American Airlines to close Gatwick base

American Airlines will close its base at Gatwick next month after 26 years at the airport and move all its services to Heathrow.

The carrier had previously announced the transfer from Gatwick to Heathrow of one of its two daily services to Dallas/Fort Worth and daily operation to Raleigh/Durham.

The services switch from March 30 at the onset of the open skies deal liberalising routes between the US and Europe.

But having acquired additional take-off slots at Heathrow, American revealed it would move the last remaining Gatwick service to Dallas/Fort Worth from April 13. The carrier will continue to offer 18 daily services, as well as a separate daily Stansted-New York JFK flight.

The difficulty of obtaining slots at Heathrow continues to restrict services. Continental Airlines is reported to have paid £100 million recently for four slots at the airport.

American Airlines’ senior vice-president for planning, Henry Joyner, said: “We want to strengthen our competitive position within the open-skies regime. It makes sense to focus our efforts at Heathrow.”

Rival Delta Air Lines has chosen to retain its Gatwick services despite launching services from Heathrow at the end of the month.

Up to 7,000 additional seats to the US should be available each week from Heathrow as start-up services begin by carriers previously excluded from operating transatlantic from the airport.

A rash of special offers is expected. Carriers insist economy fares can barely go any lower, but competition in business class could be fierce.

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