The air-fare wars spread to the transatlantic routes this past weekend when British Airways slashed its fares by a third and at least three U.S. rivals followed suit. Financially strapped Trans World Airlines slashed its U.S.-Britain fares by 50%, while Delta and Pan Am matched the British Airways reduction of 33%.
The price cuts, which will lower round-trip travel between London's Heathrow and Los Angeles' International airports to as little as $628 on British Air, come a week after America West initiated fare wars on domestic routes. Consumer fears of Gulf War-related terrorism, coupled with recessionary woes, have cut deeply into already reduced passenger air travel.
Analysts said the latest fare reductions will be especially hard on Pan Am, which already is operating under protection of bankruptcy court. TWA's parent, Trans World Airlines Corp., also is strapped for cash; last week it missed payments to some bondholders. British Air, meanwhile, also announced it would cut 4,600 jobs and put 2,000 staff on half pay.
Each of the airlines set different dates by which tickets must be bought. British Air set a March 15 purchase date; TWA said Feb. 18. However, in a concession to terrorism fears, British Air, TWA and Pan Am said they would allow cancellations within two weeks of a flight.
The round-trip fare during spring and fall seasons from LAX to Heathrow will be $628, a Pan Am spokesman said. During the more heavily traveled summer months, the fare will rise to $716 on weekdays and $756 on weekends.
TWA's midweek round-trip fares from New York will be $358 during the non-peak period. The other airlines are offering fares of $480 for off-peak weekday travel from New York to London. Weekend fares will be $520 for spring travel, a drop from $778, and $628 during the summer.