Joint venture partners Northwest and KLM commenced direct flights between London and Seattle this week, a route made possible by the recent Open Skies agreement.
The daily flights - served by Northwest’s A330-200 aircraft configured for 32 business class seats and 211 in economy - depart London Heathrow T4 at 1830 (1855 on Saturdays), arriving into Seattle at 2055 (2120 on Saturdays). The return leg leaves the US at 2205 (2255 on Fridays), arriving back into London at 1615 / 1705 the next day.
Seattle is the third North American destination launched under the Northwest / KLM agreement since Open Skies came to fruition in March this year, with daily flights from Heathrow to Northwest’s hubs in Detroit and Minneapolis already underway.
Speaking at the launch of the new route, Nathaniel Pieper, Northwest Airlines’ vice president-alliances said:
“We see Seattle as an important corporate market, with companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon and Starbucks all located there. In addition to the London route we will also begin flights from Beijing to Seattle in March 2009.”
Pieper added that Northwest’s connections out of Seattle, to destinations including Vancouver and San Francisco would ensure the flights offered a strong alternative to BA’s four-class service on the route.
Northwest and KLM have long partnered on transatlantic routes between Europe and North America. With the US Department of Transport recently granting antitrust immunity between these carriers and fellow Skyteam members Air France and Delta (allowing greater ticketing co-ordination between the carriers), Pieper described what he saw as a “four-way joint venture”, with these airlines at “the core” of the alliance’s future development. This agreement will strengthen further if the proposed merger between Northwest and Delta goes ahead later this year (click here for more details).
Skyteam had been scheduled to move all of its members under one roof at Heathrow T4 later this year (Air France currently operates from T2), but with BA delaying its long-haul move to T5 this is now unlikely to happen until the autumn of 2009.
When the move does eventually take place, the alliance will open its first dedicated Skyteam lounge at the refurbished terminal. The area will be multi-level (effectively taking over part of the existing BA lounge), with seating for 325 passengers, wifi internet access throughout, a VIP section, children’s room, showers, food and beverage areas, and spa facilities, although the last has yet to be finalised.
Report by Mark Caswell