We’ve previously noted that demand air travel across the North Atlantic is expected to be week this winter, and in response US Airways is not offering flights from Charlotte to Paris or Rome from late October to some point in the spring. We also knew that the airline’s London Gatwick service, which has traditional been daily year-round on an Airbus A330-300, the company’s largest aircraft, is only operating six days a week over the winter. The latest schedule update on the company’s website now shows that the Gatwick flight has also been downgraded from the 293-seat A330-300 to a 258-seat A330-200. Fewer flights and a smaller plane add up to a 25 percent reduction in capacity on the route over the coming winter compared to last year.
So where is US Airways deploying its larger aircraft if not to Europe? Well, South America. The Charlotte — Rio de Janeiro is getting an A330-200 for the winter, instead of a 204-seat Boeing 767-200ER.
Sao Paulo update: Sao Paulo (GRU) is like London Heathrow in that it allocates slots twice a year. Seems that US Airways did not get usable slots for its proposed Sao Paulo service for the winter. This means that the earliest it could start service to Sao Paulo is early April. Which gets us to…
Summer 2013 US Airways service issues: The 2013 summer schedule wouldn’t be available for a couple of more months but it’s not too early to mention the big questions. The airline currently has 26 widebody jets which can fly to Europe or deep South America (9 A330-300, 7 A330-200, 10 Boeing 767-200ER) plus a number of 176-seat Boeing 757 that can reach nearer markets in Europe. The airline gets five more A330-200s next year plus three more in 2014.
Obviously, extra planes create the possibility of adding routes. Not sure when in 2013 the extra A330-200s get here, which matters. And obviously whether the airline can get the Sao Paulo situation straightened out to allow them to start flights will make a big difference in their European offerings next summer (Sao Paulo would tie to two planes, as does the current Rio de Janeiro service.) The best prospect from Charlotte aside from Sao Paulo remains Manchester, England. But if demand for travel to/from Europe remains weak, we may not see that begin next year, even if GRU doesn’t start up. Indeed, things could even go the other direction, with the airline offering fewer summer-seasonal routes (especially from Charlotte) with the extra A330-200s replacing 767s on some existing service.