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Melting pot of intrigue: American announces London-Boston soon after Delta

Yesterday, 30th September, American Airlines announced it’ll restart a daily Boston-London/Heathrow service from the 29th March.  It last operated this in 2013.  This announcement is noteworthy when it is remembered that Delta will start Boston-London/Gatwick – and thereby return to Gatwick – from the 22nd May.

London-Boston has grown strongly over the past few years, primarily from Norwegian (2016 entry) and Primera Air (2018).  The impact of their new entry on non-stop P2P fares – and non-stop P2P traffic volume – is clear, as below. London-Boston has proven to be reasonably price-elastic, but with some questions of competitiveness and sustainability. 

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser. * One-way; USD; excluding taxes, fuel surcharges and any ancillaries; and across all cabins. Note: fares here are only for non-stop P2P passengers.

In S20, there will be ten daily flights between London and Boston, up from eight in S19:

  • BA and AA will have five daily flights between them
  • Virgin and Delta four – across two London airports
  • Norwegian one

If only Delta began its new service, BA and Virgin-Delta would be equal by frequency (four daily each). It ties in with market share development.  If only Delta increased, the BA and Virgin-Delta share gap would clearly decline. With AA’s announcement, BA-AA will have more frequency and a stronger combined share, further strengthening them against Virgin-Delta. Is this the reason for AA to restart the route?

  BA Virgin Atlantic Delta Norwegian Primera
2014 60% 26% 14% 0 0
2015 59% 27% 14% 0 0
2016 50% 22% 12% 16% 0
2017 49% 19% 10% 21% 0
2018 45% 18% 9% 24% 3%

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser.

Or have both AA and Delta announced Boston-London because JetBlue has adamantly stated it will start the city-pair – along with NYC/JFK-London – from 2021?  This makes sense give Delta is returning to Gatwick. JetBlue will, of course, benefit from not just P2P demand – including lower-priced business class in what is increasingly rumoured to be a fairly light-density A321LR – but also strong onward connectivity beyond Boston.

The reality, of course, is a combination of reasons. 

It will be good to see the next move and also the specifics – launch date, frequency, timings, London airport(s), aircraft density – of JetBlue’s service, and the impacts of this. 


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