I noted this morning that British Airways’ newly announced plans to launch Airbus A318 premium transatlantic services from London City to New York were likely to cause pain to Silverjet and EOS. Within a few hours Silverjet was sharp enough to respond – issuing a press release entitled SILVERJET’S SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS MODEL ENDORSED BY BA ANNOUNCEMENT – but not sharp enough to point out the serious weakness in BA’s plan. The service is not non-stop!(Yes, I should have immediately realised that myself. I was in too much of a rush to check the A318 performance, which is borderline transatlantic.) The fact is, as BA quickly had to admit, that westbound flights will need a tech-stop. Eastbound should be OK it seems.
Now it’s absolutely true that London City is a pretty desirable place from which to fly. But a tech-stop 90 minutes or so after take-off (Shannon) or three hours later (Iceland) is not so great, to put it at its gentlest. Concorde it ain’t.
Perhaps Silverjet, with its Boeing 767s, was being ultra-clever and believed that the news coming out gradually was more damaging to BA than them saying it themselves. But I suspect not.
Anyway, that’s how it is. Silverjet claims it can get you kerb(curb)side to airside in 15 minutes at Stansted (which sounds amazing, but I haven’t tried it.) If that’s true then BA won’t be able to do any better at LCY, and the fight will come down to old-fashioned stuff like on-board service, reliability, fares, and elapsed time. And there is one possible advantage for BA – in principle at least you can pre-clear US immigration at Shannon. That’s not trivial, but not fantastic either.
The trouble for Silverjet is that BA has profoundly deep pockets.