April was a quiet month for route announcements, with airlines already implementing their summer expansion yet still considering any new connections for the winter season. Nevertheless, here are my picks of this month’s most important route development news:
British Airways – Oakland Connection Goes Seasonal
After being launched with much fanfare, including a rather odd advertisement campaign, British Airways’ new Gatwick-Oakland, CA route will be suspended for the winter season from October 20th. The airline is keen to reinforce that the route will be revived from March 2019.
Despite this, British Airways will also be initiating expansion to the US and South America. The new Heathrow-Santiago de Chile flight, launched last year, will be increased from four to five weekly, served by the four-class Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Simultaneously, from October 29th, the airline will add three additional weekly frequencies onto its ‘capital to capital’ Heathrow-Washington D.C. service, taking the total number of weekly flights to 17.
Etihad Airways – Further cutbacks, with Perth and Edinburgh getting the axe
Etihad’s flights from its Abu Dhabi hub to both Edinburgh and Perth will end on September 30th, following a string of recent cutbacks and financial difficulty. It is widely accepted that the yield or revenue per seat did not meet Etihad’s expectations. Much of the Middle East airlines’ core market revolves around Europe-Australasia connections however, indirect carriers to Europe like Etihad face increased price competition following the introduction of Qantas’ new non-stop Perth to London route. It remains to be seen whether Etihad will continue with its recent cutbacks, but the airline is facing financial reality and rationalisation must be carried out.
Air Belgium – No permit for overflying Russia
Despite a promising start, Air Belgium is facing difficulty in obtaining a permit to overfly Russia. The airline’s CEO – Niky Terzakis – says that ‘overflying Russian airspace is unavoidable’ and, as a result, the launch date for Air Belgium’s new Charleroi-Hong Kong flights has been postponed until June 3rd.
VLM – Expanding rapidly, with only flights from Ostend-Bruges to the UK
VLM will introduce two new routes to Manchester from Belgium, beginning in October. It is the first time that Manchester will have a direct flight to Ostend-Bruges, offering passengers easy access with daily flights to the stunning, medieval city of Bruges. Additionally, VLM will serve Antwerp from Manchester twice daily Monday to Friday, with daily flights over the weekend. The new flights are in addition to recently announced Antwerp-Aberdeen flights and presently operating Antwerp-Birmingham and London City links.
ROUTE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MONTH: WOW AIR EXPECTED TO LAUNCH REYKJAVIK-DELHI
Having rivalled Icelandair in the US-Europe transit market, WOW Air is now looking to cities further afield in a race to beat Icelandair to Asia. In an interview with the CEO of the airline it was revealed that WOW Air is planning to announce routes to Asia in May this year.
He says that this is the area where he sees the most growth, and just as WOW Air has added 14 routes to North America in the past few years, he could also see WOW Air adding 14-15 destinations in Asia, making Iceland the “Dubai of the North.” India would be the obvious market, competing against the MEB3, to operate low-cost flights from the US. Cities such as Mumbai and Delhi are widely tipped to be first in line, with the airline holding a press conference in Delhi on May 15th. This will certainly be an interesting development in the world of low-cost air travel.
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Featured photo by Wasim Zemerly.