The first cuts come in the American/US Airways merger

US Airways and American Airlines have been working hard to make the case that they should not be required to cut routes or cede slots as part of their merger. Alas, they have not been completely successful. The first ruling on the merger requiring cuts has been issued by the European Commission competition bureau: Some frequencies on Philadelphia – London will be axed.

LHR-PHL Schedule
LHR-PHL Schedule

The PHL-LHR route is one served currently thrice daily by US Airways and British Airways. Once the AA/US merger is completed that would mean all of the daily service would be through just the one joint venture group. It is not all that surprising that the EU Commission saw that as a potential problem. But the bigger question is who wants to take the slots and fly that route against the heavy competition at both ends from oneworld partners.

It is possible that a Star Alliance carrier will pick up the slots and operate the route. I’d guess a United 757 is the correct aircraft size considering no feed at either end of the route but even that is probably too much lift. The other main option would be a Delta/Virgin Atlantic operation. There still won’t be much feed on the Philadelphia side of things but at least Virgin America Atlantic can funnel some passengers through on the London end. Plus, history suggests that they are inclined to try such routes for the sake of grabbing Heathrow slots; Delta also picked up the Boston and Miami routes when the BA/AA/Iberia joint venture was approved a couple years ago. And Delta also has 757-200s they can use on the route, though it might take some shuffling.

It will be interesting to see what other cuts are coming, as well as who picks up this route.

Note: I added a few words to clarify the story; it is not all frequencies being cut on the route, just some. The initial version was unclear on that.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Seth, where can I find schedules like that for other city pairs/alliances? That would be a great thing to know.

  2. Seth, are we sure this is a “cut”? They have to give up one slot pair, but I haven’t read that they have to “cut” service. In other words, they could maintain the schedule by reallocating their remaining slot portfolio.

  3. “There still won’t be much feed on the Philadelphia side of things but at least Virgin America can funnel some passengers through on the London end.”

    Virgin America is now flying from London? 😉

  4. Seth, the slots being ceded are LHR arrival and departure. They will be granted to a carrier to start PHL-LHR service. I believe that AA can continue its PHL schedule if it repurposes another set of its LHR slots. Please post a link if you have a source stating otherwise.

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