BA Subsidiary Nixes Plans For Fifth Plane
The response to a scenario British Airways never wanted in the
first place, upstart business-class subsidiary OpenSkies is
reportedly operating far below expectations... and given current
economic conditions, its days could be numbered.
The London Telegraph reports the airline -- which started
operations in June -- has failed to attract large numbers of
travelers on its routes from New York City to Paris Orly and
"At OpenSkies, revenues are below target through a combination
of lower volumes and yields, and as a priority we must take actions
to ensure we keep within our cash reserves," reads an internal
British Airways memo, obtained by the newspaper.
Those actions include deferring the delivery of a fifth Boeing
757 -- reconfigured for all-business-class seating -- originally
slated for March 2009. The airline launched with a single 757 taken
from the British Airways mainline fleet, and added a second soon
Two more planes were brought online following BA's purchase of
French biz-class carrier L'Avion. One of those planes was recently
pressed into service for OpenSkies' new service to Amsterdam,
as ANN reported.
British Airways first announced OpenSkies in January, in
response to the 2007 "open-skies" agreement between authorities in
the United States, and the European Union. It was a clear case of
"if you can't beat 'em, join 'em"... as British Airways chairman
Willie Walsh unsuccessfully argued prior to the bill's passage that
Open Skies legislation would be "a poor agreement for Britain and
Walsh openly opposed EU passage of the Open Skies treaty, as the
legislation reduced the monopoly his airline enjoyed at London
Heathrow. OpenSkies -- the airline -- represented the first time
British Airways planes operated direct long-haul flights between
the US and continental Europe.
A spokesman for British Airways declined to comment on operating
figures for OpenSkies, saying those numbers were "commercially
confidential." He did admit, however, that "like all airlines,
OpenSkies is facing challenging trading conditions."
It's worth noting that 2008 has seen the downfall of a number of
business-class trans-Atlantic airlines, with operating models
similar to OpenSkies. Those now-defunct airlines include Silverjet,