Imminent application of the Open Skies deal is leading to a burst of activity from airlines as they prepare to take advantage of the liberalised environment.
The Open Skies agreement will be most keenly felt at London Heathrow, where alliances will finally be able to achieve a long-wanted goal ” moving in under one roof.
SkyTeam, the alliance that includes Air France, Delta Air Lines, Continental, KLM and Northwest, will move into Terminal 4 from 30 March, flying 11 supplementary daily services between London and the US.
In a complex round of bartering between the alliance partners, new services have become possible at slot-constrained Heathrow by Air France in particular, which has dropped four daily rotations from London to Paris Charles de Gaulle. For its part, KLM has dispensed with three of its slots to allow partner, Northwest to operate from Heathrow.
Air France said back in October that its decision to drop four Paris services was due to fierce competition on the route from Eurostar and while this is undoubtedly true, once the Open Skies deal was brokered, it was perhaps inevitable that Air France would have to bow to certain pressure from its American colleagues.
Specifically the new Heathrow flights are: a daily service to Los Angeles operated by Air France (Delta code share); two daily rotations to Houston with Continental; one daily operation to Atlanta with Delta (Air France code share); two daily flights to New York JFK by Delta (Air France code share); two to New York Newark with Continental and daily Northwest services to Detroit, Minneapolis and Seattle (KLM code share).
Delta last week conceded that ”there is a stampede from US carriers to Heathrow because we were denied before,” but insists that it, as well as the other US SkyTeam partners, would also continue to serve Gatwick.