Star Alliance FFP members lose out

3 Aug 2006 by business traveller

Star Alliance loyalty members are the losers in United's decision to scrap its daily London Heathrow to New York JFK service. The US airline has been running down its New York service in recent times (until a few years ago it flew three times a day) and will stop flying it altogether at the end of October. With no Star member carrier linking these two prime business cities, loyalty members will have to connect with Lufthansa via Frankfurt, Swiss via Zurich or SAS via Copenhagen.

According to a United spokesperson the decision to drop London-New York "is to do with making sure we align our business in way so that we use our resources in the most profitable way possible. We currently fly the New York route once daily and that's not enough to enable us to compete with the other airlines [BA, American and Virgin] who are each offering six or more services a day. Our strengths [from London] are Chicago, Washington Dulles, Los Angeles and San Francisco."

United is understood to have transferred the slots to fellow Star member Air Canada who will use them to increase services to Canada (indeed, Air Canada has just announced a new service from Heathrow to St Johns starting next spring).

Fellow US carrier Delta is buying the London-New York route authority from United for a reputed $21 million over the next four years. Subject to government approval, Skyteam member Delta will launch a single daily two-class (business and economy) 214-seater B767-400 service from Gatwick later this year rising to a twice daily service from spring 2007. At Gatwick, Delta will be competing with Continental but, unlike United, it has a much stronger hub at JFK so there are more onward connecting possibilities for passengers. Delta already flies once daily between Manchester and JFK with a similar aircraft.

Delta says it cannot sell tickets for the Gatwick service until it receives permission to start flights.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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