Air Transport World

Gatwick's piece of the Rock: GB Airways sticks to its knitting flying to the western Mediterranean including its former home, Gibraltar, as a British Airways franchise carrier.(GB Airways Ltd.)(Company Profile)

GB Airways' headquarters at London Gatwick has nothing of the opulence of its franchiser British Airways, but it has style and above all history. The Beehive, as it is called, was the original Gatwick Airport Terminal from 1936 to 1956 when the South Terminal was opened. Following extensive renovations, the unique circular building was reopened officially as GB Airways' head office in December 2000 by the Duke of Edinburgh.

In the same year, the carrier won the Queen's Award for International Trade. The prize was well deserved. The formerly Gibraltar-based airline rose to become the fourth-largest international scheduled-service carrier in the UK measured by RPKs and the third-largest international slot holder at Gatwick.

In the financial year ended March 31, GB Airways flew 2.73 billion RPKs, up 22% from the prior year despite the economic downturn, 9/11, the seat-only trend by big leisure carriers and above all the growth of the flourishing budget airlines. According to OAG data, lowfare carriers accounted for 41% of seats flown into Western Europe from the UK last year. Low-cost flights to and from the UK jumped 73%, representing an increase of 1,773 flights per week.

But the low-fare crowd doesn't intimidate GB Airways. "Our operating costs are comparable to those of the low-fare carriers," MD John Patterson tells ATW How low they are he will not disclose, as GB is a privately held company, "but somewhere between Ryanair's and easyJet's cost per ASK," he confides. …

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