American, BA Launch Transatlantic 'Shuttle'

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American Airlines

American Airlines, British Airways and Spain's Iberia have launched what they are calling a transatlantic "shuttle service" about six months after gaining antitrust immunity from U.S. regulators to coordinate flight operations and schedules.

Officials said the airlines have adjusted schedules to create hourly transatlantic shuttle service from several major gateways, where in the past the former competitors scheduled departures at the same time on the same routes.

"This is much more convenient for customers so they can pick and choose the time that best suits them both for departure and arrival," American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith told AOL Travel News.

BA is calling the service a transatlantic shuttle, while American, so as to not confuse it with flights from Boston to Washington D.C. from rival carriers, is calling it unofficially the London Express.

American and BA, as of March 27, are offering a combined 15 flights a day to London from New York's John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports, officials said today. Under the old schedule, five of the 11 daily flights from JFK from American and BA left New York at the same time.

"What it really is is spreading of the schedules so we're not leaving on top of each other," said BA spokesman John Lampl.

After years of challenges, the airlines were awarded antitrust immunity in July from U.S. regulators, allowing the carriers to coordinate schedules and fares and to operate joint flights. Rival carrier Virgin Atlantic, which earlier this month announced an interline agreement with JetBlue, blasted the ruling, saying that antitrust immunity would harm competition on transatlantic flights.

In addition to New York, American and BA now leave almost hourly from Chicago to London, whereas before there was a three-hour gap between flights. Miami flights will offer three separate departure times between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., compared to the prior schedule with only two departure times. Boston Logan flights now allow passengers to pick an 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. departure, arriving in London at nearly the same time.

Several new flights are planned from the U.S., including American launching JFK to Budapest, Hungary on April 5 and from Chicago to Helsinki, Finland, on May 1. Iberia launched new service between Madrid, Spain and Los Angeles on March 28 and launched Barcelona to Miami service today. BA is scheduled to launch service from San Diego to London on June 2.

American plans to add a second JFK to Barcelona flight, four days per week and will boost service from Miami to Madrid starting April 5.

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