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.
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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