Saturday, July 18, 2009

London City flights

BA is choosing not to disclose bookings for its new London City-New York flights scheduled to start 29 September, reasoning at this point the niche business travellers targeted by the flight are not prepared to book flights for travel later in the year.

During an interview today with ATI BA executive VP for the Americas Simon Talling-Smith gave the assessment of bookings, noting it was "too early to tell".

Currently the carrier offers roughly 700 premium seats daily in the New York-London market. Talling-Smith says he doesn't anticipate the additional 32 seats on flights from the city's financial district should be difficult to fill. BA plans to offer two daily flights on the route by the end of October.

The carrier is attempting to create a niche product targeting business travellers in London's financial district through daily flights with Airbus A318s configured with 32 lie-flat seats.

Talling-Smith says walk-up fares for the London City flights should be comparable to what the carrier currently charges for business class walk-ups on its mainline flights from London to New York.

Overall BA has chosen to be "very realistic" about the current downturn, he explains, and is not being overly optimistic about a recovery. "The data we have from forward bookings show no sign of an upturn," says Talling-Smith. "We're selling more discounted business seats than we have in many, many years."

Once premium and business travel starts to climb Talling-Smith says customers won't be as willing to pay similar prices charged during previous peak cycles. He predicts the returns of heavy loads, but yields are unlikely to return to previous levels.

BA is considering altering business class configuration on some of Boeing 747s. Talling-Smith explains the carrier currently operates two different types of business class configurations on that aircraft type of 74 seats and 50 seats. BA is considering switching some aircraft featuring the 74-seat layout to a 50-seat configuration.

The carrier is also taking delivery of four 777s this year featuring a three-class configuration with a business section versus a four-class layout with a premium class.