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. 


  1. Chris says:

    JetBlue can’t really be ‘squeezed’ out by all that is happening now. The JetBlue planes can be filled without much effort: they’re smaller than anything else crossing the Atlantic, and the airline will benefit from great connectivity on the Boston end and a staunchly loyal base.

    I predict that soon after JetBlue actually starts service to LHR (presuming they are fortunate enough to get in there), AA will give up and retrench just like they did six years ago. The only remedy they (AA) might have is to use their own A321ULR planes to match JetBlue. The 777s will be too big, given all the other flights operating between BOS-LHR.

    On the other hand, AA might stick it out IF JetBlue fails to get Heathrow,

    • James Pearson says:

      Hi Chris, we’ll have to wait until W20 to see at which LON airports JetBlue attains suitable slots. It’ll certainly be exciting to watch where they go. It’s also exciting how many have responded in advance, perhaps not explicitly just from JetBlue but most definitely as one part of it.

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