Posted by Tom on Thursday, January 10, 2008
Although it’s no secret that British Airways has been looking to expand in the transatlantic market, the airline made an announcement yesterday that it is starting an “airline within an airline”. OpenSkies, as the new entity is called, will start flying in June with a single Boeing 757-200 from New York to either Paris or Brussels. Another 757 is planned to join the fleet later this year, with six aircraft in all by 2009. In a statement, Willie Walsh, BA CEO, said that "by naming the airline OpenSkies, we're celebrating the first major step in 60 years towards a liberalized US/EU aviation market which means we can fly between any US and EU destination”. Future cities will probably include Milan, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Madrid.
This is a smart move on BA’s part – the Open Skies agreement signed between the US and the EU would add a lot of pressure at BA’s London Heathrow hub. Currently, only United Airlines, American Airlines, BA, and Virgin Atlantic can fly from the US into Heathrow, but this is expected to change soon as more US carriers add the airport. It’s also a smart idea that British Airways decided to buck the “premium transatlantic” trend that pushed MaxJet into bankruptcy last month – OpenSkies will have business class, premium economy, and economy class (each with 24, 28 and 30 seats, respectively). But BA isn’t alone in this area – British carrier bmi, Delta Air Lines, and Air France/KLM are all expected to follow suit with Heathrow-US routes.