United Continental Holdings reports 11.9% rise in Oct-2010 pax traffic on Asia Pacific services
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Optimism, uncertainty and cost pressures offer an unpredictable mix for 2017
A sense of optimism prevailed among North American airlines as 2016 draws to a close. It is driven by the beginning of stabilised pricing in the US domestic market and an improved outlook for Western Canada after a marked drop in oil prices triggered a collapse in demand.
After two years of recession triggered plummeting demand to Latin America, the largest North American airlines serving the market started reporting positive revenue trends at the end of 2016; but the outlook for trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific markets remains far more subdued.
Uncertainty over the UK Brexit vote, heightened competition and overcapacity were weakening airline performance in the trans-Atlantic and excess supply was also creating pressure in trans-Pacific markets.
And, as profitability and labour pressures provoke significant wage growth, the groundwork is being laid for another cycle of cost increases.
All-premium UK-US airlines. BA cuts LCY frequency; La Compagnie quits LTN; Odyssey to launch in 2017
There have been two notable recent developments in the market for all-business class services on the North Atlantic: British Airways is to reduce its London City-JFK A318 frequencies and France's La Compagnie is to withdraw from Luton-Newark to concentrate its 74-seat Boeing 757 operations on Paris-Newark (its only other route).
BA's 32-seat London City operation has been suffering from significant load factor declines, particularly on the outbound flights. These flights make a refuelling stop in Shannon, where passengers can pre-clear US customs, but this may not be a sufficient incentive for some passengers to take an indirect flight. La Compagnie expressed concerns about uncertainties in the UK post-Brexit, but its route economics must anyway have been struggling, due to Luton's lack of suitability as a premium market and its lack of feed.
So far there has been no reaction to these developments from the new-start Odyssey Airlines, which plans to launch an all-business class London City-New York service in 2017. It will no doubt be attempting to find a balance between relief that its level of competition has reduced, and some anxiety that its launch may coincide with a softening of market demand.