British Airways is about to connect Yorkshire to the world. Right now, when proud Yorkshire people wish to patronise their national airline, they must either trek west across the Pennines to Manchester or take the train south to London.
Neither option is particularly palatable. The Pennines form a physical divide with Manchester and when you arrive there you must still take a British Airways flight to London (as the airline no longer provides international services from the regions).
Catching the train is not much better. You arrive at King’s Cross and from there must navigate your way across town to a London airport served by BA. So it’s little wonder that the carrier will be welcomed with open arms when its new direct flight from Heathrow arrives in Yorkshire’s financial capital of Leeds on December 9.
There will be up to four daily flights. Southbound services will depart at 0915, 1315, 1555 and 2030. Northbound, the departures are at 0700, 1120, 1350 and 1850. The flight time is 60-70 minutes on A319/A320 jets. Return fares range from £110 to more than £200 depending on when you book and travel.
But rather than carrying point-to-point passengers, BA is primarily aiming its service at people taking connecting flights at Heathrow, especially those heading long-haul. For example, the 0915 flight connects with late-morning transatlantic departures, while the later flights out of Leeds link with departures to the Gulf, Africa, Asia and so on.
The first flight of the day from Heathrow, at 0700, connects with overnight inbound services from Asia and Australasia. The final flight at 1850 is ideal for travellers coming in from Asia, the Gulf and mainland Europe. It also connects with daylight BA services from Beijing and Shanghai, from Singapore with rival Singapore Airlines, and from Hong Kong with Oneworld partner Cathay Pacific.
Leeds was last connected to Heathrow (by Bmi) in 2009. Flybe then took over the London route, serving Gatwick rather than Heathrow. But transfer passengers are the key to the route’s success – and Gatwick has nowhere near the volume of connecting traffic that Heathrow does – so it’s not surprising that Flybe failed to make a success of it.
John Parkin, chief executive of Leeds Bradford airport, says: “This important new service provides our businesses with the access they need to emerging and established local markets, and enables those markets to easily come to Yorkshire, bringing their investment and inbound tourism direct into our region.”
Overseas investors value connectivity, and it’s easier for a region to sell itself to the outside world when its main city appears on the national carrier’s aviation map. It is true that you can fly overseas from Leeds with budget carriers such as Jet2 and Ryanair, but in common with other budget carriers, they do not interline so you have to buy separate tickets and complete separate check-in procedures. This not only creates bother but you may also find that euro-priced fares out of mainland Europe are more expensive than their UK equivalents.
By targeting connecting passengers, BA’s service is aimed at meeting competition from Dutch airline KLM. The latter has served Leeds for many years, providing global links to Yorkshire air travellers. It may also be designed to head off competition from any other global carrier who may be thinking of moving into Leeds.
But point-to-point passengers aren’t entirely neglected. Travellers within easy reach of Heathrow who are making a day trip to Leeds or the West Yorkshire region will find that BA’s schedules allow more time for work on arrival than is possible by train. Otherwise, if you are travelling downtown to downtown then train operator East Coast is impossible to beat. Its trains run every 30 minutes throughout much of the day between King’s Cross and Leeds, with a journey time of about two hours 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, there is now another option for Manchester. Like BA, Virgin Atlantic realises that connectivity from the UK regions is important. After the demise of Bmi, which used to feed Virgin with regional passengers, it must rely on a competitor for connecting traffic. So it’s hardly surprising that Virgin has decided to “go it alone”, and will launch a Manchester-Heathrow route in March. There will be three flights a day using A319 aircraft and, as with BA’s Leeds route, schedules link with Virgin’s long-haul services.
VintageKrug - 29/09/2012 07:21
It will be interesting to see how long this route persists, as it's largely believed to be a shorthaul slot-sitting exercise until BA's new A380/787 longhaul fleet begins to arrive in 2013, after which time these slots will be used by more profitable longhaul services as capacity permits.
Personally, I'll stick with Yorkshire Airlines:
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