WOW: 38 US Airports Had Non-Stop UK Connections In The Past Decade

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.

American Airlines has had the most capacity to the UK of all US airlines. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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.

United Airlines had 3.1 million UK seats in 2019, versus 3.7 million if United and Continental’s figures in 2011 are added. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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.

In 2011, 13 airlines operated non-stop. In 2021, there are eight. The loss of low-cost and most fifth-freedom operators, together with airline mergers and acquisitions, is why. Note: some are hard to identify in this figure due to having absolutely tiny shares. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

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.

  1. British Airways: 86.0 million two-way seats
  2. Virgin Atlantic: 44.4 million
  3. American: 36.1 million
  4. United: 30.1 million
  5. Delta: 17.4 million
Chicago O’Hare, where this photo was taken, is one of 38 US airports to have had non-stop UK service since 2011. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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.

  1. JFK: 44.9 million
  2. Los Angeles: 19.6 million
  3. Newark: 19.5 million
  4. Chicago: 16.3 million
  5. Orlando: 14.5 million
  6. Washington Dulles: 12.6 million
  7. Miami: 12.4 million
  8. Atlanta: 8.8 million
  9. Philadelphia: 8.3 million
  10. 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.

These airports have all had non-stop scheduled service to the UK in the past 10 years. Another, Melbourne, is due to begin with TUI in 2022, replacing Sanford. Image: GCMap.

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
Kuwait Airways operated Kuwait-Heathrow-JFK using A340-300s and B777-200ERs. It also operated Kuwait-JFK non-stop using 777s, first by -200ERs and then by -300ERs (as here). Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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.

Norwegian had the sixth-highest volume of capacity between the UK and the US in the past decade. However, it beat Delta’s volume in both 2018 and 2019. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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!