"OpenSkies" Will Take Advantage Of Open Skies
On Wednesday, British Airways made good on earlier statements it
planned to create a separate airline to take advantage of last
year's "open-skies" agreement between authorities in the United
States, and the European Union.
To be called -- appropriately enough -- OpenSkies, the new
airline will start flying in June, reports The Associated Press,
and start out with one Boeing 757 flying between New York and
either Brussels or Paris. The airline will apparently cater to
business-class fliers -- as the aircraft, normally configured for
over 200 seats, will offer seating for just 82 passengers, split
among business, premium economy and coach-class cabins.
If that sounds eerily like the business model behind MAXJet --
which flew predominantly business-class fliers between London, New
York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, before filing for Chapter 11 last
month -- well, British Airways would rather not think about
"This is an exciting new venture for us and we're confident that
it will be a great success as we build on the strength of British
Airways' brand in the US and Europe," British Airways CEO Willie
Walsh said. "By naming the airline OpenSkies, we're celebrating the
first major step in 60 years towards a liberalized US/EU aviation
market which means we can fly between any US and EU
Walsh's statement sounded a little incongruous, however,
compared to his lamentation in March 2007 that open skies
legislation would prove to be "a poor agreement for Britain and
Europe." As ANN reported, British
Airways opposed EU passage of Open Skies then, as the legislation
reduces the competitive advantage -- some would say monopoly -- the
airline now enjoys at London Heathrow.
Under current rules, only four
carriers -- Britain's Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, and US
carriers American and United -- are allowed to fly to the US from
Heathrow. Open skies opens the market to increased competition.
Dale Moss, former director of worldwide sales at BA, will be
named managing director of the new airline, which will be
registered in Britain. The carrier plans to eventually fly six 757s
by the end of 2009, all of which will come from BA's existing
Open skies legislation goes into effect March 30.