US Airways Secures Heathrow Slots for Charlotte Link

US Airways has confirmed it has been awarded operating slots to inaugurate daily, non-stop services between its Charlotte hub and London Heathrow.  The airline currently serves the UK market from the North Carolina airport with flights to London Gatwick.  It will introduce the new route to Heathrow from March 2013 using an Airbus A330.  The new flight will originate in Miami, according to US Airways, offering additional one-stop connection opportunities for customers to/from in South Florida.

"We are thrilled to make this announcement and look forward to starting service between Heathrow and Charlotte in March," confirmed Doug Parker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, US Airways, this week.  "This new service will augment our existing transatlantic network and provide more choices for customers in markets up and down the east coast.

US Airways has been serving the UK market since August 1989 when it first inaugurated flights between Charlotte and London Gatwick.  It subsequently added flights to London Gatwick from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Alongside the Charlotte route to London Gatwick, US Airways currently offers daily links from Philadelphia to London Heathrow, Manchester and Glasgow (seasonal). 

According to official UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data 162,229 passengers flew between Charlotte and London Gatwick in 2011, a slight decline on the traffic levels reached the previous year.  The O&D demand between the two destinations last year was estimated to be around 46,000 passengers, meaning that around three quarters of passengers are using the link to transfer from or to other destinations, a market that is sure to develop at London Heathrow.  Last year an estimated 18,000 O&D passengers travelled between London Heathrow and Charlotte despite no direct air links.

Looking back at historic data on US Airways’ Philadelphia – London route there was a clear increase in demand as the flight was switched from Gatwick to Heathrow Airport, due to the additional connection opportunities.  There was also a notable increase in the airline’s average fares as it secured more premium passengers with ticket prices increasing 46.2 per cent between 2007 and 2008.

US Airways launched the Philadelphia route in May 1992 but when new entrant opportunities became available at Heathrow it quickly took up tenancy at the UK’s largest international gateway from March 2008.  Last year US Airways had an estimated 22 per cent share of the 180,000 O&D passengers that flew on the route, a market also served by British Airways (BA).

As mentioned earlier, US Airways introduced the Charlotte – London Gatwick route in August 1989, but before then Piedmont Airlines had served the route since June 1987.  It maintained the service following its purchase of the carrier and continued operations until January 1994 when BA began serving the market.  US Airways returned on a seasonal basis in 1998 before reintroducing year-round flights the subsequent year alongside BA and has continued flying the transatlantic link since BA suspended its own operations in October 2001. 

US Airways is the sole carrier flying to Charlotte from the UK.  In fact Lufthansa is the only other carrier to offer flights to the US city from Europe with a connection from its own Munich hub.  Alongside its London operation, US Airways offers non-stop links to Frankfurt, Paris, Rome and seasonal flights to Dublin and Madrid. 

In the table below, using official statistics from the UK CAA, we highlight air passenger demand between Charlotte and London Gatwick over the last seven years.

SCHEDULED PASSENGERS ON ROUTE BETWEEN CHARLOTTE AND LONDON GATWICK (UK CAA Air Passenger Demand, bi-directional O&D traffic)

Year

Total Passengers

% Change

Estimated O&D Passengers

% Change

2005

145,054

(-6.7) %

55,839

-

2006

147,383

1.6 %

60,934

9.1 %

2007

160,178

8.7 %

50,075

(-17.8) %

2008

158,338

(-1.1) %

51,810

3.5 %

2009

166,927

5.4 %

42,474

(-18.0) %

2010

164,327

(-1.6) %

45,466

7.0 %

2011

162,229

(-1.3) %

45,979

1.1 %

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