British Airways has made a surprise announcement that it will launch a double-daily business class-only service between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and London City Airport in 2009. London City is located close to the revitalized Docklands district and is six miles to the east of the U.K. capital's city center.
BA has ordered two Airbus A318s to fly the route that will come into service at an unspecified date next year. The aircraft will be equipped with 32 lie-flat bed seats. BA claims it will be able to offer a 15-minute checkin in both London and New York.
"By the time we launch this service next year, we'll have 13 flights a day between New York and London," BA executive vice president of the Americas Robin Hayes said. "There's no one else who comes near that."
"This niche service will fly passengers between the heart of the two largest financial centres in the world," said BA CEO Willie Walsh. "London City Airport is located minutes away from some of our key corporate customers and is in one of the fastest growing areas of the capital."
The new service will offer stiff competition to all-business-class carrier Eos Airways, which flies from London Stansted Airport. Until now, this has been the most convenient transatlantic airport for offices in Docklands and the City of London.
Hayes said BA still is determining whether it would use its most recently designed Club World seat or design a new one for the all-premium service. "That's something we're still looking at," he said. "Whatever we're doing it will be innovative and have a very exclusive business cabin feel to it. It will absolutely be a seat that converts into a flat bed." Hayes said BA has no plans to expand the all-premium long-haul service to other markets. "We're going to keep it under review and if we see an opportunity, we'll take it," he said.
BA had given no previous indications of launching long-haul services from London City, which is mainly used by small commuter aircraft. Last month, it announced the launch of a transatlantic airline from continental Europe called OpenSkies, which it originally considered making business class-only, but instead will operate with three classes (BTNonline, Jan. 9)
Opened in the mid-1980s, London City until now only has operated short-haul services. Many major companies, including HSBC, Barclays, Citigroup and WPP, have relocated to Docklands in recent years. The airport is also the closest to the traditional City of London district, where many other financial institutions retain their bases.