Slots for Heathrow
The new air treaty between the United States and the European Union will open up London Heathrow Airport to all U.S. and European airlines, but only for airlines that own or can acquire slots to land and take off there.
So how will they get the slots?
British Airways, free now to shuffle its flights into Heathrow, demonstrated Wednesday one way to free up slots -- cancel service.
British Airways announced that it was ending its daily flights between Detroit and Heathrow after more than a half century. That'll give it two slots -- a landing slot and a takeoff slot -- to use for other service.
Among the routes benefiting from the changes is the Dallas/Fort Worth daily flight and two daily Houston flights, which will be moved to Heathrow from Gatwick on March 30. That's the day the new air treaty takes effect, and the day that Detroit flights end.
"In addition, the airline will increase frequencies from Heathrow to New York JFK, Seattle and Washington and from Gatwick to Orlando," British Airways announced.
Here's what Robin Hayes, British Airways’ executive vice president for the Americas, said about the Detroit service:
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have been unable to make a reasonable level of profit on the Detroit-London route. Detroit was a route very dependent on the auto industry, and the changing nature of this sector made it a very challenging market to be in.
Despite the fact we have operated in the Detroit-London market for over 50 years, we see no possible upswing in the business and have, therefore, decided to utilize the aircraft on other routes where it can make a profitable contribution to the airline’s bottom line.
We have decided to give our customers over six months’ notice to allow them plenty of time to make alternative arrangements. Customers who are booked to travel prior to March 30, 2008, may rest assured that they will continue to receive the full range of British Airways services.
The Detroit News quoted British Airways as saying that the Detroit-Heathrow route was "the most unprofitable in its global system." The Detroit Free Press noted that British Airways has gone from a Boeing 747 to a Boeing 777 to a Boeing 767 jet on the route -- progressively smaller airplanes.