British Airways to reinstate routes axed after US attacks

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The Independent Online

British Airways is reinstating most of the services to the United States that it suspended in the wake of 11 September.

The move reflects the airline's growing confidence that air travel will bounce back more quickly from the terrorist attacks six months ago than had been expected.

The decision to put capacity back onto the North Atlantic has also been driven by the success BA has had in winning market share from its US rivals since last September.

David Noyes, BA's head of sales and marketing for North America, said that since the turn of the year, its share of business class passengers had risen by about five percentage points. On the key London-New York route, BA now has about 35 per cent of the market.

From the end of this month BA will be returning to six flights a day to New York while services to Boston and Washington will be going back up from two to three a day. BA has also gone back to operating the New York service using Boeing 747-400s rather than the smaller Boeing 777.

In the immediate aftermath of 11 September, BA cut capacity by 10 per cent across its entire network and shed 7,200 jobs. A further 5,800 jobs were cut last month.

However, premium traffic levels have recovered more quickly than thought likely and much more rapidly than they did after the Gulf war in 1991.

Last month more premium passenger numbers on BA's transatlantic services were down by 7.5 per cent compared with the fall of 30 per cent experienced last October.

The growth in BA's passengers has been helped by the introduction of flat beds in BA's Club World cabins and the airline's good safety reputation. "We always benefit from being British, there is an unstated confidence in safety and security," Mr Noyes said.

BA has also been forced to cut prices to tempt passengers back. He would not say whether BA's US services were now profitable once again but he said its financial performance on the North Atlantic had improved "considerably"

After 11 September BA said it was burning cash at the rate of £2m a day and its house broker, Merrill Lynch, forecast that losses this financial year would hit £775m. Last week Merrill cut its forecast of BA's losses to £460m.

Meanwhile a survey published yesterday showed that the next six months should bring recovery to the travel industry.

The American Express Corporate Travel Barometer found that more than 75 per cent continue to fly regularly after the events of 11 September, with 65 per cent reporting that their business travel has not been affected at all.