British Airways is to launch services from Stansted this summer, the first time the flag carrier has operated from the airport.
The airline will launch flights at weekends from 28 May to four holiday destinations: Faro, Malaga, Palma and Ibiza.
The flights will be operated by BA’s CityFlyer arm, using planes usually based at London City airport.
The 98-seat jets usually sit idle at weekends, but the unprecedented move also comes a week after BA warned it could pull its fleet out of London City [paywall] if landing charges were raised.
Luke Hayhoe, BA CityFlyer general manager, commercial and customer, said it was “a fantastic opportunity for us to expand our London network and to give our customers even more choice of where to fly”. BA will operate a slightly more upmarket service than Ryanair and other budget competitors at Stansted, with fares starting from £98 return.
Stansted’s managing director, Andrew Harrison, said he was delighted to welcome BA, adding: “Since acquiring Stansted, [Manchester Airports Group’s] ambition has been to attract more passengers and a wider choice of airline partners so these new services to Faro, Malaga, Palma and Ibiza are another positive step and very strong additions to our extensive route network that now covers over 170 destinations across Europe and North America.”
The news is a fillip for an airport that has ambitions to expand and is pushing to have its rail connections to London developed. On Tuesday, the Network Rail chairman, Peter Hendy, said that expanding the line to Stansted to four tracks was likely to be a priority for many in the government when it drafts the next programme of rail upgrades from 2019.
However, BA’s move could also be a shot across London City Airport’s bows. The London Docklands airport’s owners, Global Investment Partners, put it up for sale last year, hoping to net £2bn. BA, the largest airline at London City, believes such a price could only be recouped by an investor raising charges.
Last week, BA’s owner, International Airlines Group, warned: “Any potential new owner for London City should be left in no doubt that British Airways can move flights elsewhere if it ramps up airport charges to fund its investment. BA’s customers will not swallow increased fares to fund unrealistic returns for a monopoly airport supplier.”
IAG’s boss, Willie Walsh, has also threatened to move operations away from Heathrow should charges be raised to cover the costs of building a third runway, as the Airports Commission recommended.
This article was written by Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 9th February 2016 17.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010