MIAMI — Earlier this weekend, US Airways loaded a major trans-Atlantic expansion for its Charlotte Douglas  hub into its schedules. It will be launching the following new routes from the Queen City, where US controls nearly 90% of the market.

  • Year-Round Charlotte – Barcelona — Daily Airbus A330-200 — Effective May 23, 2014
  • Seasonal Charlotte – Manchester (UK) — Daily Boeing 757-200 — Operates May 23 – September 28, 2014
  • Seasonal Charlotte – Lisbon — Daily Boeing 757-200 — Operates May 23 – September 28, 2014
  • Seasonal Charlotte – Brussels — Daily Boeing 767-200 — Operates June 5 – September 1, 2014

The flight schedules for the new routes are as follow:

Flight Number

Route

Depart

Arrive

Aircraft

US 744 CLT – BCN 1835 0910+1 332
US 745 BCN – CLT 1430 1815 332
US 760 CLT – LIS 2025 0920+1 752
US 761 LIS – CLT 1120 1515 752
US 746 CLT – MAN 2035 0930+1 752
US 747 MAN – CLT 1425 1820 752
US 762 CLT-BRU 1630 0700+1 762
US 763 BRU-CLT 1015 1345 762

This is major positive news for the Charlotte hub, and represents a 34.9% increase in summer trans-Atlantic capacity year over year. US Airways will now serve ten European destinations from Charlotte, of which eight are summer seasonal (all except Frankfurt, and London Heathrow). The table below shows US Airways’ peak summer trans-Atlantic schedules from Charlotte, with eleven flights per day to ten destinations.

* Note — 752 = Boeing 757-200, 762 = Boeing 767-200ER, 332 = Airbus A330-200, 333 = Airbus A330-300

Destination

Flights

Frankfurt 1x 333, 1x 332
London Heathrow 1x 333
Paris Charles de Gaulle 1x 332
Rome Fiumincio 1x 333
Madrid 1x 762
Dublin 1x 752
Brussels 1x 762
Manchester 1x 752
Lisbon 1x 752
Barcelona 1x 752

This expansion by US Airways, loaded and (probably) announced prior to the upcoming trial of the Department of Justice lawsuit against the American – US Airways merger on November 25th, strikes a major blow against one of the DOJ’s important arguments. Essentially, in both the flawed GAO report on the merger, and in the DOJ’s lawsuit, insinuations were made that Charlotte could be de-hubbed as a result of the merger. But these route additions run completely in counter of that ever happening. These types of secondary European routes imply that US Airways has now reached a critical mass at Charlotte that is large enough to be sustainable. As of 2011, the origin and destination traffic between Charlotte and these four destinations would not have been enough to fill one whole 757, let alone three of them and an additional 767-200ER to boot. The fact that US Airways is launching these types of routes from Charlotte indicate that the hub has reached a level of connectivity rivaled perhaps only by Atlanta on the East Coast – the merged carrier will not throw that (or Charlotte’s large volume of high yielding business travelers) away.

The ramp at Chalotte-Douglas International Airport. (Credits: Chris Sloan)
The ramp at Chalotte-Douglas International Airport. (Credits: Chris Sloan)

Quietly, Charlotte has developed an excellent portfolio of international services from US Airways. It is now up to 32 international destinations during peak periods, including 12 intercontinental ones (10 to Europe and Rio de Janeiro/Sau Paulo in deep South America), 6 in Mexico and Central America, and 14 in the Caribbean. The Sau Paulo flights were recently re-timed with better red-eye slots and as a whole, Charlotte stands as a rare airline hub success story in the past decade of hub stagnation and consolidation.

The trans-Atlantic routes are in many ways a legacy from the Piedmont Airlines who began service between CLT and London Gatwick in 1987, before being merged into what was then known as USAir in 1989. The 767-200ERs used on these new routes date back to the Piedmont days.

CLT's iconic "Queen City" statue stands stately in front of the ATC Tower. (Credits: Chris Sloan)
CLT’s iconic “Queen City” statue stands stately in front of the ATC Tower. (Credits: Chris Sloan)