Competition coming to London City’s TATL ops?

I always love a winglet shot in-flight
I always love a winglet shot in-flight

A couple months back Bombardier performed test flights with its CSeries aircraft at London’s City Airport. The short runway, tight navigational corridor and noise restrictions all contribute to challenging operations at the small, in-town airport and Bombardier’s newest jet performed perfectly in the trials. As it departed following the tests the manufacturer the plane up with a weight configuration approximating a full, all-business class cabin. And from there the plane flew nonstop to JFK airport, beating the current version of British Airways’ service between those two airports that operates on an A318 and with a technical stop in Shannon, Ireland. The A318 cannot carry enough fuel for the full crossing westbound and also get airborne with the limits at City Airport.

The British Airways "baby bus" prepares to depart from London's City Airport. Might it soon face competition on its JFK route?
The British Airways “baby bus” prepares to depart from London’s City Airport. Might it soon face competition on its JFK route?

No doubt that was a shrewd marketing move as Bombardier looks to secure future sales, but it also comes as British Airways is scaling back the route’s operations. The carrier just sold off its second A318 as the route drops to 6x weekly for the foreseeable future, with neither plans nor the ability to grow. But, based on a press release I received today, BA might have some competition on that front.

New C Series route between City Airport and New York: Bombardier’s CSeries was recently certified to fly out of London City Airport, a tremendous achievement given the short runway and restrictions. SWISS will operate a direct route to New York later this year. It demonstrates the disruptive effect that the CSeries is having, by enabling smaller aircraft to fly longer distance routes that may not otherwise have been viable, and to less accessible airports.

The statement is just vague enough that I’m not sure exactly what is happening. I think SWISS bringing the CSeries to New York is confirmed by the release, though this is the first I’ve heard of such plans. And while the context suggests that the route will be from London City Airport that’s not 100% certain. It is likely, however, as the max range of 3,300 nautical miles means flights from Switzerland to the United States aren’t happening.

Is Swiss set to fly from London’s City Airport to JFK??
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

A competitive operation on the LCY-JFK route would be all sorts of interesting. BA has owned that market since inception and does a pretty good job of protecting the premium yields on the route. That said, the recent cuts suggest that recent global economic trends are putting significant pressure on the operations. SWISS already operates several flights from LCY and the current regulatory situation allows for such flights. Brexit negotiations may change that, of course, but we won’t know that until it happens.

A Swiss/Helvetic flight arriving in London City Airport in May 2017
A Swiss/Helvetic flight arriving in London City Airport in May 2017

Maybe it would just be a one off flight by Swiss but that doesn’t make much sense at all. Something strange is happening here. Or at least seems to be.

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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. Economics are far better than what the A318 can deliver, especially when you figure skipping the stop and saving on the extra crew time that requires (pilots change in SNN). Unclear if that is enough to make the route viable, however. And no doubt that BA would defend the LON-NYC market aggressively. Just look at the JFK-LGW ops now.

    1. I don’t even see the announcement on an official public Bombardier channel. But it is in the email I received from the press team inviting me to stop by their booth at Le Bourget next week.

    2. Well, I guess you keep us posted… I still don’t see how LX will make it (even though I’d try to be on this flight) with the load and the distance. A new, special configuration is out of the question, so will they fly with a 50% load in their Euro economy cabin?

    3. I do not see it competing well against the BA service without a proper premium cabin installed. The target market is bankers who want flat beds.

      A subfleet is less efficient, obviously, but much like with the PrivatAir option it can be made to work, especially if there are a few routes in play. Imagine if they added LCY-DXB, too. Similar distance and theoretical premium demand.

      1. Swiss has had sub fleets in recent past – for example Privatair flew a 737 all biz class EWR-ZRH for years. i’ve seen configs w/ lay down seats staggered in regional jets, looked comfy all right.

      1. As much as I may despise BA I doubt that many punters between LON and NYC on a direct service would ever consider any other carrier than a UK or US carrier.

        Swiss may be fantastic to fly with, great cabin service and crew friendliness, but perhaps LON/NYC isn’t where their future profitability may lie!

        1. Martin C – that seems a VERY odd comment.

          Why do you doubt people would consider anything other than than a UK or US carrier?

        2. Why not? People are flocking to a Norwegian carrier between the US and Italy/Spain/UK. If a decent product shows up and can compete on schedule & price it’ll do fine. Especially given that it is likely Swiss has decent corporate contract inroads at many of the banks already.

  1. I don’t buy this article at all. The germane quote is not sourced except by an unverified E-Mail and only appears on this website as an image. I am not saying it isn’t true but this is conjecture without any public evidence coming from Bombardier or Swiss.

    1. Want me to forward you the email??

      It is absolutely from a Bombardier rep and was sent to multiple registered media for the Paris Air Show this coming week. They use Domino (!!!) as their email system and the SPF record is an affirmative pass, not neutral.

      I agree that it is bizarre to have that bit included in the email lacking an official announcement. That’s why I wrote about it.

  2. What’s the long term viability of the LCY-JFK route? Cross-rail is opening up bringing direct train service from canary wharf to Heathrow.

    The direct return is certainly interesting, but the competition here isn’t the BA flight, it’s the huge number of Heathrow flights.

    1. I don’t think the rail link solves the issue. Certainly not so much that it kills demand for a small number of seats without the link. If it can skip SNN that’s a win IMO, even with the pre-clearance factor. Between Global Entry and the mobile passport app including returning ESTA visitors the immigration lines at JFK are not nearly as bad as they used to be. Definitely less than the time involved in the “touch-and-go” in Ireland, I believe.

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