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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Flights to South West at risk
Dash plane
British Airways have made no promises on finding a replacement

British Airways could pull out of their Plymouth-Newquay-Gatwick service sooner than expected, the BBC has learned.

An announcement from BA about the South West's only air link to Gatwick could come as early as Monday.

It is understood that BA will say it wants to have pulled out of the route by late October, when the winter timetable comes in.

Until now it has said publically that the change could take as long as three years.

BBC business correspondent Neil Gallacher, said: "It's a real challenge to the local economy because there isn't another air link into Gatwick or Heathrow.

"Air travel has turned into a really tough marketplace, BA is under pressure to cut costs like never before."

'Tricky timing'

There is also concern over who might take over the route.

BA said last September that it would find a replacement operator before pulling out.

But on Friday a spokeswoman said that could no longer be guaranteed due to tough market conditions.

Plymouth airport company, Sutton Harbour Holdings, wants to run the service itself, and is still negotiating with BA over the planes and the landing slots.

Neil Gallacher said: "It is far from a done deal with Sutton Harbour.

"And if BA confirm that it is pulling out this autumn, it is tricky timing.

"Any new operator would be kicking off with the winter season when there are not so many passengers around."

Firm 'to swoop on BA planes'
10 Mar 03  |  England
Airline considers reopening route
18 Dec 02  |  England

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