There are six airlines operating flights from London to New York, all of them classic legacy carriers. Logic would suggest that such fierce competition on flights between the two 'world capitals' would result in regular price wars, but the last few years have seen fares go in only one direction – up.
Virgin Atlantic might like to consider itself the rebellious upstart, but its prices are often matched to within 50p of the so-called old school establishment figure British Airways. The other four competitors – American Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Delta and Continental – are hardly bargain basement either.
Average fares for return economy flights between London and New York currently range between £350 and £400, around £100 more than before the credit crunch. There are five main reasons why the availability of cheap flights to New York is so scarce:
1. The economic crisis has led to a fall in demand from lucrative business passengers. Airlines have had to bump up economy fares in order to compensate for this loss in revenue.
2. The ever increasing cost of fuel costs has inevitably been passed onto the consumer.
3. The high volume of transit passengers catching connecting flights from London and New York means that airlines have no option but to use expensive hub airports such as JFK and Heathrow.
4. New York does not have a dedicated no-frills hub like London's Luton or Stansted. The US equivalent of Ryanair, Southwest Airlines, use Long Island Airport (50 miles east of Manhattan), but there is little room for expansion. Flights to Europe are not permitted from New York's third largest airport La Guardia.
5. The no-frills model has so far failed to work on flights longer than three hours. The average flight time between London and New York is 7hrs30. Budget airlines keep down costs by using small, relatively cheap aircraft that handle several flights per day. To make long-haul routes work airlines have to use much larger aircraft that are very expensive to buy.