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Article from BTNews 6 SEPTEMBER 2021

British Airways Gatwick

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result.  This will be the fifth or sixth time BA has attempted this.  It has never worked.  Will BA ever set up a successful low-cost airline?  The answer is no!” 

That was Michael O’Leary’s answer to a question at last week’s Ryanair press conference, ostensibly to promote his London airport expansion.  Whether he is correct about the number of low-cost airlines BA has set up is questionable but Stansted-based Go was certainly one of them.

Go was an enigma and the brainchild of Robert Ayling, then BA's CEO. Aircraft were acquired from various sources, which would have needed expensive modifying for a common fleet. Ayling went and Go appears to have lost money at BA, itself also a competitor. Rod Eddington, the new CEO, could not justify it and 3i organised a management buyout, within 12 months selling the carrier to easyJet. The profits for the short-term ownership may have been cira £200m, or Stelios paid too much!

A UK-domiciled American Barbara Cassani (now CBE) was CEO of Go throughout its existence but did not join easyJet at the takeover. She was also involved with Vueling in the early days and was the original Chair of the 2012 Olympic bid. She tells the tale in “Go: An Airline Adventure” (ISBN 0316726621). BA's office at Waterside ought to have a copy.

At Manchester BA Connect was another failure (essentially Brymon Airways and given away with some help to Flybe) but the good news was the resurrection of another small regional carrier CityFlyer Express at Gatwick, purchased by BA from Brad Burgess in 2001, dropping the title.  It emerged in 2007 at London City Airport, supported by Willie Walsh, by then BA's CEO, as British Airways City Flyer, branded as BA, essentially a franchise operation marketed by the airport.  It is not a low-cost airline and successful, with many considering its services superior to BA main line.  

Using the BA brand might be the solution to the Gatwick problem, the other is keeping the costs down, not so easy.  The public will see BA and expect BA.


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