the carrier.
“The new airline will operate in a similar manner to the company’s existing subsidiary BA Cityflyer, flying under the British Airways brand and delivering a premium British Airways product.”
Read on for the latest news and developments.
The bureaucracy continues with mystery Spanish form
About an hour before landing in Tenerife, our BA flight is told that we must fill in an extra paper form – yes, on top of the lengthy and comprehensive government health form Spain already has in place – for arrival in Tenerife.
People scrabble for pens, which BA does not have on board, and their hotel address and other required details to be filled in in block capital.
BA staff are apologetic, but cannot explain The Mystery Form.
On arrival? Nobody asks to see it.
Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 18:28
Scoot about to land at Gatwick from Singapore and Bangkok
Gatwick has suffered more than any other airport in the (2019) European top 10, especially in long-haul: Virgin Atlantic moved out shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began, and Norwegian’s former long-haul network, embracing Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Singapore has been scrapped.
Yet there are signs of hope: jetBlue is launching transatlantic flights, and the Singapore connection is coming back with Scoot – which this month began flying to Gatwick via Bangkok.
Scoot is the well-regarded (and well-funded) no-frills subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner operating TR752 from Singapore via Bangkok is expected to touch down at 7.15pm this evening.
Simon Calder29 March 2022 16:17
BA2702 has landed at a slightly sleepy Tenerife airport. Just one carousel whirrs round at baggage claim, and we clear passport control in about 15 minutes.
It’s 21 degrees and sunny here already in March – very tempting for Brits eyeing an Easter break.
A tourist organisation is handing out free maps, but the terminal appears to be winding down for the day.
Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 15:45
Clear and sunny with a chance of wifi
As we approach the north coast of Portugal, the skies are clear blue and the atmosphere buzzy aboard our flight to Tenerife. G&Ts have been served, wifi accessed – albeit pretty patchy – and the crew are preparing our lunch.
“We are aware that there are some connectivity issues on our aircraft today, so we’ll come through manually and take your order” the cabin manager tells us. Not the best start for an “order from your phone” revolution.
A BA Holidays representative tells me that Tenerife, where we’re headed, is their number one destination, with five-star hotels the most popular type of booking on the island. Greece is also a big-hitter for the package holiday arm of British Airways, she tells me, while Slovenia is a rising star that is increasingly popular with BA customers.
Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 15:38
New Club Europe menu
Hipsters’ choice Union Coffee is just one of the new faces on BA’s new Club Europe menu, which we’re getting a sneak preview of aboard flight BA2702 today.
Following a welcome drink and some Socca mixed nuts from the trolley, today’s Club flyers can choose between braised feather blade of beef, roasted cauliflower risotto, and coronation chicken with baby gem lettuce for lunch.
In economy, passengers can order and pay for food from a new “Speedbird Café” menu featuring items by chef Tom Kerridge, as well as being able to order and pay for items from their mobile phones during and before the flight.
Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 15:29
Simon Calder answers your travel questions
From how long France’s remaining rules will hang on to where to book a quick, last-minute sun holiday, there’s little our expert Simon Calder doesn’t know about the fast-changing world of travel.
This week he answered some of your burning holiday questions – covering when the US might reopen to unvaccinated people, which countries have recently dropped their pre-travel tests, and how to claim money back from airlines after a Covid-related cancellation along the way.
Read the full line-up here:
Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 14:26
Gatwick to ramp up passenger numbers during the week
Gatwick’s South Terminal, which opened on Sunday, will ramp up its passengers (both inbound and outbound) over the course of this week.
On Sunday it was served by 100 flights, representing 16,000 passengers; today it will see 150 flights and accommodate 23,000 passengers.
On Tuesday it will be served by 177 flights, representing 24,000 passengers, while on Wednesday it will see 185 flights and 27,000 passengers.
As the Easter holidays start, Gatwick staff expects to see approximately 260 flights a day to and from the South Terminal.
Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 13:46
On one of the first ‘new-gen’ BA Gatwick flights
We’ve now boarded our flight, BA2702 from Gatwick to Tenerife.
We’ll fly the four hours 30 minutes to Tenerife’s Sur Reina Sofia airport, trying out the short-haul “Speedbird café” offering along the way.
So far, the plane – an Airbus A320 – looks exactly as you’d expect a BA short haul flight to.
The crowd is a real mix, young families but also older couples heading off for a bit of pre-Easter sunshine. Unlike the passengers in Gatwick, all of us are masked, per Spain’s rules – BA recently announced that passengers can choose not to wear masks on routes from and to destinations that don’t require a mask on departure and arrival.
In Gatwick’s departures hall, it was a half-and-half mix of masked and unmasked.
Our pilots today are Ben Matthews and Holly Simms, and they seem just as cheery as our planeload of holidaymakers to be headed for the Canaries.
Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 13:41
Gatwick-Melbourne link – to Florida
Melbourne is an arrival to the departure screens at Gatwick this month. But not Australia’s second-largest city: instead, it is a new Florida gateway.
Tui has switched the hub for its programme of Florida flights from Sanford airport, north of Orlando, to Melbourne – on Florida’s Atlantic coast, about 75 miles southeast of the theme-park capital.
The UK’s biggest holiday company has signed a seven-year deal with the airport. While the airport’s location is about 90 minutes from most Orlando area hotels and attractions, it is the closest airport to Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center and Port Canaveral – a major cruise port.
The new link will also enhance access to coastal locations such as the Palm Beaches, less than two hours’ drive south.
Simon Calder29 March 2022 12:39
What do we know about BA’s new short-haul offering from Gatwick?
It was August 2021 when rumours about British Airways’ new Gatwick operation first started swirling.
During the summer, press was reporting that a new short-haul-only subsidiary would launch from the East Sussex airport – in September, the airline was keen to emphasise that the new operation would not be “budget” or “no frills”, delivering the same service and benefits BA customers are used to.
BA has always struggled to make a profit at the Sussex airport, and over the past decade – before the pandemic – it lost tens of millions of pounds.
In December, the airline confirmed that it would make a comeback at Gatwick in March, as well as moving towards a Gatwick-specific short-haul operation. Tickets went on sale for 35 routes on 14 December.
Today, it says its short-haul Gatwicks flights have relaunched almost entirely as normal, eventually becoming a distinct “EuroFlyer” subsidiary.
“Customers flying on the airline’s new subsidiary 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 at -24 hours, and frequent flyer benefits which include lounge access.
“All of the airline’s services will have a Club Europe (business class) cabin, setting it apart from its no frills competitors. Customers flying in this cabin will have access to a premium check-in experience, exclusive lounges and a complimentary gourmet meal and bar service on board.”
Twenty-two BA flights are scheduled to leave Gatwick today, to destinations as far-flung as Cancun and Doha.
Lucy Thackray29 March 2022 12:30