British Airways Cancels Its Oakland Route For Next Summer: Is This A Sign Of Very Bad News To Come?

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British Airways announced that it would fly between London Gatwick and Oakland back in November 2016 and then launched the service in March 2017.

The new route was an interesting direction for British Airways to take. It was a route already offered by Norwegian and we hadn’t seen BA go after a low-cost carrier on a long-haul route before.

British Airways currently offers 4 weekly flights between its London Gatwick base and Oakland but, as we were told back in April, the airline decided to close the route down for this coming winter (last flights are scheduled for 20 October).

a map of the world

When announcing the suspension of the route for the winter British Airways assured us that flights to Oakland would reopen for summer 2019 but, as I noted at the time, there was no sign of the service in the summer schedule.

It turns out that there was a reason for that.

British Airways has now announced the suspension of services between London Gatwick (LGW) and Oakland (OAK) for Summer 2019” but, considering this means that the airline will definitely not fly this route for at least a year, I’m reasonably sure we can call this a route cancellation.

Could This Be a Sign Of Very Bad News To Come?

There are at least a couple of things that may be at play here but while the first is mildly amusing the second could mean very bad news for travelers.

A mildly amusing explanation for the route suspension/cancellation is that BA took on Norwegian and lost….and there’s nothing that I enjoy more than watching an overconfident legacy airline being given a bloody nose by an upstart low-cost carrier.

A far more worrying explanation is that British Airways (and more specifically, its parent) knows something that we have yet to be told about.

It’s not a secret that IAG (BA’s parent) wants to buy out Norwegian so is it possible that a deal has already been done but no announcement made?

a bridge over water with a cloudy sky

If IAG has a deal in place to buy Norwegian (or if it believes that one is imminent) it would know that there is no point in it having two of its airlines flying exactly the same route…especially not a route as niche as Gatwick – Oakland. It would make sense for IAG to cancel one of the services and the British Airways service is the logical one to cancel.

Add to this the fact that British Airways has also announced the suspension of its Gatwick – Fuerteventura service from 25 November 2018 (Norwegian will operate a 1x/week service between Gatwick and Fuerteventura from 2 November 2018) and one could make an argument for there being more at play here than just some route cancellations.

I could easily be reading far too much into this and I really hope I am because having Norwegian fall into the hands of IAG would be very bad news for travelers.

Norwegian isn’t just a nice option for those of us who are happy to fly with fewer frills, it’s also a big reason why the legacy carriers (who have been consolidating and forming joint ventures almost at will) haven’t been able to raise transatlantic fares with any great ease.

With Norwegian in the hands of IAG a big competitor to BA/AA/Delta/United/Lufthansa will be taken out of the equation and it won’t take long before we’ll see fares head upward.

Less competition is never a good thing for customers…especially in the world of aviation.

Bottom Line

I really hope that British Airways is cancelling its Gatwick – Oakland route because it simply can’t compete with Norwegian but the pessimist in me is decidedly uneasy about this news.