Which one is the Texican? Well, the tall fellow represents the Lone Star State, and the chap in the 10-gallon hat is in fact a Hibernian, namely Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways. He’s talking with Jeff Fegan, the head of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport as they marked a major event: DFW became the first US airport to take advantage of the new US/EC open skies policy as BA announced it will move its DFW/London flights from Gatwick to Heathrow, effective next March. Walsh, who accepted the big hat and some cowboy boots, total capacity at least 10 gallons, said that the daily DFW flight fills about 70% of its seats, and he expects to do even better with the network effect that Heathrow will give it. BA is also moving its other Texas flights, from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental, from Gatwick to Heathrow as well. Fegan even flew to London to announce the move, which he said was “incredible news,” a major event and a big deal. He said BA will get free landing fees for the first year and half-price deal the second year because the service counts as a new route.
American Airlines, which happens to have a fair-sized operation at DFW and even has its headquarters there, had no announcement about moving its DFW flights from Gatwick to Heathrow, but Fegan dropped a subtle hint: “we estimate that if a fourth daily flight to London were added at DFW, it would generate more than $170 million to our economy every year”.
But at the same time, a few other route developments took place that suggested that important things can take place without a big new open skies deal. Take for instance the announcement by Lufthansa that it will serve Orlando International Airport (MCO). The five-day-a-week service to Frankfurt starts in October after years of hard work and lobbying by the Central Florida business community; their campaign paralleled one on the West Coast where Portland, Oregon, business leaders pursuaded the German-flag carrier to start up service after long efforts. Our friend Carolyn Fennell at Orlando is pleased as punch with the Lufthansa service, on which she and marketing manager Vicki Jaramillo spent a much time and effort.
Lufthansa’s Jennifer Urbaniak says that the service will offer Orlando’s only first-class cabin to Europe. She explains that the two UK carriers serving Orlando, BA and Virgin Atlantic, have premium cabins but neither is a full first-class cabin. The development marks a beginning of a reversal, they hope, for Orlando, which saw a 5% decrease in international traffic last year and has suffered an 18% decline since 2001 even as domestic boardings have rebounded
The announcement earlier that Aer Lingus will start Orlando service this fall has also encouraged people there, but the Orlando folks hope that the news marks recognition for the city as an international business destination as well as the home of Mickey Mouse and other distinctly non-business attractions. Lufthansa will use an A-330 with eight first-class seats, 48 in business and 165 in economy, a vastly different offering than Orlando’s present Frankfurt service on Condor, a vacation carrier that packs ‘em in in a budget configuration.