“Open-Skies” shifts demand from Gatwick to Heathrow; overall capacity down 5%

Image: Ribbon Cutting
As a result of the open skies agreement, Continental transferred flights to Houston and Newark from Gatwick to Heathrow.

Last year routes between London Heathrow and the US were finally fully liberalised allowing several US carriers to switch their flights from London Gatwick, assuming they could obtain the necessary slots. This week anna.aero takes a look at what impact this has had on UK-US traffic from the two main London airports.

Between 1996 and 2000 traffic between the UK and US grew by 33%. The events of ‘9/11′ had a significant impact on this market and in the following years total annual traffic between the two countries has yet to return to those heady days of 2000.

Chart: UK-US air traffic 1996-2007
Source: UK CAA

The decision by Continental (flights to Houston and Newark), Delta (flights to Atlanta and New York JFK), Northwest (flights to Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul) and US Airways (flights to Philadelphia) to transfer capacity from Gatwick to Heathrow appears to have had little overall impact on demand.

Chart: LHR/LGW Traffic to USA
Source: UK CAA

The re-timing of Easter makes the March and April figures difficult to compare but between May and August traffic was up around 3.6% on average. In September traffic was down 2.0%, down 2.6% in October and an alarming 9% in November. In December traffic was down just 4.2%.

BA maintains capacity as biggest US carriers cut back

A year-on-year comparison of seat capacity for February reveals that British Airways has maintained its seat capacity, though it too has made some changes. Gatwick services to Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston have been moved to Heathrow. Heathrow to Detroit services were terminated at the end of March 2008 but a new Gatwick to JFK service was introduced at the end of October 2008.

Chart: Top 10 airlines to USA from LGW/LHR
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 18 February 2008 and w/c 16 February 2009

Overall capacity is down around 5%. Virgin has cut capacity by almost 18% and flights by 11% as frequency has been cut on routes to New York JFK (27 to 21 weekly departures), Los Angeles (14 to 11) and Chicago O’Hare (seven to five). American and United have also cut capacity but US Airways (+46%), Delta (+30%) and Continental (+14%) have increased capacity. US Airways has achieved this increase by simply adding a daily service from Philadelphia to Heathrow while maintaining its daily Gatwick flights to Charlotte and Philadelphia.


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