Monday, May 18, 2009

British Airways to Add Las Vegas Route

The international travel game got a little more intense this morning when British Airways announced that it will start a new nonstop daily flight between Las Vegas and London Heathrow on Oct. 25.

The flights will be operated to and from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 by a three-class Boeing 777 offering Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy). The Club World cabin offers seats that convert to 180-degree flat beds. (Missing from the mix is British Airways first-class cabin.)

Las Vegas will be British Airways’ 19th city in the United States.

This seems counter-intuitive, since U.S. airlines have been busily removing capacity from Las Vegas, which has been struggling with a sharp fall-off in tourism and business travel. Air service is off about 20 percent into and out of Las Vegas in the last 12 months.

But never short Las Vegas. If any city is going to market its way out of a slump, this one will. Foreign carriers like British Airways are not allowed to fly between U.S. cities, but many of the big ones have been steadily increasing the number of cities they serve in the U.S. from international locations, while firmly establishing their brands in the domestic market.

Big domestic airlines are warily evaluating the U.S. strategies of British Airways, Lufthansa and other sharp foreign competitors (including Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic). In some cases, of course, the domestic airlines are forging deeper alliance partnerships with foreign carriers (while working to manipulate around U.S. anti-trust regulations.)

Interesting to see one of them making a bet on Las Vegas.

According to British Airways:

The 777 on the new Las Vegas route will be configured with 36 Club World seats, 24 World Traveller Plus seats and 214 World Traveller seats.

The daily eastbound flight, BA274, will depart McCarran International Airport’s Terminal 2 at 7 p.m. and arrive at London Heathrow Airport at 12:50 p.m. the following day. The westbound flight, BA275, will depart Terminal 5, Heathrow, at 2:20 p.m. and arrive at Las Vegas at 5:10 p.m. the same afternoon.

Roundtrip fares in World Traveller will start at $461 and for World Traveller Plus, $1206. Roundtrip Club World fares will start at $3,255; all fares are subject to fuel surcharges, government fees and taxes.


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