April 2008 will mark the start of ‘Open Skies‘ which finally deregulates air travel between the EU and the USA. This will mean that any EU or US airline will be able to fly whichever routes they want between the EU and the US – this should result in lower transatlantic fares for the passenger.
Consider London Heathrow where 4 airlines have had a virtual monopoly on flights to the US – British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and United Airlines. Come April we will see some new routes coming to the market as airlines juggle valuable take-off and landing slots.
Air France-KLM plans to fly from Heathrow to Los Angeles. In addition KLM has given some slots to its US partner Northwest Airlines which will fly from LHR to Detroit, Seattle and Minneapolis.
Fellow SkyTeam carrier Delta Airlines will fly to New York JFK and to its Atlanta hub. Continental Airlines will service New York Newark and Houston.
Meanwhile Star Alliance carrier United will add a route to Denver.
With American Airlines starting a second daily flight from London Stansted to New York from April 2008, plus the all business class airlines EOS and Silverjet (Maxjet having folded recently) there will be plenty of competition which could benefit passengers particularly in business class.
Not to be outdone British Airways is planning its own non-stop flights from mainland Europe to New York. Codenamed ‘Project Lauren’ BA will probably operate flights configured with Club World and premium economy seating from Euro hubs such as Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris. (Note, More info here: Open Skies)
One dark cloud on the horizon for airlines and passengers is the high oil price. Having recently touched $100 per barrel, BA, Virgin and United have all raised their fuel surcharges with others to follow soon. Should oil keep rising (and some analysts are predicting $150-$200 oil) then this will increase airfares worldwide.