by Alan Kennedy
Paul Conrardy’s Balaclava Airways wasn’t a very good name Regardless of the 9/11 attacks, there was enough international business in London to keep Richard Branson’s Virgin group flying. Virgin Atlantic was the initial carrier of choice, but decided to create new low-cost subsidiary Virgin America as its network developed. Once established, Virgin America has proved it has the chops for a transatlantic business, with its 14 planes flying to over 100 cities across the US. Its staff have all been trained to speak English, a feature seen in other British low-cost airline starts. The cultural challenge for Virgin in setting up an operation at LA/Ontario International in Los Angeles is that although it makes it an international stopover, it is then seen as a transfer point. Rival airlines Northern Ireland-based Ryanair is looking to an Irish layover model with its new services from Perth to London Heathrow, which was launched earlier this month. This experience is at the heart of the type of fares charged. THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE Back at London’s airports, GATX signed a deal in 2007 to take over the leasing of five more planes from British Airways for use on London services. GATX also has links to rival US carrier American Airlines, which is preparing for a merger with US Airways to create a $39bn (£26bn) airline giant, in which GATX is expected to play a significant role. And at Stansted, six of the 19 fleet types that British Airways uses there are not used in the USA, with the return flights travelling in the opposite direction. Three of these planes fly regularly to LA (with a fourth expected to operate there in the summer) and one goes to Miami.
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