American Follows United From London to Brussels

Last Updated Sep 10, 2009 10:31 AM EDT

Remember that goofy flight that United was starting from London/Heathrow to Brussels? It looks like American likes that idea. They're doing the exact same thing.

You'll recall that my best guess is that United is doing this to protect some Heathrow slots. Instead of losing a ton of money flying an extra flight to the US during the long, cold winter, United opted to use a couple slots to do a short hop to Brussels instead. That will lose money for the airline, but less than they anticipated a transatlantic flight would lose.

So why did American decide to do the exact same thing? Well, the first half of the logic is easy. Big financial markets like London are having a heck of a time. And without those summer tourists, there just isn't sustainable demand for all the flights out there today. So, American wants to get rid of a flight, and they want to keep the slot for when things get better. Ok, I'm with you. But why the heck go to Brussels? I can think of a few reasons.

  • It's close. Brussels is only 218 miles away, that's more than a hundred miles closer than even Glasgow. So it doesn't take long to fly the plane out and get it back. That means less gas as well.
  • They can carry people. They have local traffic rights between London and Brussels, so they can at least try to sell seats. You can't do that in every market (though they can carry people traveling through from the US regardless). And if I were looking to buy a ticket, I'd certainly look to fly the exotic widebody. (Come on, it's exotic to someone . . .)
  • Brussels has room. There are plenty of congested European airports, but Brussels isn't one of them.
  • They already fly there. They wouldn't want to go into a city where they don't already have a presence. It's just one more headache for something not that important. Since they already fly to Brussels, they don't have to worry about that.
So that's my best guess, but it's still kind of goofy to see. If you need to fly between London and Brussels this winter, you have plenty of options.