MIAMI — On November 1st, British Airways (BA) announced new non-stop service between Oakland, CA (OAK) and London-Gatwick (LGW). The four times weekly service will begin on March 28, 2017, just in time for the summer travel season.
British Airways will use their high-density, “LGW-configured” 777-200ER for this route, each fitted with 275 seats: 48 in Business, 24 in Premium Economy, and 203 in Economy.
For many years, OAK has been a low-cost alternative to San Francisco (SFO). Over the last few decades, several low-cost European airlines, like Martinair, Arkefly, and Corsair, have served OAK to capture tourists going to San Francisco.
The latest example of this is Norwegian Long Haul (DY). They have opened a fairly large network from OAK, serving LGW, Stockholm (ARN), Oslo (OSL), Barcelona (BCN), and Copenhagen (CPH).
Norwegian has posed a large threat to BA in LGW over the past few years. In addition to OAK, DY has launched flights to New York-Kennedy (JFK), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Orlando (MCO), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), and Boston (BOS). For many years, BA focused their attention on serving the United States from their main hub in London-Heathrow (LHR).
However, since DY has emerged as a fierce competitor from LGW, BA has been forced to counter, hoping to appeal to loyal British Airways travelers, and those trying to make connections on either side of the flight. In May, British Airways began service from LGW to JFK, and they will begin LGW-FLL service in July 2017. This new service to OAK is clearly an attack against DY, and BA’s attempt to win back the low-end passengers flying from London to the San Francisco Bay Area.
OAK is BA’s 25th destination in the United States and their 5th in California. However, BA now serves all three airports in the San Francisco Bay Area: SFO, San Jose (SJC), and now OAK. When BA started their SJC service in May, there were many concerns that the market would be oversaturated.
Those concerns will be even more prevalent for this summer. British Airways will operate an average of over 1,100 daily seats between the San Francisco Bay and London during the summer of 2017. In total, there will be over 2,400 daily seats between the Bay Area and London, factoring in flights from DY, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic flying a mix of 787s, 777s, and 747s.
In comparison, the Los Angeles Area (including San Diego) that has three times more people than the Bay Area has just over 3,700 daily seats to the London area. There is also a greater network of connections available from LAX. This shows how well the Bay Area is doing financially.
Only time will tell if there are too many seats between the Bay Area and London, and whether the aircraft type will be downgauged, or if an entire route will be cut altogether.