The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 12 December 2018

The Atlantic Update is a weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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Flying over the North Atlantic - August 2018
The North Atlantic – August 2018 (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 12 December 2018.

This is our last update for 2018. The Atlantic Update will return on Wednesday 16 January 2019.

A look to 2019

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2019.

At Heathrow, BA will launch new direct routes to Pittsburgh and Charleston. We should also at least some indication of BA’s plans for long-haul growth at Gatwick, where transatlantic routes are likely to feature.

American and BA may also announce a significant reshaping of their joint-venture, both in terms of allocation of routes and Heathrow operations.

Delta will combine its transatlantic joint-ventures with Air France-KLM and Virgin into one.

JetBlue may also announce plans for transatlantic flights to London.

In New York, BA will complete its refurbishment of New York JFK Terminal 7. BA’s San Francisco lounge will also receive a long awaited refurbishment.

We’re also looking forward to the planned opening of the TWA Hotel at New York JFK. This will radically upgrade JFK’s hotel options, both in terms of convenience and quality. This week it was announced that chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will run a lounge and restaurant, to be known as the Lisbon Lounge and Paris Cafe, in the hotel. (New York Times)

Another New York hotel opening we’re looking forward to is the Equinox Hotel in Hudson Yards. Equinox operates a number of very well-appointed gyms in the city, so this should impress.

Finally, in Los Angeles, we’re looking forward to the opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 12 December 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 5 December 2018

The Atlantic Update is a weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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American Airlines Aircraft at London Heathrow
American Airlines Aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 5 December 2018.

Could American Airlines move to Heathrow Terminal 5?

Interest was piqued this week following comments by Rhett Workman of American Airlines on its “Tell Me Why” employee podcast that it may one day move into Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

American Airlines and BA are at a disadvantage compared to Delta and Virgin Atlantic in that they do not share terminals at Heathrow, nor many other US airports such as New York JFK.

This partially defeats the object of operating a “clock-face” timetable on routes such as Chicago O’Hare and New York JFK.

It also means passengers connecting from American Airlines, some 50% of them, on to most of BA’s short-haul network have to change terminals at Heathrow.

Given the size of American’s operation at Heathrow it is hard to see this happening without an expansion of Terminal 5.

There are also many issues beyond capacity. Terminal 5 was originally intended for the exclusive use of BA and all of its systems and processes were designed around the airline. Consider that Iberia has operated from Terminal 5 for several years, but it was only this year their flights actually operated under Iberia flight numbers.

If this ever comes to fruition, it is certainly a long-term goal. In the interim, BA did issue a rather vague press release earlier this year referring to “big plans” for Terminal 3 in conjunction with American Airlines. The podcast also means increased co-operation behind the scenes such as staff secondments between the two airlines.

There is also the possibility that some transatlantic routes shared between American and BA may ultimately be operated by only one airline. There is some credence to this as in the US market American seems to be focusing more on its traditional strongholds such as Dallas Fort-Worth and it may leave other Heathrow transatlantic routes to BA.

United Begins Selling Premium Economy

United Premium Plus Cabin
United Premium Plus Cabin (Image Credit: United)

United has started selling tickets for travel in its premium economy cabin “United Premium Plus”.

The United Premium Plus cabin will be progressively retrofitted to Boeing 777-200 and 777-300 aircraft and fitted onto newly delivered Boeing 787-10 aircraft.

It is now available for sale on select international routes for travel from 30 March 2019. In the first few months, it will be available on just one return flight between London Heathrow and San Francisco, flights UA900 and UA901, from Tuesday 30 April 2019.
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The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Atlantic Update is a weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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"Flotsam and Jetsam", Miami Design District
“Flotsam and Jetsam”, Miami Design District (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 28 November 2018.

JetBlue responds to Air France-KLM, Delta, & Virgin Atlantic JV

JetBlue has yesterday, Tuesday 27 November 2018, filed a motion before the US Department of Transportation.

This follows a request by Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic to combine their two transatlantic joint-ventures into one.

JetBlue does not object to the combined joint-venture per se, but requests that the Department demand the production of additional data and evidence. It should then undertake a rigorous competitive analysis of the transatlantic market.

JetBlue cities, inter alia, the failure of Primera Air, the proposed acquisition of Wow Air by Icelandair and IAG’s acquisition of Aer Lingus and its bid for Norwegian, that transatlantic traffic is heavily dominated by the three major airline alliances.

JetBlue is particularly concerned at the consolidation of competition at London Heathrow where Delta and Virgin may be able to utilise Air France and KLM’s slot portfolio, as well as Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports.

Underlying this is JetBlue’s own ambition to launch transatlantic flights to the UK and Europe from Boston and New York. Clearly, if sufficient new remedy slots become available at Heathrow, these could enable JetBue to fulfil its plans. (Airline Info)

UK – US Open Skies

The Financial Times reports that negotiators from the UK are due to meet in Washington today for a final round of talks to agree a UK-US Open Skies agreement.

This will, for airlines flying between the UK and the US, replace the existing EU-US Open Skies agreement following the end of the transition period after the UK leaves the European Union.

Existing UK based airlines operating flights from the UK will retain their rights to fly to the US under grandfathering provisions. However, any new market entrants will have to demonstrate that they are majority owned and controlled in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, UK airlines will not be able to participate in the “Fly America” programme which mandates that US Government employees fly on US airlines. (Financial Times)

American Airlines introduces Boeing 787-9 on Heathrow – Chicago O’Hare

American Airlines will increase capacity on two of its four daily return flights from London Heathrow – Chicago O’Hare from Sunday 31 March 2019.

Flights AA47/AA46 and AA87/AA86 will be operated with the larger Boeing 787-9, instead of the Boeing 787-8. This features a much larger business class cabin and premium economy.

Given recent changes on transatlantic routes shared between AA and BA, there are signs that AA is focusing on its major US hubs in Charlotte, Dallas Fort-Worth, Philadelphia, and Phoenix, with BA focusing on other hubs such as Miami.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 28 November 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 21 November 2018

The Atlantic Update is a weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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Sunset at the Florida Keys
Sunset at the Florida Keys (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 21 November 2018.

Thanksgiving Holiday

This week of course marks the Thanksgiving holiday.

US airlines expect to carry more than 30 million passengers across the 12 day travel period up to Tuesday 27 November 2018. The busiest days are expected to be Sunday 25 November and Monday 26 November 2018. At the time of writing, whilst it will be very cold in the North East, there are no major weather disruptions expected to travel.

Delta launches La Guardia – Key West

Delta has announced a new seasonal Saturday service from New York La Guardia to Key West, Florida.

The route launches on Saturday 9 March 2019 and operates until Saturday 31 August 2019. Flights are operated with an Embraer E-170 aircraft. Flight DL6007 departs La Guardia at 09:00 and arrives in Key West at 12:43. The return flight DL5914 departs Key West at 13:13 and arrives in La Guardia at 16:24.

Brightline to become Virgin Trains USA

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has announced it is to take a minority stake in the privately owned rail company Brightline.

It recently launched a new rail service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Peach, with ambitions to extend to Tampa and Orlando. The service will be rebranded as Virgin Trains USA in 2019.

Virgin Group has long been keen to extend its brand presence in the US, which has diminished of late due to the sale of Virgin America. It does of course retain a presence through Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Hotels. There is clearly scope for significant cross promotion.

Also of note this week:

Nashville International Airport sets out its expansion plans. (BNA Vision)

Late Post Publication Updates

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT. If you have any comments, suggestions or tips then please drop us a line at mail [@] londonairtravel.com

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 14 November 2018

The Atlantic Update is a weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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California Wildfire News Coverage
California Wildfire News Coverage (Image Credit: CNN International)

Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 14 November 2018.

California Wildfires

Attention continues to be focused on the destructive wildfires in Northern and Southern California.

Since the weekend airlines have put in place flexible rebooking policies. Some of these have been extended within the past 24 hours. Transatlantic flights from London are operating normally.

Passengers due to fly on American Airlines or British Airways up to Friday 16 November 2018 to Burbank, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco can rebook on an alternative flight from and to the same destination up to Sunday 25 November 2018.

American Airlines passengers should look up their booking online in the first instance.

British Airways passengers should contact BA or their travel agent.

United has also announced a travel waiver allowing passengers due to fly to Burbank, Los Angeles and San Francisco to reschedule up to Sunday 25 November 2019.

General Advice

Evacuation orders remain in place and there are warnings about poor air quality in some areas. In terms of general information, general advice on the Camp Fire in North California is available from Butte County.

Advice on the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles is available from the County Of Los Angeles, and the City of Malibu.

Also of note this week:

Delta has announced a new twice daily route from Atlanta to Burbank airport from July 2019. (Delta)

JetBlue has announced new summer seasonal routes from New York La Guardia and Westchester airports to Nantucket Massachusetts from June 2019. This will complement existing services from Boston, New York JFK and Washington Reagan airports. (JetBlue)

Late Post Publication Updates

American Airlines and British Airways have introduced flexible rebooking policies for passengers due to fly to the North East of the US up to Friday 16 November 2018. Passengers can rebook up to Tuesday 20 November 2018.

Delta has issued a weather waiver in advance of expected severe weather in the North East of the US on Thursday 15 November 2019. (Delta)

United has announced it is to progressively introduce the Boeing 787-10 aircraft on select transatlantic routes from Newark, but not Heathrow, from late March 2019. (United)

The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT. If you have any comments, suggestions or tips then please drop us a line at mail [@] londonairtravel.com

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 7 November 2018

The Atlantic Update is a weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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Iceland (Image Credit: Icelandair)

Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 7 November 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel.

Why does Icelandair want to buy WOW air?

Icelandair surprised the press on Monday by announcing it is to buy its sole Icelandic rival WOW air.

It’s an all share transaction which values WOW air at around $18m. The transaction is subject to the approval of competition authorities and Icelandair’s shareholders.

WOW air was founded by Skuli Mogensen in 2011. Its initial ambitions were to carry visitors between Iceland and the UK and mainland Europe. In recent years it has been engaged in an aggressive expansion to capture connecting traffic between North America and Europe, which now accounts for around half of its passengers. Passengers have increased five fold over the past three years to reach an estimated 3.6 million this year.

WOW air was catching up Icelandair – which traces its routes to 1937 – in market share at Keflavik airport and had ambitions to overtake it in 2019. Approximately 80% of WOW air’s routes overlap with Icelandair.

However, this had all come at a cost. Aggressive fare competition, rising fuel prices and expansion costs had hit its yields. It had been losing money and had already suspended a number of North American routes, some just months after launch.

It had no fuel hedging strategy and so was exposed to rising fuel prices. North Atlantic traffic is seasonal and a difficult winter lay ahead. Whilst Icelandair is in a much stronger financial position, it has not been immune to competition and has reported falling revenues and yields.

Just two months ago WOW air’s founder announced its ambitions to raise $200-300m in an Initial Public Offering. However, that plan now lays in ruins.

The plan is for both airlines to retain their separate brands. “Dual brand” strategies are far from unusual. However, there are some aspects of this transaction that do not quite make sense. It’s unusual to retain separate brands where two airlines are in overlapping markets, albeit WOW air does target a younger demographic than Icelandair. There is also relatively limited scope for synergies. Icelandair operates a fleet of Boeing aircraft. WOW air operates exclusively Airbus aircraft, all under finance or operating leases.

It has to be said the idea that Reykjavik can become the Dubai of the North Atlantic is not wholly convincing. 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 non-stop one. There is also a reassurance in taking a connection at hub where you can be confident there are alternative options should you miss your connection. What Emirates did to brilliant effect in Dubai is create swathes of new one-stop connections that did not previously exist.

Airlines do not ordinarily buy struggling rivals out of charity. IAG CEO Willie Walsh, in characteristically blunt fashion, once described airlines going bust as the best form of industry consolidation there is.

By buying WOW air, Icelandair has eliminated a local rival that could have fallen into the hands of a larger group. However, the quality of execution and moving quickly and decisively to eliminate loss-making capacity will be critical.

The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT. If you have any comments, suggestions or tips then please drop us a line at mail [@] londonairtravel.com

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 31 October 2018

The Atlantic Update is a weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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Artist Impression of The Underline Miami
Artist Impression of The Underline Miami (Image Credit: The Underline)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 31 October 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

BA Airbus A380 Transatlantic Operations

Now that the summer travel season has ended, there are a number of changes to BA’s Airbus A380 transatlantic operations.

There are also many changes for the summer of 2019. The aircraft is, by some margin, our preferred option for any direct transatlantic flight from London. This may of course change when both BA and Virgin Atlantic introduce the Airbus A350-1000 next year.

It should be noted that these are subject to change according to commercial and operational demands.

Boston

Three times weekly Airbus A380 flights on Monday, Friday and Sunday have now ended. The A380 will return daily on flights BA213 & BA212 for the entirety of the summer season from Sunday 31 March 2019 to Saturday 27 October 2019.

Chicago O’Hare

Daily Airbus A380 flights have now ended. The A380 will then return daily on flights BA297 & BA296 for the entirety of the summer season from 31 March 2019 to 27 October 2019.

Los Angeles

Flights BA283 & BA282 have now switched from an Airbus A380 to a Boeing 747. BA continues to operates the Airbus A380 daily on flights BA269 & BA268.

From 31 March 2019, BA269 & BA268 will operate with the Airbus A380 on Monday, Friday and Sunday only.

Miami

The Airbus A380 has returned to one of BA’s now three daily flights to Miami, BA208 and BA209, until Sunday 14 April 2019.

San Francisco

Daily Airbus A380 flights have now ended. Flights BA286 & BA287 are operated with the Airbus A380 on Monday, Thursday, Saturday until Saturday 30 March 2019. It then resumes a daily service from 31 March 2019 to Sunday 27 October 2019.

Vancouver

Daily Airbus A380 flights have now ended. The route has reverted back to a Boeing 747. The A380 will then resume daily from Sunday 5 May 2019 to Monday 30 September 2019.

Miami’s High Line

Following the phenomenal success of The High Line New York, a model example of bringing redundant infrastructure back into use, many cities around the world have tried to come up with their own version.

Miami’s is the The Underline.

This is, initially at least, a ten mile park under the Miami Metrorail track. The first phase breaks ground tomorrow. The Miami Herald takes a look at the project’s ambitions.

On a related note, voters in the US go to the polls next Tuesday 6 November 2018.

Given the febrile political climate attention is inevitably focused on Washington and whether the Democrats will gain control of the House of Representatives and Senate. There are also a number of regional ballots.

Residents of Miami Beach are being asked to approve the issue of a $439 million bond to fund a vast number of infrastructure improvements.

Projects of interest to visitors include a new hotel near to Miami Convention Centre, improvements to many parks, an expansion of the Art Deco museum on Ocean Drive, and an extension of the Beachwalk from 79th Street to 87th Street.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 31 October 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 24 October 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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Charleston, South Carolina (Image Credit: Charleston)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 24 October 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

A New Trend: The “Pop Up” Transatlantic Route?

Over the past four years, BA has methodically added one new Boeing 787 transatlantic route to its London Heathrow – North America route network at a time.

It started with Austin in 2014. San Jose, New Orleans and Nashville subsequently followed, almost exactly 12 months apart.

When BA announced Pittsburgh from April 2019 in July, it was assumed that would be it for another 12 months.

Those airports, such as St Louis, that had missed out this time would have to wait another year. As IAG CEO Willie Walsh had previously said there were about five US cities BA could serve profitably with the Boeing 787 it was also assumed that it would soon exhaust potential new routes.

Not so. Last week announced another new route to Charleston. However, this route announcement is different. It is seasonal and it only operates twice weekly.

It is extremely rare for BA to launch seasonal long-haul routes at Heathrow. It does of course have a strong summer seasonal short-haul programme with approximately 20 routes operating typically twice a week.

This is plainly aimed at the premium leisure market. It is a market that serves BA well. Passengers book well in advance. It has also proven to be resilient in a downturn in a way that corporate traffic isn’t.

Anecdotally, the launch of Charleston has attracted interest from those who have previously visited the region and do not relish an international-domestic connections at US airports.

It is no secret that a lot of US airports covet a potential direct link to Europe and will offer incentive packages such as revenue guarantees and reduced landing fees.

If this route is considered a success, do not be surprised to see many more US airports offer incentives to BA to launch more seasonal long-haul routes. Many readers no doubt have their preferred destinations in the US and would gladly take a direct route.

Although BA has to reach a ceiling on its US route network at some point, this could prove to be transformational in terms of direct US routes from London.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 24 October 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 17 October 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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Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic & British Airways aircraft at London Heathrow
Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic & British Airways aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 17 October 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

Eyebrows were raised last week when the Competitions & Markets Authority announced an investigation into the transatlantic joint-venture between American Airlines, BA, Iberia and Finnair.

Given the history of the airline industry and cartel activity, you would be forgiven for thinking something was untoward.

However, the reality was more mundane than that.

In 2010, the airlines secured regulatory approval from the European Commission and the US Department of Transportation to operate an immunised joint-venture. This covers all flights between Europe and North America and allows the airlines to co-ordinate routes, schedules and fares.

This was a long held ambition of BA and American. They had twice previously attempted to secure regulatory approval. In 1999, a three year long effort proved futile. In 2002, BA and American balked at US regulator demands to hand-over 224 weekly take off and landing slots to new competitors.

In spite of vociferous protests from Virgin Atlantic, which emblazoned its aircraft with “No Way BA/AA”, BA and American finally secured regulatory approval with relatively modest concessions.

The approval was granted for a period of ten years. As the UK should, short of some sort of political earthquake over the next few months, leave the European Union on 29 March 2019 and the existing approvals are due to expire 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority should have some jurisdiction given American and BA’s presence at Heathrow.

When reviewing the competitive impact of joint-ventures, regulators have historically focused on city pairs, rather than the overall number of slots held at an airport. With this in mind, American and BA were required to make available, subject to certain conditions, slots to new entrants on overlapping routes. From London, these were Boston, Chicago, Miami and New York JFK.

This process of overseen by an independent trustee Mazars which recently advertised three slot pairs for London – New York. It is not known if anyone has taken these up.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 17 October 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 10 October 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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CGI Image of redeveloped New York JFK
CGI Image of redeveloped New York JFK (Image Credit: Governor of New York State)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 10 October 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

New York JFK Development Plan

Last week the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo heralded a $13billion revamp of New York JFK.

Anyone who has flown out of New York JFK with any degree of frequency will be familiar with the airport’s problems.

It does not give a good first impression on arrival to visitors who face a long journey to their hotels on Subway cars not equipped for passengers with luggage as there is no direct rail link to Manhattan.

On departure, there are long queues from pushback from the terminal gate to take off. Delays are common place. Many professional pilots do not have a particularly high opinion of Air Traffic Control.

Terminals 1 and 2 will be demolished and a new $7billion 2.9m sq ft terminal will be built in their place and on a site formerly occupied by Terminal 3. It will be constructed by a consortium of four airlines, Air France, Japan Airlines, Korean Air Lines and Lufthansa. The new terminal will be operated by Munich Airport International and connected to the existing Terminal 4.

Another new $3billion 1.2m sq ft terminal will be constructed by JetBlue on a site formerly occupied by Terminal 6 and a to be demolished Terminal 7. It will be connected to JetBlue’s current home in Terminal 5.

This is a typically American approach to infrastructure investment, namely heralding private sector investment and not actually being prepared to spend public money on fixing underlying problems.

Whilst there is some public funding to improve road access, that’s about it. There are also no new runways and no improvements to Air Traffic Control.

For UK based passengers, the biggest news is that Terminal 7, home to BA’s JFK operation, will be demolished. BA has to yet to comment on these plans. It is of course in the middle of a revamp of the terminal with the new First lounge having opened last week.

Logically, BA could move to Terminal 8 to colocate with American Airlines. AA and BA are at a disadvantage to Delta and Virgin Atlantic at JFK, and indeed Heathrow, in that they do not share terminals.

Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 10 October 2018”