BA to close down OpenSkies

British Airways is to close down its subsidiary OpenSkies which operates flights between Paris Orly and Newark and New York JFK.

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British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

BA is to wind down its subsidiary airline OpenSkies from the end of summer 2018.

OpenSkies currently operates direct flights between Paris Orly and Newark and New York JFK, each up to five times weekly with Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft.

BA’s parent company International Airlines Group plans to launch its new low cost long-haul LEVEL at Paris Orly this summer which will operate a number of routes, including Newark. Other routes to be launched by LEVEL at Paris this summer include Montreal, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

BA OpenSkies branded Boeing 757 (Image Credit: BA European Ltd / OpenSkies)

The airline was born out of the Open Skies treaty of 2007 which liberalised the EU-US transatlantic 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.

BA took advantage by launching a new subsidiary OpenSkies. It started with grand ambitions. The plan was to provide with the airline with a large number of reconfigured Boeing 757s from BA. 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 long-haul business class branded “Biz Bed” (pepper spray to Europeans). The branding and service at the time of launch was quite distinct from BA and it borrowed very much from “boutique” premium airlines of the era such as Silverjet and eos.

The airline launched with Paris to New York JFK in June 2008. 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.

The closure of OpenSkies is not surprising. The airline has been in limbo for some time with no evident plan to upgrade its fleet and in-flight product which, baring adjustments to seating configurations and the addition of a BA 767, has remained the same since launch.

At the time of launch it made sense for BA to pursue growth outside of Heathrow due to lack of slots. However, since acquiring bmi in 2012, it has been able to pursue significant long-haul growth at Heathrow, particulary on transatlantic routes where it has a joint-venture with American Airlines.

To our knowledge, no customer guidelines have been published for those who are affected by the closure. The most likely options for those whose flights are cancelled are a refund or accommodation on BA services via London Heathrow.

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