British Airways Eyes London To Indianapolis Flights

Could Indianapolis be connected non-stop to London next summer? British Airways has shown its intention, although the situation is more complicated than this and far from certain. Elsewhere, the latest slot filings suggest that it may relaunch Pittsburgh, Portland, Calgary, and Kuala Lumpur.

BA B787-8
London is Indianapolis’ most significant market in Europe. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr.

What’s happening?

British Airways has applied to operate Heathrow-Indianapolis next summer. That’s according to Airport Coordination Limited (ACL)’s summer 2022 Initial Coordination Report, with ACL the organization that allocates slots at the airport.

It seems that BA had applied to operate a once-daily service to Indianapolis. The carrier had two historic slots that they allocated to the route, but not surprisingly, the additional requested five new slot pairs were not approved. If it goes ahead, it will use 214-seat B787-8s, the lower-premium aircraft of choice for opening thinner long-haul routes.

BA slots
This is a screenshot from the Initial Coordination Report. ATM = air traffic movement, i.e., one take-off and landing. 124 divided by the number of weeks in the summer season and two directions equals a twice-weekly service. Image: ACL.

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The picture is not necessarily as it seems

There’s no certainty that BA will launch Indianapolis. Why would it at twice-weekly? Even Delta’s Indianapolis-Paris service was up to once-daily and a minimum of three-weekly.

Moreover, BA could use the two historic slots for any other route its wishes, whether in the US, another long-haul destination, or another leisure route in Europe. Or, improbably, they could not use them, like the many slots Wizz Air received at Gatwick for summer 2021.

Based on passenger traffic and fares, Indianapolis, St Louis, and Cincinnati are possible future North America destinations for BA. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr.

Indianapolis to London

The jury is out on whether Indianapolis will be launched next summer, but it may at some point, based on the numbers. In 2019, Indianapolis-London had 35,000 round-trip point-to-point (P2P) passengers. London was the largest P2P market, and Europe as a whole saw 210,000.

SkyTeam airline Delta launched Indianapolis-Paris CDG in May 2018 using B767-300ERs, despite Paris being a lower P2P market than London – even with the non-stop to France. The pandemic meant it stopped in March 2020, and it’s not bookable in 2022. According to T-100 data, Delta carried 86,478 passengers in 2019, for a 75.3% seat load factor.

But it’s not just about traffic. In 2019, Indianapolis-Heathrow had an average one-way fare of $773, excluding any fuel surcharge and taxes, meaningfully higher than CDG, booking data shows. With London also able to capture a chunk of the broader European demand, non-stop service to the UK capital looks very interesting, supported by financial subsidies from Indianapolis.

Delta Indianapolis-CDG
Delta’s Indianapolis to Paris CDG service began on May 24th, 2018, with up to a once-daily service. Not surprisingly, a good number of passengers transited over CDG across Europe, South Asia, the Middle East, and more, with fellow SkyTeam member Air France. Photo: Indianapolis International Airport.

The latest on other destinations

According to the Initial Coordination Report, Pittsburgh, Portland, Calgary, and Kuala Lumpur may also be served next year. But like Indianapolis, the destinations could change, so don’t read too much into it for now.

If Pittsburgh and Portland do resume, it appears that Portland will be five-weekly and Pittsburgh four-weekly, both using B787-8s. Earlier this year, the Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO said that she expects the subsidy-backed Pittsburgh-Heathrow service to resume in spring 2022, two years after it was halted.

What do you make of the situation? Let us know in the comments.