The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 19 September 2018

The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday morning at 06:00 BST, providing a weekly bulletin on developments on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

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Miami International Airport
Miami International Airport (Copyright 2017 Miami-Dade Aviation Department)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 19 September 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

Hurricane Florence

The US continues to recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

The airport currently most affected is Jacksonville North Carolina which at the time of writing is without power.

American Airlines has restored operations at all but two airports. The airline expects to restore operations at Jacksonville today and Greenville North Carolina tomorrow, Thursday 20 September 2018.

Delta has almost restored operations to normal. A travel waiver remains in place for Jacksonville and Wilmington North Carolina.

United has resumed near normal operations. The one exception is Wilmington which is expected to resume operations on Thursday 20 September 2018.

New Rail Link from Las Vegas to Southern California

Brightline, which operates a privately owned railway in Florida, has acquired the rights to develop a new railway from Las Vegas to Southern California.

It has bought a company called XpressWest which has Government approved rights to develop a railway line between Las Vegas and Southern California.

The first phase will connect Las Vegas to Victorville with future plans to expand to Los Angeles. The 185 mile line will be constructed on land adjacent to Interstate 15. Construction is expected to begin next year and the line will open in 2022.

Brightline is acquiring 38 acres of land adjacent to the Las Vegas strip to construct the railway station and a new mixed use development. From a cursory scan of XpressWest’s history this project has been a long time in the making so it will be interesting to see how it can start construction so quickly.

Brightline currently operates between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with plans to expand to Orlando.

From European perspective where rail investments are Government funded and operations are subsidised, it is a mystery as to how a new railway line can be constructed and operated entirely with private funding. It seems that the associated property development opportunities that arise as a consequence play a signifiant part.

Given how public US infrastructure projects with even the most blindingly obvious business cases can be mired in toxic federal/state/city politics and be subject to intense corporate lobbying, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Is Reykjavik the next Dubai?

The Financial Times reported earlier this week that Iceland’s Wow Air plans to go public in the next 18 months.

The airline, founded in 2011, is currently owned by Skuli Mogensen. It is loss making and has pursued an aggressive expansion plan offering low cost flights between Europe and North America via its hub in Reykjavik.

It operates a fleet of 20 aircraft, primarily Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, and plans to carry 3.6 million passengers this year. Over the next couple of years it plans to moderate growth and concentrate on generating ancillary revenues and its new premium cabin.

Wow Air’s ambition is to be the “Dubai of the north”. However, there is a fundamental difference between what Emirates has achieved in Dubai and what Wow Air and Icelandair are doing in Reykjavik.

Dubai’s geographic advantage is that it can offer a one-stop connection between almost any two points in the world. What Emirates did was open up new one-stop connections that were not previously available. For a passenger travelling from Manchester to Melbourne, instead of having to take connecting flights in Europe and Asia, they could take a one-stop connection in Dubai and fly in considerably better comfort.

The routes offered by Wow Air are already served by either direct flights or one-stop connections in Europe/North America. About a third of the city pairs offered by Wow Air are served by direct flights. There has to be a very good reason to take a connecting flight over a direct flight. There is also a degree of safety in connecting in mainland Europe or North America where there are multiple rebooking options if you miss your connection.

Whilst Norwegian has proved that there is a market for an unbundled long-haul economy product, having seen Wow Air aircraft at remote stands on US airports whilst all other aircraft board by jetty and numerous online customer complaints, there have to be limits about what passengers will accept in exchange for a cheap flight.

Miami International Airport Celebrates 90 Years

Miami International Airport celebrated 90 years of operation last Saturday. It began operations on Saturday 15 September 1928.

It’s an airport where no two journeys are ever the same and in its history has hosted some of the biggest names in American aviation, notably Pan Am.

If you’re travelling through the airport, there is a dedicated exhibition on Concourse J.

Also of note this week:

American Airlines has announced four new weekend summer seasonal routes from Chicago O’Hare to Florida: Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Key West, Pensacola and Panama City Beach. (American Airlines)

Late Post-Publication Updates

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

Aer Lingus has confirmed it is to launch two new transatlantic routes from Dublin next summer. It will fly daily to Minneapolis and Montreal from 8 July and 8 August 2019 respectively. Flights will be operated using Airbus A321 neo Long Range aircraft.

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