The transatlantic market: ready for a shake-up?

Image: Lead Image

Image: of Statue of liberty and Big Ben
There will be many opportunities for the majors to raid each other’s hubs before too many newcomers obtain the equipment they need to join in.

After many years of haggling the US and EU recently reached agreement on a new way forward for transatlantic air travel. One of the key issues has been access to Heathrow for most US carriers, which under the Bermuda 2 agreement were obliged to use Gatwick (or Stansted or Luton) if they wanted to serve the London market. The new agreement is good news for these US carriers, but also for bmi British Midland, which, though it has slots at Heathrow, is not allowed to use them on transatlantic flights.

The UK government and British Airways (BA) are not best pleased with the overall outcome, but BA at least seems determined to move on and is now planning transatlantic services from other airports in continental Europe. So before everything changes decided to look at the current transatlantic market to see which are the key hubs, routes and carriers.

Delta leads the way in flights and seats

Analysis of current weekly scheduled capacity reveals that Delta has both most flights and most seats (but no access to Heathrow) followed by BA.

US Carriers Seat Share EU Carriers Seat Share
Delta 10.7% British Airways 10.4%
Continental 8.5% Lufthansa 9.1%
American 8.3% Air France 7.0%
United 7.3% Virgin Atlantic 5.9%
US Airways 4.8% KLM 2.8%
Northwest 4.5% Aer Lingus 2.4%
Total US carriers 44.3% Total non-US carriers 55.7%
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 20 August 2007

Logo: Delta, Continental Airlines and British Airways

The favourite destinations on each side of the Atlantic (by some distance) are New York and London, apparently confirming the ‘special relationship’ that exists between the UK and US.

US Airports Seat Share EU Airports Seat Share
New York JFK 20.4% London Heathrow 20.5%
New York Newark 12.2% Frankfurt 12.6%
Chicago O’Hare 9.9% Paris CDG 11.7%
Washington Dulles 7.8% Amsterdam 8.4%
Atlanta 6.8% London Gatwick 7.1%
Los Angeles 6.0% Rome Fiumicino 3.8%
Boston 6.0% Munich 3.3%
Philadelphia 5.2% Manchester 3.2%
All others 25.6% All others 29.4%
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 20 August 2007
Image: Elvis on board a MaxJet flight
All-business airlines continue to grow on the periphery of this mass market – 30 years after his alleged death the real Elvis can be found hiding in the generous 60-inch seat pitch of MaxJet.

No Spanish airport makes the EU list and Madrid and Barcelona combined have just 3.8% of US transatlantic capacity. Combining the Scandinavian hubs of Stockholm and Copenhagen provides an additional 2.6% of seats. The importance of the UK market can be seen in the table below.

EU Country Seat Share
UK 33.2%
Germany 18.3%
France 12.0%
Netherlands 8.4%
Italy 6.7%
Ireland 4.8%
Spain 3.9%
Switzerland 3.1%
All others 9.7%
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 20 August 2007.
NB: Switzerland is not part of the official EU but is included in OAG’s definition of “EU1” countries used in these analyses.

Apart from the opportunities for British Airways and Lufthansa to raid each other’s hubs, the transatlantic market is also witnessing the growth of all-business niche airlines such as Eos and Maxjet at London Stansted, Silverjet at London Luton and Lavion from Paris Orly. will continue to follow this lucrative market in the months ahead.


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