GB Airways (one of BA's partner airlines) is poised to convert its Manchester routes to a budget operation. By the end of the summer it's likely that these services (which primarily operate to Southern Europe) will be rebranded as BA Connect.
Airlines flying from the Northwest operate in a particularly price conscious market. Faced with competition from budget carriers flying from Manchester and nearby Liverpool, GB Airways is being obliged to lower its operating costs.
GB Airways will continue to run the flights but the present business and economy class layout will be downgraded to a one-class configuration with passengers now having to pay extra for food and drinks.
This move may not please Club Europe (business class) passengers who have booked well in advance for their flights as they will now find themselves without the superior inflight service they had expected to receive.
On the upside, however, some fares may be lower as GB Airways will switch to the BA Connect model which offers one-way rates and the ability to make changes for a small fee.
A GB Airways spokesperson told Business Traveller that "These changes are in the pipeline. They will happen. But it will be a few months before they can be introduced. That's because we need to train staff, change the systems and also alter the on-board branding."
GB Airways also points out that passengers will still be able to receive the normal BA service on the ground including use of lounges for passengers paying higher fares or who hold the relevant FFP status. When asked whether these changes would eventually be applied to GB Airways' routes out of Heathrow and Gatwick (these still feature the conventional two-class product) the spokesperson said "It's not on the agenda at the moment."
From Manchester, GB Airways flies to Dubrovnik, Heraklion, Lanzarote, Malaga, Malta, Paphos and Tenerife. From Heathrow and Gatwick GB Airways serves a large number of destinations in France, Spain, Portugal and North Africa.
For more information go to gbairways.com
Report by Alex McWhirter