Carriers Shuffle Schedules, Swap Routes Into Heathrow
The news lately has been full of new transatlantic airline
partnerships, and with the Open Skies agreement between the US and
Europe set to start March 30, the puzzle pieces are starting to
form a picture.
The relaxation of what was called the Bermuda 2 bilateral
agreement between the US and the UK for years will allow more US
flights into Heathrow Airport, considered London's premier business
airport and a jewel sought by US carriers. But to open up landing
and departure slots at Heathrow, some flights serving European
cities from secondary US markets will have to move to London's
Gatwick airport, or elsewhere.
The Financial Times reports the changes will be welcomed, for
example, by oil executives shuttling between Texas and their
projects in the Middle East and Africa. British Airways is shifting
its Dallas and Houston services from Gatwick to Heathrow, so
connections should be easier. But its flights to Detroit will be
dropped, and its flights to Warsaw, Poland will move to
In turn, service between London and Detroit will be picked up by
Northwest Airlines starting May 1. Northwest, which was not allowed
to serve Heathrow under the Bermuda 2 agreement, partnered recently
with Air France KLM to gain access.
carries lots of Boeing and Microsoft execs working with codeshare
partner Alaska, will also add service between Heathrow and Seattle
on June 1. But European businessmen accustomed to convenient Air
France KLM flights to Heathrow from Eindhoven and Rotterdam will
see those flights discontinued, to be replaced with less convenient
service to London City Airport.
Among other recent partnerships which suddenly make sense are
Delta, also working with Air France. As ANN has reported, the two
carriers have agreed to share revenues and expenses on some routes.
The Times reports starting March 30, Delta will fly between New
York and Heathrow twice daily, and serve Atlanta once a day. In
exchange, Air France picks up a daily flight to Los Angeles.
Conversely, Air France will drop five of its 12 daily round
trips to Paris, keeping only a few flights at peak departure times.
In its defense, the airline points out it operates services to
Charles de Gaulle and Orly from London City.
For three decades, US airlines have been deregulated, and at
least a full generation of US airline customers have become
accustomed to losing service on routes that were not profitable for
carriers. In Europe, regulation has, until now, preserved many
flights businesses found convenient. Open Skies may be a difficult
adjustment for executives of European companies, as they suddenly
find themselves relegated to less productive schedules and less
convenient airports by market forces unbuffered by government
One European carrier known for bold moves is playing it
conservative on Open Skies. Virgin Atlantic is holding off on
adding service between New York and European cities outside the UK,
observing that the Open Skies agreement could face trouble when it
comes time for Phase II.
The next step in those negotiations is expected to bring
pressure for relaxation on foreign ownership in US airlines,
something which has been a non-starter so far in the US.