I knew it was good too be true. United has removed the planned second-daily Los Angeles to London Heathrow flight from its schedule.
Set to begin on April 4, 2017, the new service would have doubled premium capacity and added a total of 235 United seats to an already hyper-competitive route. The route, historically operated by a 777-200, was to shift to two 787-9s.
But United recently announced its re-focus on domestic flying and the second LHR flight just did not fit into the master plan. With carriers like Norwegian and WOW slashing fares, longhaul flights are not a lucrative as they used to be.
The following carriers offer non-stop service between Los Angeles and London:
- Air New Zealand (daily)
- American Airlines (twice daily)
- British Airways (twice daily)
- Norwegian (5x weekly)
- Virgin Atlantic (twice daily)
- United Airlines (daily)
Delta and Air France both tried and failed on this route.
While sad, it is understandable UA determined the second daily flight was not sustainable: the advance bookings and fare yields likely demonstrated this.
LAX-LHR on United will transition to a 787-9 from March 9th until May 4th but will transition back to a 777-200 on May 5th.
How Will United Use the Heathrow Slot?
Heathrow slots are extremely valuable — and they are assigned on a “use it or lose it” basis. United once operated a London to Brussels flight during low-season just to preserve its slot for the busier summer months.
The original slot for the second LAX-LHR flight came from Houston, which was cut from 3x to 2x daily flights. The extra slot will not be re-allocated to Houston. Instead, Newark will receive a sixth daily flight. Flights to Heathrow will depart Newark at 8:45a, 6:20p, 6:25p, 7:30p, 9:10p, and 9:45p. That’s right — two flights will depart within five minutes of one another during the 6pm hour.
The additional Newark flight will be operated by a 757-200, quite a contrast from the 787-9 from LAX. United will also downgrade a 767-300 to a 757-200 on the Newark route on August 15th. The points is clear: slot squatting. In other words, decrease capacity where possible in hopes of earning great revenue per seat sold.
I’m bummed that upgrades to London will not become much easier out of LAX this spring, but isn’t that the point? My perspective details exactly what was wrong with the proposed second daily LAX-LHR flight. Simply not enough demand to make it worthwhile…I hope this is not a sign that the United LAX hub will be under further attack under Scott Kirby.