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British Air plans new brand, routes

January 10, 2008|Peter Pae | Times Staff Writer

British Airways, in a move that could heat up competition for transatlantic passengers, said Wednesday it would launch a new airline in June that would offer nonstop flights between New York and cities in the European mainland.

The London-based carrier said the new airline, which would cater to business and affluent leisure travelers, would be named OpenSkies and begin with service to either Brussels or Paris.

If British Air picks Paris, the route would come on the heels of a new nonstop service that its European archrival, Air France, is to begin in March between Los Angeles International Airport and London's Heathrow Airport, British Airways' main hub.

The latest push for transatlantic service was inspired by last spring's landmark agreement between the U.S. and the European Union to open up routes that had been previously restricted.

Michael Boyd, an aviation consultant, said starting the airline with a "nondenominational" name could help British Airways head off a thorny cultural issue.

"Do you think that the French will get on an airline called British Air?" Boyd said. "British Air is trying to start a nondenominational airline that the French, or the Italians or the Germans won't have a problem flying."

Separately, Southwest Airlines, the nation's largest low-cost carrier, said Wednesday it was "refining" its flight schedules and would eliminate 57 roundtrip flights in May while adding 40 in what it called growth markets.

The Dallas-based carrier said it planned to add six flights at LAX -- including five to Denver -- but cut four at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport -- two to Oakland and one each to Phoenix and Sacramento. Southwest operates 38 flights at Burbank.

LA/Ontario International Airport, which has 54 Southwest flights, would lose six: two to Oakland and one each to Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose and Sacramento. No changes are planned for Orange County's John Wayne Airport.

"Southwest Airlines is concerned about slowing economic growth, and we want our flight schedule to be built around flights that are in high demand," said the airline's chief executive, Gary Kelly.

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peter.pae@latimes.com

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