Route of the month - Heathrow to New York

30 Sep 2010 by Alex McWhirter
Alex McWhirter takes a look at Heathrow-New York services from Delta and Continental I know of no international route where business class passengers have such a volume of flat-bed seating at their disposal. Of the five major carriers serving these two top financial centres many times a day, all but one offer flat beds on every single flight. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were the instigators of the flat-bed product ten years ago, and they were recently joined by US carriers Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines. Only American Airlines, the other US carrier plying the route, has an angled lie-flat product in business class. The big news is how Delta and Continental have grown. Two years ago, one could have described these carriers as minnows on the route but, today, the latter operates as many flights as Virgin and American. BA remains the market leader – for the winter schedule it operates nine times a day from Heathrow, plus a couple of flights from London City. It is the only carrier to fly out of two London airports, and along with Virgin Atlantic, it is the only carrier to serve two New York-area airports from London. Delta was set to add a third daily flight last month. The new service, at 1230, fills the gap between the existing 1005 and 1705 departures. On the way back from New York JFK, the extra flight departs at 2305 to augment the current services at 1845 and 2100. Continental has steadily been adding flights and is poised to begin a fifth daily service from Heathrow on October 31. This means the carrier will offer a spread of departures throughout the day in both directions. There will be outbound flights from Heathrow between 0840 and 1830, with return services between 0900 and 2205 out of Newark. The New York route is a Oneworld stronghold thanks to British Airways and American. So Continental’s boosted presence is welcomed by rival Star Alliance, of which it is a member. Until comparatively recently, Star had no representation at all, since United sold off its route authority to raise cash during the period it was trading under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Thanks to Delta, Skyteam can also claim to offer its fans an improved choice. What Continental offers There are five flights a day to Newark operated either by B777s or narrow-bodied B757 aircraft. There are 50 business class seats (configured 2-2-2) found on the B777, while there are 16 on the B757 (2-2). Visit businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested for reviews of the new flat bed on both aircraft. Continental Airlines continues to operate out of Heathrow Terminal 4, a legacy of the days when it was a Skyteam member. It plans to move across to the Star base in T1, but no date has been set. Business class passengers have use of the T4 Skyteam lounge on departure, and on arrival they can use the shower facilities at the on-site Yotel. Depending on the fare paid, business class passengers who originate in the UK qualify for chauffeur-driven transfers. The carrier’s strength is in the number of connections (roughly 100) it offers beyond Newark with what it calls “the minimum of detour”. Local US destinations such as Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse are conveniently connected, while destinations further afield in Central and South America and the Caribbean are well served. Top connecting cities beyond Newark include Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, Bogota, Panama City and San Juan. What Delta offers All Delta’s flights on this route are operated by B767-400 aircraft that accommodate 40 business class passengers in a 1-2-1 layout. Business class passengers use the T4 Skyteam lounge on departure and the Yotel on arrival. Chauffeur-driven cars are available to those paying qualifying fares but the airline limits vehicles to passengers who originate and terminate at Heathrow and JFK. As with Continental, Delta scores with the ability to provide numerous onward connections. Both carriers say that some passengers are prepared to change in New York (even though their final city might be served non-stop by another airline) because of carrier preference, loyalty schemes, price and schedule. Fares Delta and Continental have the most attractive prices for visits to New York covering the working week. Granted, there are also good rates available with BA, American and Virgin Atlantic, but these come with Saturday-night stay restrictions and may require advance booking. The following online business class return prices were sourced from opodo.co.uk in September for a flight taken in mid-October, travelling out on a Monday and back on the following Friday:
  • Delta £1,898
  • Continental £2,441
  • American Airlines £3,276
  • British Airways £3,590
  • Virgin Atlantic £4,596
For seating layouts on these and other carriers, visit seatplans.com
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