BRITISH Airways has reached an agreement with pilots over a potential short-haul subsidiary at Gatwick Airport.

Pilots’ union Balpa says its members has approved a revised offer on pay and working hours after an initial proposal was rejected last month.

The decision does not mean the new subsidiary will necessarily go ahead as BA is yet to reach agreements with other parties, such as cabin crew.

The airline said in a statement: “We will now further develop our proposal to provide a full-service short-haul subsidiary operation at Gatwick, offering competitive fares to our customers.

“We will continue discussions with our colleagues, trade unions, suppliers and other stakeholders, following this positive result, and if we can agree a way forward with all parties, we would hope to begin operations next summer.”

Balpa acting general secretary Martin Chalk said the deal with pilots was “an important new agreement”.

“This agreement is now BA’s preferred option in relation to the future of short-haul operations at Gatwick,” he said.

“We understand BA is continuing its discussions with other stakeholders with a view to relaunching operations next summer.

“We expect BA to reach a final decision shortly.”

The vast majority of BA’s short-haul flights from Gatwick Airport have been suspended since March 2020 due to Covid-19.

The airline said the flights were loss-making even before the pandemic, and they would only restart if there was “a competitive and sustainable operating cost base”.

Rob Burgess, editor of frequent flyer website, said the carrier “might be able to employ cabin crew, ground staff and other airport support staff at a cheaper rate than it can with the main British Airways staff”.

He added that the deal with pilots means “it is now highly likely” that the subsidiary will be launched.

It would start with up to 17 Airbus A320 aircraft based at Gatwick in summer 2022, which would be a smaller presence than the airline had in 2019.

More planes would be added in line with growing demand over the following three to four years.