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”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 3 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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Primera Air - Winter
Primera Air – Winter

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 3 October 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

Winter Is Coming

Primera Air has now joined eos, FlyGlobespan, MaxJet, Silverjet and Zoom on the list of defunct transatlantic airlines.

There has been huge growth in the transatlantic market in recent years with Norwegian pursuing rapacious growth at Gatwick and niche routes between secondary airports with the single aisle Boeing 737 Max. Wow Air and Icelandair have sought to make Reykjavik the Dubai of the North Atlantic.

Norwegian has already suspended all transatlantic routes from Belfast and Edinburgh and announced some winter seasonal suspensions at Gatwick. Wow Air has suspended Edinburgh, San Francisco and Stockholm from Rejkjavik. With Brent Crude reaching $85 for the first time in nearly four years, attention is inevitably going to be focused on smaller airlines.

It is often said that it is during the good times that airlines sow the seeds of their difficulties during a downturn. With a rising oil price and significant geopolitical uncertainty on both sides of the atlantic, it is going to be a long winter.

American Airlines Route Announcements

American Airlines has announced a number of new routes in the Americas for the summer of 2019.

This includes a number of new routes from Dallas Fort Worth, its principal hub.

From Sunday 3 March 2019, American will launch new domestic routes from Dallas Fort Worth to Valley International Airport, Harlingen, Texas; Augusta Regional Airport, Georgia; Gainesville Regional Airport, Florida; Yuma International Airport, Arizona; and Meadows Field Airport, Bakersfield, California.

From Tuesday 2 April 2019, American will launch new year-round services to Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Arizona and Hollywood Burbank Airport, California. It will also launch seasonal service to Monterey Regional Airport, California.

Elsewhere, American will launch new routes on Thursday 14 February 2019 from Reagan National Airport, Washington, to Will Rogers Airport, Oklahoma City; from La Guardia to McGhee Tyson Airport, Knoxville, Tennessee and from New York JFK to San Antonio International Airport, Texas.

Also launching on Tuesday 2 April 2019 is a new route from Los Angeles to Tulsa International Airport, Oklahoma and from Saturday 8 June 2019 a new seasonal route from Charlotte to Cherry Capital Airport, Traverse City, Michigan.

These routes will be on sale at aa.com from Monday 8 October 2018.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 3 October 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 26 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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Manhattan at Sunrise
Manhattan at Sunrise (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 26 September 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

The pleasure of the transatlantic day flight

It was 30 years ago this year BA launched the Club World brand. Its long-haul business class was previously known as “Super Club”.

To mark the launch Saatchi & Saatchi created one of the most 1980s BA advertisements of the 1980s “Red Eye”.

In a game of naked one-upmanship, it features London based executives attempting to set up a fellow male colleague heading straight to the office from a flight from New York. Denied travel in First Class, he was “like a lamb to the slaughter”.

Alas, the plot was foiled. He flew Club World. He was thus able to have dinner, incorporate the latest figures into his report, and get a decent nights sleep for the day of boardroom politics ahead.

In reality, this is of course implausible. These flights are short and possibly one of the least pleasurable aspects of long-haul travel, regardless of where you are seated in the aircraft. There’s the uncertainty of how restful your fellow passengers will be. Sometimes there’s tangible tension between those desperate to go to sleep as soon as the wheels of the aircraft leave the runway and those happy to enjoy the full service of the flight.

There is of course another option. The transatlantic day flight. There are a small number of flights that leave the US and Canada in the morning and arrive at Heathrow in the evening.

The main downsides are that you do need to get to the airport very early which means either staying at the airport or doing battle with rush hour traffic. And if you miss your flight there won’t be another one for around 10 hours!

However, there’s markedly more relaxed atmosphere on board. Due to timings all passengers are flying direct so all are fresh from a night’s sleep and have little to think about on arrival. The most significant difference of all is vastly reduced jet lag.

Why don’t we have more of these flights? Its partly due to scheduling inefficiencies as it necessitates leaving an aircraft at the airport overnight and they are reliant on passengers travelling direct.

Here are the main transatlantic day flights from the US and Canada. Timings are indicative and some vary by day, as well as season.

Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 26 September 2018”

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.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 19 September 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 12 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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Hurricane Florence
Hurricane Florence (Image Credit: CNN)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 12 September 2018, our weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

Hurricane Florence

In the US at the moment, all eyes are on Hurricane Florence as it approaches the coasts of North and South Carolina.

It is currently a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds expected to reach 150 mph. The states of North Carolina and South Carolina have issued mandatory evacuation orders for many coastal counties. Tropical storm force winds are expected to reach the East Coast by Thursday morning.

Airports across North and South Carolina and some airports in Virginia and Georgia are at risk of disruption.

These include: Asheville, North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Charlottesville, Virginia; Columbia, South Carolina; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Florence, South Carolina; Greensboro / High Point, North Carolina; Greenville / Spartanburg, South Carolina; Greenville, North Carolina; Hampton / Newport News, Virginia; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Jacksonville, North Carolina; Lynchburg, Virginia; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; New Bern, North Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; Raleigh / Durham, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Roanoke, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; and Wilmington, North Carolina.

American Airlines, Delta, United and many other North American Airlines have issued a weather waivers for passengers due to travel to/from the region over the next few days. Some airlines have also waived baggage fees and introduced capped fares for select domestic fights.

In the UK, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are allowing passengers due to travel to the region to defer travel up to Wednesday 19 September 2018.

Both BA and Virgin Atlantic have this morning extended their flexible rebooking policy to Washington Dulles. BA is also allowing passengers due to fly to Baltimore to rebook.

Although there are no cancellations at present, American Airlines flights between London Heathrow and Charlotte and Raleigh / Durham may be at risk of disruption.

Updates are also available from the National Weather Service.

The National Hurricane Center is also monitoring Tropical Storm Isaac which is currently moving west across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and Hurricane Helene which is moving north west across the Atlantic.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 12 September 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 5 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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Flying over the North Atlantic - August 2018
Flying over the North Atlantic – August 2018 (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 5 September 2018. It is a relatively short bulletin this week due to public holidays.

BA Long-Haul Schedule Changes

BA has confirmed a few transatlantic schedule changes for 2019:

– Heathrow to Las Vegas will reduce from 10 to 7 weekly from Saturday 28 October 2018 and will remain so throughout the 2019 summer season.

– London Gatwick to Las Vegas will increase to 6 times weekly from Sunday 31 March 2019. This is no doubt a competitive response to Virgin Atlantic moving the route to Heathrow.

– Heathrow to Phoenix will reduce from 10 to 7 weekly from Friday 26 October and will remain so throughout the 2019 summer season. This was expected after American Airlines announced it was launching this as a summer seasonal route.

Tropical Storm Gordon

As Tropical Storm Gordon is expected to make landfall, according to National Hurricane Center it is expected to gain strength as a Category 1 hurricane.

A number of US airlines have implemented flexible rebooking policies for passengers due to travel in the Gulf Coast region.

The airports expected to be affected are Baton Rouge, Panama City, Gulfport, Lafayette, Mobile, New Orleans, Pensacola and Destin Fort Walton Beach.

American Airlines, Delta and United have issued a weather waivers for passengers due to travel to the region over the next couple of days.

Also of note this week:

Why did America Give Up On Mass Transit. (CityLab)

Every Generation Gets the Beach Villain It Deserves. (New York Times)

Late Post-Publication Updates

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

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

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 29 August 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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Manhattan Skyline
Manhattan Skyline (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 29 August 2018. As the summer draws to a close, we are beginning to see a number of announcements by airlines for their schedules for summer 2019.

Will “London Airways” return to UK regional airports?

A little over 10 years ago, BA earned itself the moniker “London Airways”.

The airline had been progressively reducing its presence at UK regional airports. It effectively paid Flybe to take its regional short-haul operations off its hands. The straw that broke the camel’s back for many regional passengers was the withdrawal of the last remaining long-haul flight from Manchester, a Boeing 767 service to New York JFK. The aircraft was transferred to Heathrow to enable BA to launch a new flight to Calgary.

For a time, it seemed that BA could leave regional transatlantic flights to its joint-venture partner American Airlines.

However, it has not worked out quite like that. American Airlines has withdrawn both New York JFK and, from 3 September 2018, Chicago, from Manchester. This leaves just one route to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, both Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic have built up credible networks to most major transatlantic gateways at Manchester.

The picture is similarly patchy at other regional airports. American’s seasonal routes from Glasgow to Philadelphia and Edinburgh to New York JFK are suspended permanently this year. United also flies to Newark from a number of UK regional airports.

Of course, American and BA do have by far the biggest prize of all, which is a dominant position at Heathrow. This is a market that can sustain nearly 30 flights a day to New York alone. They may be happy to leave regional flights to others and it does also have Aer Lingus to draw feed into its hub in Dublin. However, the transatlantic market is clearly growing in markets like Manchester. BA’s cost base is radically different from what it was ten years ago and, combined with an aircraft like the Airbus A321 Long Range, this could prompt a return.

Primera Air Diversions to Reykjavik

Primera Air’s troubled start to transatlantic operations continues.

After having to wet lease aircraft to cover some flights, it is now operating some flights on its Stansted – Newark route with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft in place of an Airbus A321. A consequence of this, yesterday’s flight to Newark had to stop in Reykjavik for refuelling. Publicly available flight data shows a number of flights from 2 September will also be operated with a Boeing 737-800.

Of course Reykjavik has, though the ambitions of Wow Air, been aiming to become the “Dubai of the North Atlantic”, but this is not what was intended.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 29 August 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 22 August 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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AMOR, Robert Indiana, Philadelphia
AMOR, Robert Indiana, Philadelphia (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 22 August 2018. As the summer draws to a close, we are beginning to see a number of announcements by airlines for their schedules for summer 2019.

American Airlines launches London Heathrow – Phoenix

American Airlines is to launch a new summer seasonal service from London Heathrow to Phoenix.

American will fly daily from Sunday 31 March 2019 to Saturday 26 October 2019 with a Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

This will complement BA’s existing service from London Heathrow to Phoenix. However, it is not known whether BA will change its current summer frequency of 10 flights a week.

BA has yet to announce any significant schedule changes for the summer of 2019. However, it will increase London Heathrow – Seattle from 12 to 14 times a week.

American Airlines European Network Changes

American has also announced a number of changes to its European transatlantic network.

It is quite a mixed picture. Philadelphia is clearly becoming an important transatlantic hub for American. However, it is also withdrawing routes from UK regional airports which, unless AA and BA take action, will be left wide open to Delta and Virgin Atlantic. In Manchester, having now suspended Chicago and previously New York JFK, American is left with one just one route to Philadelphia.

It is also interesting to note that American is launching Dublin – Dallas Fort Worth which would be a logical addition if Aer Lingus is to join the AA/BA/Finnair/Iberia joint-venture.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 22 August 2018”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 15 August 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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BA OpenSkies Logo
BA OpenSkies Logo (Image Credit: BA European Ltd)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 15 August 2018. As it’s a relatively quiet news week in August, this edition has been dedicated to the imminent closure of BA’s subsidiary airline OpenSkies.

BA bids adieu to OpenSkies

In a little over two weeks, and just a couple of months after its tenth birthday, OpenSkies will operate its final flight between Paris Orly and Newark.

OpenSkies took its name from the Open Skies treaty of 2007 which liberalised the EU-US transatlantic air travel market. Hitherto, the operation of transatlantic routes was heavily restricted. Open Skies gave EU and US airlines the freedom to operate routes anywhere between the EU and the US.

Many European airlines took advantage. Air France launched a short-lived flight between London Heathrow and Los Angeles, dubbed “Loss Angeles” by then BA CEO Willie Walsh.

BA OpenSkies Boeing 757 Aircraft
BA OpenSkies Boeing 757 Aircraft (Image Credit: BA European Ltd)

Under the codename “Project Lauren”, BA decided to launch a new subsidiary OpenSkies. The company had its own CEO, Dale Moss, a former BA Executive who returned to the group. It started with grand ambitions. The plan was to provide with the airline with at least ten reconfigured Boeing 757s from BA to operate flights from cities all over Europe to the US. Its launch was controversial and provoked industrial relations tensions with BA pilots who objected to the establishment of a new airline outside of their collective bargaining agreements.

On launch, OpenSkies was clearly aimed at the US market with its cabins branded “Biz”, which was effectively a reupholstered version of BA’s first Club World flat bed, and “Prem” (also briefly called “Biz Seat”) for premium economy and “Eco” for economy.

The branding and service style at the time of launch was quite distinct from BA. It borrowed very much from “boutique” premium airlines of the era such as Silverjet and eos. The intention was give the feel of a small airline, with just 82 passengers on board each flight, but with the backup and support of its parent, such as the Executive Club frequent flyer programme.

BA OpenSkies Biz, Prem, Eco Cabins
BA OpenSkies Biz, Prem, Eco Cabins (Image Credit: BA European Ltd)

The airline launched with its inaugural route from Paris Orly to New York JFK on 16 June 2008. It soon acquired another French all business class airline, L’Avion. Whilst it was well received by passengers, later route launches between Amsterdam and New York and Paris and Washington were not successful. In early 2009, BA decided to sell what remained of its Boeing 757 fleet rather than transfer them to OpenSkies.

At launch, OpenSkies was the only significant means of expansion for BA. It had withdrawn all non-London flights from UK regional airports and significantly downsized at London Gatwick. With no imminent prospect of a third runway, there was no scope for growth at Heathrow.

However, BA soon turned its attentions elsewhere. In early 2011, BA merged with Iberia under the umbrella of International Airlines Group. It also finally, on its third attempt, secured a long sought after joint-venture with American Airlines. Most significantly of all, the acquisition of bmi in 2012 enabled substantial growth at Heathrow, much of which has been on transatlantic routes.

OpenSkies had been in limbo for some time with no evident plan to upgrade its fleet and in-flight product which, baring the addition of a BA Boeing 767, has remained the same since launch.

The service will effectively be replaced by IAG’s low cost airline LEVEL which will fly from Paris Orly to Newark four times weekly with an Airbus A330 aircraft from Tuesday 4 September 2018. La Compagnie will continue to offer an all business class from Paris to New York. However, the fact that IAG is replacing OpenSkies with low cost long-haul LEVEL points to the future direction of travel.

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