BA Flying Nonstop From London/City to New York

It’s not often that I see a route announcement come out from an airline that makes me do a double-take. I mean, there are always crazy things in this industry, but I expect that by now. Today’s announcement that British Airways will start transatlantic service from tiny London/City Airport definitely made me drop everything. That post I was planning for today? It’ll have to wait. This one is just too cool.

As they’re wont to do these days, BA was short on detail but they felt it was worth it to put out a broad release about their plans. It’s at least a year away, but once British Airways takes delivery of their specially configured A318 aircraft with 32 flat bed business class seats onboard, they’ll begin flying nonstop between London/City Airport and New York twice daily. This is just about all we know. So many questions . . .

Will physics actually allow them to do this? London/City is one tiny airport. It was basically carved out of the Docklands on the Thames about 20 years ago, and there’s not much room. The runway is just shy of 5,000 ft. That’s about 800 ft SHORTER than the longest runway at John Wayne/Orange County. It’s about 1,500 ft shorter than the longest runway at Chicago/Midway. It’s less than HALF the length of the runways at London/Heathrow. Still can’t grasp it? Take a look at this shot via Google Maps. That’s City up top, with its runway on the right side and Heathrow’s south runway below.
08_02_01 lcylhr
Seeing that makes me amazed that they can get this plane off the ground. The runway is so short that aircraft have to receive special approvals to fly there. The A318 received its approval less than 2 years ago, and it’s by far the biggest plane that can land there. So, they’ll only have 32 seats onboard, and that has to help it, but I’m still not convinced it’ll be able to make it on the flight to New York without a stop.

If it needs to stop, is it still worth it? Yep, probably. Most definitely if you’re going to Canary Wharf, the large business district. You’ll be just a couple miles away from there, and you only need to check in 15 minutes prior to departure. So, you’ll still probably save time over driving to Heathrow. More importantly, you’ll save time over flying out of Stansted as well. That was always Eos’ selling point – get to Canary Wharf faster from Stansted than Heathrow. This blows that away, and has to make Eos nervous.

But let’s say they do have to stop. Can they stop in Ireland and gain pre-clearance? Flights from Ireland to the US have a special arrangement. There are US immigration officers over there who pre-clear you into the US before your flight. If this flight has to stop, maybe they can get everyone off and pre-clear them while the plane is refueling so that they can be ready to go once they hit the ground in New York.

Um, where exactly will they hit the ground in New York? They have left out any mention of which airport they’ll use on this side of the Pond. Could they be considering something really cool? Teterboro is the private jet mecca just across the Hudson River. Would they be able to fly in there? That would make for an extremely convenient operation on both ends with short check-in times each way (though they say they’ll have 15 minute check in at any New York airport this uses). I suppose it’s possible that they’re just waiting to figure out if they can fly to JFK or if they don’t have enough slots, but I’d like to think that for such an unconventional service as this one, they’ll be all over the possible alternatives.

What do I think about this? I think this is an absolutely fantastic move. It’s something that I never thought could be done, but it’s likely to do very well. This is not going to be for the price sensitive, but when it comes to convenience, this will be comparable to a private jet (depending upon where they go in New York). With only 32 seats onboard each of the flights, they don’t need that many people to make this work. Combine that with some solid earnings today, and it’s a good day to be British Airways.

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23 Comments on "BA Flying Nonstop From London/City to New York"

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Dave Hodgkinson
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Doesn’t matter if they go to JFK or EWR if they cut a deal with the really, really, cool helicopter people. *that* was awesome. I was from midtown into the Continental lounge while my colleagues were still stuck in traffic in Manhattan.

Bryan in San Francisco
Guest
Bryan in San Francisco

They don’t need to stop along the way. A light load on an A318 Elite has enough range.

newkidtown
Member

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A318#Specifications the “Take off run at MTOW” is 1,355 m (4,446 ft) which means it could technically take off from there. From the same place though Range fully loaded 5,950 km or 3,200 nmi and according to http://gc.kls2.com/ LCY (51°30’19″N 00°03’19″E) to JFK (40°38’23″N 73°46’44″W) is 3017 nm. So, why not?

Gary Leff
Guest

I doubt there’s a problem Eastbound, but Westbound (think winter headwinds) they’ll need a stop.

Plan is to stop in Shannon, Ireland. (I would have expected Gander or something.)

But I doubt they’ll do immigration pre-clearance. Just add some fuel and go, they should be able to manage in less than an hour for sure.

Nick Barnard
Member

Next up, converted Osprey’s making the trip directly from LCY to JRB.

But seriously BA is hitting upon dynamite.. Ironic the airline within an airline concept doesn’t work on the cheap side, but works on the high end side…

Bryan in San Francisco
Guest
Bryan in San Francisco

I love the Google Earth comparison snapshots. So cool.

scott.wintner
Member

Like you, I’m blown away. What a bold move — and, I agree, likely a good one! Even if the planes must make a stop (especially westbound), my guess is that it won’t add enough time to the trip to make it less of a success. Even today, lots of the new 757 TATL routes to the Midwest (DTW/CLE) are forced to make short fuel stops headed westbound, and they’re still doing well — and still preferred to connecting flights by many Midwesterners.

Nick Barnard
Member

Hmm.. One thing I’m curious about is given that these are lie flat seats would the usual reclining rules still apply? If for example someone wanted to sleep a majority of the trip, would they have to put up their seat backs for the fuel stop? I thought that the seat back rule was mostly about evacuation, and given that your seat back recline impeeds the evacuation times of those behind you.

matthew26
Guest

I think it is a nice idea to fly from london directly to new york withour so many stopovers. It would be a good idea for businessman and those flying with limited time. and it goes directly to the place you want.

QRC
Guest

According to Air Transport Intelligence (sub. required) there definitely will be a westbound fuel stop, undetermined where it will be at this point, for the reasons everyone here already speculated about…can’t load up enough gas for a takeoff on that runway. Eastbound won’t have a stop.

Bold move…but the stop is definitely going to add 45 minutes to the flight. Not sure how that’s going to fly with pax

QRC
Guest
Full article copy/pasted below BA all-business flights to include westbound fuel stop Max Kingsley-Jones, London (01Feb08, 14:13 GMT, 333 words) British Airways will include a westbound refuelling stop as part of its new all-business Airbus A318 transatlantic service from London City next year. It has yet to decide where the stop will be on the New York-bound service. Eastbound flights will be non-stop. The airline today revealed it had placed its first A318 order, with a deal for two aircraft for delivery in 2009. The aircraft will be powered by CFM International CFM56 engines. Nominally a 100-seat aircraft, the A318… Read more »
Oliver
Guest

Why not just ferry passengers from the London/City airport to Heathrow via helicopter and have them board a “real” aircraft :)

Nick Barnard
Member

Oliver,
They’re trying to give people the convenience of not having to switch aircraft. I’m sure if they could they’d refuel in midair.. Hmm.. maybe Boeing and Airbus will offer that as an option on their 737/A320 replacements…

trackback

[…] family, and the biggest plane legally permitted to depart from London-City. The Cranky Flier has a nice post on the logistics of the proposed service. But jeez, it looks like my sarcastic comments from April […]

Bernardo Carvalho
Guest

It’s perfectly doable. Santos Dumont airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santos_Dumont_Airport ) has a shorter runway and handles dozens of A318 and 737s shuttles to São Paulo every day.

newkidtown
Member

@Bernardo: SDU-GRU is only 185 nautical miles — LCY-NYC is some 20 times as long! For such a short distance you only need little fuel. LCY’s runway is at least 500 ft shorter than the minimum runway length for the maximum take off weight. The 318 needs to be full in fuel (maximum take off weight) in order to make it non-stop to NY.

Bernardo Carvalho
Guest

@Andy – good point. You can tell I’m not in this line of business :-)

Tony Huang
Guest

If the westbound can make it to Halifax, they should try to clear customs there. Then, they could fly into LGA.

trackback

[…] back in February when BA announced it would start flights from London/City Airports very short runway to New York? And remember when I suggested that BA might be able to stop in Ireland where they allow US […]

independent travel
Guest
Making a dummy booking on the BA website reveals the following – Customs will be cleared in Shannon, and the checkin time at LCY is 20 minutes (not 15, but still very good) … Stopover at Shannon •The London City to New York (JFK) flight will stop to refuel at Ireland’s Shannon airport. •Passengers must clear U.S. Customs and Immigration at Shannon.* •This is expected to take 45 minutes. •On arrival at JFK airport, passengers will bypass passport control.* •The New York (JFK) to London City flight is non-stop. * US Immigration and Customs clearance at Shannon may not always… Read more »
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