British Airways to start Portland; Cincinnati and St Louis next?

British Airways' next US airports likely Cincinnati and St Louis

British Airways began New Orleans from London Heathrow in 2017.  It was initially served four-weekly but increased to five-weekly two years’ later. The year 2017 was important for the airline with three new US airports served YOY.

On 18th December, British Airways announced its next US airport: Portland, OR.  This will be served from 1st June 2020 year-round on a five-weekly basis.  It’ll be in direct competition with Delta’s summer-seasonal non-stop offering.

BA’s capacity to the US represented 16% of its total in 2019, more or less the same over the past 10 years.  This is despite its number of US airports rising from 19 in 2009 to 27 in 2019.  It is, of course, because BA’s non-US capacity grew faster on both a percentage and absolute basis in the past decade, unaided by the shallow growth of BA’s core US markets all of which have declined as a proportion of its total US capacity.  Between 2009 and 2019, BA’s US seats increased by 28% and 2.5 million seats, while non-US were up 31% and 11.8 million.

British Airways' next US airports Cincinnati and St Louis

Source: OAG Schedules Analyser. Note: this figure represents the total number of US destinations served by BA in each year, even if they have now been cut.

Yet, the development of BA’s fundamental country market is interesting, with seven US airports launched since 2015: San Jose (2016); New Orleans (2017); Oakland (2017); Fort Lauderdale (2017); Nashville (2018); Charleston (2019); and Pittsburgh (2019).  BA is to use the B747-400 to San Jose during the summer season.  Fort Lauderdale and Oakland were defensive moves in response to Norwegian. Fort Lauderdale ended in October 2018 and Oakland September 2019 as a result of Norwegian moving to its Gatwick services to Miami and San Francisco.  Interestingly, BA grew Miami significantly in 2019 versus 2018 (up 149,000) but not San Francisco, although the latter is somewhat because of San Jose.

British Airways to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh was added in April 2019 and operates four-weekly from London Heathrow using the B787-8. In the 12 months to September 2019, so not yet fully reflecting the introduction of BA’s non-stop, Pittsburgh had 38,400 P2P passengers to London and 279,000 passengers to all of Europe.  London was its number-one European destination.  In 2017, Pittsburgh’s metropolitan area had the country’s twenty-fifth largest GDP, at an estimated $147 billion.

British Airways: after Pittsburgh and Portland, where’s next in the US?

Seven possible US airports are listed below.  All were chosen based on having 30,000 or more passengers to London and being unserved.  The UK capital is the number-one city from all seven airports, with Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, and Rome, in some order, in the next four positions.  Several of these seven – Cincinnati, Kansas City, St Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland – had WOW Air, which is interesting for two reasons.  Firstly, good volumes of traffic to Europe.  Secondly, the potential for financial subsidies. 

US airport Traffic to/from London Avg. one-way fare to London* Est. revenue to/from  London** Traffic to Europe Current European service?
St. Louis 38,800 $1,080 $83,808,000 260,700 No
Cleveland 37,500 $878 $65,850,000 269,600 No
Cincinnati 37,100 $1,148 $85,181,600 239,100 Yes: Delta to Paris CDG
Kansas City 35,400 $881 $62,374,800 217,400 No
Indianapolis 34,769 $853 $59,315,914 201,000 Yes: Delta to Paris CDG
Columbus 31,100 $1,027 $63,879,400 177,000 No
Source: OAG Traffic Analyser. Data based on the 12 months to September 2019. * One-way, USD, averaged across all cabins and excluding taxes, ancillaries, and fuel surcharges. ** Traffic multiplied by average fare multiplied by two ways.

Cincinnati and St. Louis future destinations

Cincinnati and St. Louis are both excellent contenders for BA’s future US destinations.  Both have strong fare per miles as a result of their higher business travel (reflected in higher average fare), above-average passengers to London, and good traffic to Europe.  And both have strong metro GDPs: $161 billion for St. Louis, the nation’s twenty-second largest, and $138 billion for Cincinnati, the twenty-ninth. Cincinnati is also 115 miles from Columbus, another city with good demand to London and wider Europe.

British Airways' next US airport: Cincinnati or St Louis

Source: OAG Traffic Analyser.


  1. Mark Walter says:

    Cincinnati would also allow BA to profit from freight. DHL and Amazon have freight hubs there. The Delta flight to CDG carries a lot of Airbus engine parts from near-by GE aviation and profits from freight.

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