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Ryanair downbeat on prospects for British Airways Gatwick revamp

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary gave a downbeat assessment of the short-haul subsidiary British Airways may create, questioning in particular its choice of London's Gatwick airport as a hub.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that British Airways, owned by London-listed IAG, was considering folding its short-haul operations at Gatwick into a new unit. The company said it was working on options for the operations to curb costs, but did not specify what its proposals were.

O'Leary, speaking in Brussels on Tuesday to announce the launch of new winter routes from Belgium, told a news conference he did not hold out much hope for what he described as British Airways' umpteenth go at creating a low-cost carrier.

"If you were going to open up a low-cost carrier, the one airport in London you wouldn't go to would be Gatwick," he said, adding it was London's second most expensive airport.

"If you're going to open up a low-cost carrier, you'd go to Stansted or Luton or Southend, which has lots of cheap, low-cost and underused facilities," he said.

O'Leary said the company would fare better pocketing a lot of money by selling Gatwick slots to the likes of Wizz Air or easyJet.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Potter)

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