The US to the UK is normally the world’s fifth-largest international country-pair, with 27 million seats pre-crisis. Some 38 US airports have been connected non-stop to the UK in the past 10 years across 18 airlines. Yet the recovery of this crucial market is in doubt, with the US now recommending that its citizens ‘avoid all travel’ to the UK.
One of the deadliest things about coronavirus, aside from the virus itself, is the lack of certainty and confidence that comes with it. This very much applies to travel and can severely impact demand, with this now in play between the United States and the UK.
As May 17th draws near, with this the earliest date that non-essential travel from the UK will be allowed, it is widely expected that the government will put the US on its ‘green list’ of countries. This would mean that those arriving into the UK from the US would not need to quarantine.
However, the US now recommends that its citizens ‘avoid all travel’ to the UK, putting in jeopardy hope of an air corridor for what is normally the world’s fifth-largest international country-pair for travel. Still, a corridor is “not a question of if, but when,” according to Airlines for America. You can see why.
27 million seats pre-crisis
There were just under 27 million non-stop seats between the US and UK in 2019, analyzing OAG data reveals, equivalent to more than 73,000 seats each day, if seasonality is ignored. Only the UK to Spain, Canada to the US, Mexico to the US, and Germany to Spain had more.
British Airways is king
The US-UK market has had 236 million seats since 2011, with British Airways unsurprisingly providing nearly twice as many seats as number-two, as shown below. The Boeing 747-400 played an important role for BA, as Simple Flying recently showed.
- British Airways: 86.0 million two-way seats
- Virgin Atlantic: 44.4 million
- American: 36.1 million
- United: 30.1 million
- Delta: 17.4 million
38 US airports to the UK
Perhaps surprisingly, some 38 US airports have been connected non-stop to the UK since 2011. Obviously, JFK was far and away number-one, as follows, with JFK still very much the US’ leading long-haul gateway.
- JFK: 44.9 million
- Los Angeles: 19.6 million
- Newark: 19.5 million
- Chicago: 16.3 million
- Orlando: 14.5 million
- Washington Dulles: 12.6 million
- Miami: 12.4 million
- Atlanta: 8.8 million
- Philadelphia: 8.3 million
- San Francisco: 7.7 million
At the other end of the scale are Charleston, Hartford, Pittsburgh, Providence, and Portland (Oregon). Charleston was the least served as it only began in April 2019; it operated twice-weekly using B787-8s until October.
While Charleston isn’t available for booking in 2021, it had been filed to operate, showing that BA is very likely to serve it again – perhaps in summer 2022 – once restrictions ease and demand picks up.
A good variety
Some 18 airlines have operated non-stop between the two countries in the past decade. This includes short-lived Primera from London Stansted to Boston, Newark, and Washington Dulles.
Various carriers have operated on a fifth-freedom basis, including:
- Kuwait Airways (Kuwait-Heathrow-JFK) until 2016
- Pakistan International (Lahore-Manchester-JFK) until 2017
- Air India (Ahmedabad-Heathrow-Newark) until 2018
- Singapore Airlines (Singapore-Manchester-Houston), which began in 2016 and still exists
Norwegian had up to 17 routes
At its peak in 2018, long-haul, low-cost Norwegian had 17 routes from the UK to the US. This saw 15 US airports served, including Austin, Denver, JFK, and Tampa, and – with B737s – Hartford, Providence, and Stewart.
Jet2, meanwhile, operated Christmas shopping flights to New York for years. In 2017, it linked eight UK airports – including Belfast, Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, and Newcastle – to Newark, mainly using B757s but also A330s.
This year, all eyes are on Aer Lingus’ debut from Manchester to the US, and whether Norse Atlantic will indeed launch from Gatwick in the wake of Norwegian’s exit.
What do you think will become of the air corridor between the two nations? Will it come into effect? And if so, when? Comment below!