LONDON – British Airways said on Thursday it would cut 190 scheduled flights a week and speed up the transfer of services to London's Heathrow airport from Gatwick because of the drop in demand for air travel since the U.S. hijacked plane attacks.
The changes follow the announcement last week by Europe's largest airline that it would cut 5,200 jobs on top of 1,800 announced earlier in the month, and ground 20 aircraft.
British Airways, which relies heavily on transatlantic services, said the flight reductions and grounding of aircraft would result in a nine percent cut in capacity.
``We are reviewing the market and our network on a week-to- week basis and consequently will quickly address further issues as they arise in order to protect our business,'' BA's director of strategy, David Spurlock, said in a statement.
He told reporters the airline could not rule out further capacity reductions, but the cuts so far would help earnings.
``We would see all of this adding back to earnings, given the fact that demand for air travel has decreased,'' Spurlock said.
By 8:25 a.m. EDT BA shares were up 1.2 percent to 167-1/2 pence, off a low of 155.80p and a high of 168.35p, in a flat market, with the FTSE 100 Index 0.13 percent higher.
British Airways, like all airlines, is sensitive to economic cycles. It has been suffering months of gloomy economic news weighing on its traffic, particularly with falls in transatlantic business passengers paying premium fares.
BA had been warning investors for months about the gloomy economic conditions, and responded by cutting capacity, jobs and flagging more job cuts in 2002, even before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Spurlock told reporters that British Airways was confident it would maintain its orders of new aircraft from Boeing Co and Airbus.
The airline has one Boeing 777 to be delivered in October and five narrow-body Airbus aircraft to be delivered in this calendar year and three in the first three months of 2002.
Destinations hit by the route changes are the United States, which will lose 36 flights a week, the Middle East, Europe, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
The airline said it was cutting one daily service from Heathrow to New York and Boston and five flights a week to Washington. It would suspend its daily Gatwick service to New York and reduce Gatwick flights to San Diego and Houston.
Middle East services reduced are flights from Heathrow to Dubai, Bahrain, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Jeddah and Kuwait.
The Heathrow-Belfast service has been dropped.
The service to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, remains suspended.
Eight Gatwick services to Stockholm, Zurich, Gdansk, Shannon, Cork, Gothenburg, Rotterdam and Montpellier have also been suspended.
``There will also be a reduced service to other European destinations which will lead to 20 fewer flights a day from Gatwick,'' the airline said.
But the market will have to wait another six days for sensitive data showing the immediate effects on traffic of the U.S. attacks, when BA will release its traffic figures for the whole of September.
And while the airline has prepared internal estimates on the impact on income, the market will have to wait until November 6 for it to report on second-quarter financial results.