British Airways Is Canceling Flights To Oakland

Filed Under: British Airways

In March 2017, British Airways added 4x weekly flights between London Gatwick and Oakland. British Airways has added an incredible amount of service to the US lately, seemingly with a couple of different purposes.

They’ve been successful adding service to some secondary markets out of London Heathrow, like Austin, Nashville, New Orleans, San Diego, and San Jose, for example. They’ve also tried to compete head on with Norwegian, by adding routes from London Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale and Oakland. While I think the expansion out of Heathrow has been brilliant, I’ve questioned their strategy of competing directly with Norwegian.

When you look at British Airways’ service to California at this point, they fly to Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. That’s an incredible amount of capacity, especially when you consider that Los Angeles gets 3x daily flights and San Francisco gets 2x daily flights.

I don’t remember the last time that British Airways canceled a US route, though it’s finally happening. British Airways will be canceling flights to Oakland as of October 20, 2018. The flight has been removed from the winter schedule, so it remains to be seen whether it will return at some point next year (though personally I doubt it). Many have reported that the loads on this flight have been extremely low, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

British Airways also added flights between London Gatwick and Fort Lauderdale around the same time, and I wonder if that route is doing any better. They also fly to Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, so it seems like there’s a lot of capacity there. However, Florida does have special appeal for Europeans, so maybe that route is a bit more sustainable.

I continue to question British Airways’ strategy to compete directly with Norwegian. They can’t compete on cost, so offering a slightly better (but still shabby) product while charging more just doesn’t seem sustainable. That doesn’t even address whether or not it actually makes sense to compete with Norwegian. Norwegian is cash-strapped and isn’t doing well financially, so I’m not sure what British Airways is trying to gain here.

Are you surprised to see British Airways pull out of Oakland?

(Tip of the hat to Head for Points)

  1. ‘Norwegian is cash-strapped and isn’t doing well financially, so I’m not sure what British Airways is trying to gain here.’

    In this case, it seems like direct competition would be aimed at depriving Norwegian of some passengers to try and kill off a competitor. Even if it is at a loss, they can presumably sustain losses longer than Norwegian.

  2. IAG capital markets presentation have indicated they CAN compete with Norwegian on costs once the 777s go 10 abreast.

    The flood of capacity on the route has likely depressed already low yields

  3. If anything, I’m surprised it took this long for them to cancel it. OAK is a great airport for WN pax who live in the East Bay and want to drive to the airport – lots of flights, good parking, and easy in-and-out to drop off pax. But most ex-LGW pax were likely going to SF anyway, and the fare differential between the OAK and the 2x SFO flights never seemed great enough to A. Truly compete with Norwegian or B. Sufficiently draw crowds to the East Bay to then slog back to SF. Plus Oakland and the surrounds aren’t exactly garden spots or destinations unto themselves.

    For SF-based fliers, SFO offers a much better pre-flight experience for food, lounges, and things to do. Plus, it’s easier to get to by both car and BART from the city proper. Plus, as a native San Franciscan, there’s sort of a stigma about OAK. I mean, it’s the Gatwick to SFO’s Heathrow. The (often correct) assumption is that it’s filled with infrequent fliers who have no idea how TSA or airports work and merely serve to increase pre-flight frustration.

  4. @ah- BA offers tons of connections to all the most popular destinations from Gatwick. That shouldnt have been an issue

  5. “That doesn’t even address whether or not it actually makes sense to compete with Norwegian. Norwegian is cash-strapped and isn’t doing well financially, so I’m not sure what British Airways is trying to gain here.”

    You answered your own question. You dont just lie down everytime a competitor comes at you. Especially one with much more limited resources

  6. @Tom Level already operates out of BCN to OAK. Though I’d be curious to see how load levels on the BCN-OAK route differ between Norwegian and Level…

  7. LEVEL was a great flight on BCN-OAK when they offered me EUR 120 cash upgrade at check-in to premium economy. TV is large and very responsive. Crews were (mostly) friendly. I didn’t see loads in the back of the bus but in P/E all seats were taken (if i were to guess, maybe half were straight-up purchases and half taking the check-in upgrade offer).

    IAG has the right tool to fight Norwegian but strangely decided to use BA on LGW-OAK instead of LEVEL. That should fix a lot of the problems right there.

    (and i’ll try to avoid the messy issue of Brexit because if UK isn’t part of some sort of single aviation market, LEVEL flying LGW-OAK would be akin to 5th freedom route authority)

  8. The capacity is being used to move some of the Las Vegas flights from Heathrow – so could perhaps either be related to the 787 engine issues or 777 refits.

    Faced with a need to cut flights would make sense to take out a weak non core route even if it was just about sustainable (which by all accounts it wasn’t anyway- have heard of flights going out with 50 passengers)

  9. I flew British Airways the other day and what an awful airline they are. The cabin crew seemed to be allergic to work and I heard one describe us (as in the plane full of passengers) as a ‘needy bunch’. She also made fun of several passengers accents, all within earshot of my seat.

  10. @ Brad – Not at all surprised. In fact, the only time I witnessed a certifiably rude FA was on a long haul BA flight. If anyone doubts this, try remembering if an FA ever slapped your IFE screen shut then marched off without a word while there were still 20 minutes or more of flight time. Doesn’t matter if that seems trivial. I’ve never seen any US flight attendant, not even the “grandmas” behave so boorishly.

  11. British Airways has actually been competing quite closely on cost per passenger with Norwegian and their current cabin “upgrades” at Gatwick will enable a lower cost per passenger.

  12. BA out of FLL is doing pretty well. Many of the British “package holiday” types do cruises out of Fort Lauderdale. I was flying on Spirit and the BA flight was a few gates over and was very busy on a cruise Saturday. And if FLL’s capacity is not doing do hot, they could always downgrade to 787 or 767 (depending on aircraft that are Gatwick based). They can also route O&D pax to FLL and save seats on MIA flights for South America / AA cxn bound pax

  13. I’m flying on BA OAK-LGW-OAK in September/October. In fact, I’ll be on one of the last flights, October 11th.

    I was able to score 2-for-1 award seats in biz on my flights.

    For many East Bay residents, flights out of Oakland are a pleasure, as we don’t need to take a limo over the Bay Bridge which, during rush hour, can get extremely jammed. Sorry to see this flight go, but I understand why it’s happening.

  14. ” Plus, as a native San Franciscan, there’s sort of a stigma about OAK.”

    You all can keep going down there and sitting through your weather/ATC delays and long security lines, and leave OAK to us. (Never mind that it’s equal in travel time from downtown SF via BART.)

    OAK is 10 min from my place in Alameda, and what bugs me is that I’m an AS MVPG and to go anywhere but SEA/PDX or Hawaii I have to schlep to… SFO. We’re flying DY back from BCN straight to OAK this summer, because it was too cheap to pass up.

  15. @asdf:

    That’s true. That’s a definite feather in OAK’s cap. If I’ve ever a need for an early morning flight, usually in the 7-10 am window, I’ll book out of OAK. I just hate dealing with BART delays on the Oakland side of the Bay – which seem to happen with increasing frequency given recent track “improvements”. Plus that silly AirTrain BART built instead of just extending mainline BART. As @stvr mentions, it may be equidistance to both but it feels longer to me when I have to transfer then wait in OAK’s security. The straight shot to SFO from Embarcadero and having Clear and TSA-Pre makes it a much speedier and stress-free ordeal. Also the Centurion Lounge is a huge bonus, too.

  16. @AdamR

    OAK has precheck lines as well so that’s not really a competitive advantage for SFO; both will have variable line length depending on day/time and terminal. At OAK all gates are connected airside so if there’s a big line at one terminal it’s easy enough to walk over to the other terminal to go through security. And the Centurion Lounge is nice, but only helpful if you’re flying out of Int’l A or T3. At OAK you have access to the Escape Lounge for flights out of either terminal.

  17. Hi Lucky – not robust evidence I appreciate, but the FLL-LGW route was very busy when I flew it in November. A four class 777 had been temporarily scheduled and they had to open First to business class passengers with BA gold status. Looked very busy in premium economy too (I didn’t see the economy cabin). It actually surprised me given there is no lounge access at FLL and BA operate the A380 to and from Miami (which is much nicer than the clapped out plane we had).

  18. I think DTW was probably the last route cancelled by BA? Around 2006/7?

    They do seem to have pretty good luck with their US routes. I guess they benefit from their strong brand awareness and joint business with AA and the introduction of the 787. Not to mention all the incentives that local US governments offer to attract airlines to their home airports.

  19. lucky San Diego started in June 2011. So almost seven years ago. You might want to amend paragraph 2.

  20. Oakland May have precheck but BA doesn’t participate so that makes it very long lines. Also customs and immigrations takes forever at OAK.

  21. I’m not sure why everyone thinks it’s so obvious that OAK would be a failure. True, it’s not a vacation destination, but it’s about the same distance to SF as SFO is. And it’s generally going to be faster to get to Napa/Sonoma wine regions from OAK. Maybe most Europeans don’t know that so some education was needed and BA didn’t do that.

    But 2.5 million people live in the East Bay and for most of them, OAK will be a lot easier to fly out of than SFO. If Baltimore can support a BA flight, not sure why the 2.5m people, many of them very affluent, of the East Bay couldn’t.

    And I lived in SF for 15 years, I’m definitely not an OAK fanboy. But just seems like solid logic that BA should have been able to make this work. Maybe they just needed to give it more time and do a little marketing to help the route gain visibility.

  22. I was surprised they actually did do some marketing, similar to HA, bragging that they serve all three airports (OAK, SFO, SJC). If it was intended as pure poison pill to depress yields for Norwegian, they might not have cared enough to actually advertise.

    If this particular offering didn’t work, perhaps they’ll come back with LHR service on a 787, or Level service.

  23. Mon,

    LGW-OAK is flown by a 777 and so cannot be “really old”. The 777 only came out about 20 years ago and most are much newer than that.

    If you want an old plane, then fly Delta or American. Some of their planes are 30 years old

  24. —>. “Are you surprised to see British Airways pull out of Oakland?”

    Ab-so-f***ing-lutely NOT.

  25. I think this can be read as a mark of how much Norwegian has been struggling.

    A year ago as Norwegian had massively increased capacity ex-LGW I assume BA perceived them as enough of a threat to launch his service, try drive down yields. However, with Norwegian overexpanding and and bleeding vast amounts of cash, BA probably doesn’t feel the need to compete on a loss-making route anymore.

  26. Flew this route last month. There were about 40 pax outbound to OAK, and 32 Inbound. I counted on the way back as I was so shocked. Had fantastic service as a result, but the crew knew it’s days were numbered.

  27. @Kerry —> Yes, I *suppose* you could look at it that way . . . if you work in the BA Spin — oh, sorry — Public Relations Dept. ;^)

    I live in Berkeley, CA. OAK is — depending upon which route you take and, of course (!), the traffic — between 15.8 and 19.6 miles (25.4 and 31.5 km) from my home. This being California the longest route is also the quickest, but let’s just say it takes 30 minutes to drive there. In contrast, SFO is approx. 30 miles (48.3 km), and will take roughly 45 minutes by car, or 60 minutes by BART (what passes in the SF Bay Area for a subway¹).

    In the world of anecdotal information, EVERYone that *I* know flies internationally out of OAK if they’re flying to Mexico via Southwest². Some people fly Volaris³ (though why is another question entirely!). And, of course, Norwegian⁴. Beyond these, there’s BA to LGW, and Level (which flies as IB [Iberia]) to BCN.

    Jonathan’s post above — with 40 pax outbound and 32 pax return on a 777? That’s GOT to hurt!

    While both BA and DY offer one nonstop to LGW 4x and 6x a week, respectively, let’s not forget that across the Bay, SFO has departures for LHR from BA, UA and VS — each with 2x daily. (Multiple airlines codeshare this route, but in terms of actual metal, there are six flights departing daily.).

    As Lucky notes, “When you look at British Airways’ service to California at this point, they fly to Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. That’s an incredible amount of capacity, especially when you consider that Los Angeles gets 3x daily flights and San Francisco gets 2x daily flights.”

    Now, few people are about to drive, take a train, bus, or even a flight from SAN to LAX *if* they can catch a *convenient* flight direct to London (it’s a 124 mile drive). Even to go from SJC to SFO, isn’t easy by car (depending upon traffic), and BART doesn’t connect the two; that said, it’s certainly doable, as they are only 36 miles apart. Add to that the number of hi-tech and bio-tech companies closer to SJC than SFO, and I can see how flying out of SJC *might* eventually be a profitable route. But OAK and SFO are too close, and SFO is too convenient⁵, for me to see it as a viable proposition for most international routes.

    ¹ It’s worth noting that the Bay Area Rapid Transit system pulls right into the International Terminal at SFO without having to transfer trains and, from where I live, takes approx. one hour (which can indeed be faster than driving, in times of heavy traffic) at a cost of $10.20. To get to OAK, requires taking three different trains from the same station, takes 45 minutes and costs $9.00. It’s considerably easier to take BART to SFO, especially if one is checking a suitcase.

    ² OAK to SJC and PVR offers one nonstop, each, per day while every other international destination on WN requires a plane change.

    ³ Y6 flies nonstop to four destinations in Mexico: BJX, GDL, MEX, and MLM.

    ⁴ DY flies nonstop to ARN, BCN, CPH, OSL, and — of course — -LGW.

    ⁵ WN flies internationally out of OAK because that’s their hub, and because they have a minimal presence at SFO. DY and Level have no presence out of SFO. Only Y6 flies out of both SFO and OAK.

  28. As a former Bay Area resident – and who travels frequently from LAX, I’d rather fly into OAK any day. For the most part, my flight will be on time and not delayed because of fog or the use of one runway.

  29. @Lolo —> You DO realize, don’t you, that “One size fits all” is one of the Four Great Lies of the Western World. It is *always* a case of YMMV. At one point, I too preferred OAK over SFO — when I was flying a lot on WN, for example. but now it depends (for me) on the airline.

    I wrote above that “Everyone *I* know . . . ” I don’t know you, do I? There are some positive aspects to flying inland out of Oakland — never meant to suggest there wasn’t. But for international travel, the amenities at SFO far exceed what’s available at OAK; the seating in and around the gates are better at SFO (both domestic and international); the lounges are virtually non-existent at OAK, versus somewhat plentiful at SFO (whether all the lounges are worth going to or not is another subject entirely); and so on . . . But it truly is a case, I think, of “different strokes for different folks.” ;^)

  30. I think you should write that the route is SUSPENDED. Not CANCELLED. Why do you always over exaggerate Lucky?

    Had brilliant service in BA Club World to Beijing last week. Chose a very private window seat, nobody in the adjacent seat. Served with a smile with more food than I could ever eat. Excellent Kosher meals from Hermiolis. Maybe all of you who constantly complain about ‘British’ are all just princesses who are ‘very needy’…or d.o.u.c.h.e.s.

  31. BA announced that Oakland service will resume in April. Hardly cancelled is it, Lucky? Get your facts right!!!

  32. I’m so glad that the route won’t end until October as I booked return flights on this route for September. I’m visiting San Francisco at the beginning of a road trip and staying near the Marina area. BA and also Virgin to SFO were between £200-£300 more expensive than to OAK (I paid around £480 return with checked bags), so it was a no brainer. I’m not that knowledgeable when it comes to distance from each to where I’m staying, but the way I see it an extra $5 in a cab and a slightly less attractive airport is fine when I’m making such a huge saving. The biggest inconvenience here is how awkward Gatwick is to get to for me, but otherwise OAK is far more attractive, purely because of the savings.

  33. I am so upset. Picking up my sister last week, I shared my concern with others waiting picking up passengers and I asked then to write to BA. We use OAK to GTW regularly. People are slow in catching on to OAK. Although, I feel it as close to SF city as SFO. OAK and GTW airports are better than SFO and HTW smooth, cleaner, streamlined, less harried, quicker in and quicker out, just nicer.
    Both Norwegian and BA are excellent, but BA wins due to cheaper flights, better planes and because they are quieter so the crew have time to be ultra nice.
    Please stay BA, if you don’t Norwegian is going to be packed to the gills. We are going to be crammed in like sweaty tstchy sardines, and Norwegian will have a monopoly and will be at liberty to treat us such
    Just work on advertising OAK more. It really is a great airport. Once people get to know it I’m sure they will prefer it.

  34. Couldn’t agree more Verena, my son lives in Santa Rosa and I visit 3/4 times a year and I find travelling in to Oakland so much easier I travelled in May and as a trusted traveller it took 3 mins to go through customs so fast I had to wait on my suitcase. The other benefit is the parking right outside the terminal I go there park my hired car ,check in get rid of my luggage (parking costs about 3 dollars)then take my hired car back and come back on the courtesy bus and as I’m 66 years old this is much easier for me . I have always found BA staff to be very helpful and there were people waiting on the standby list on the return flight .Hopefully more people will hear about this route and BA will reconsider their decision

  35. Sad to see this route disappear as I live in the East Bay and have family in UK. Prices were definitely lower than SFO which I assumed was to compete with Norwegian.

    I flew in May 2017 and loads were good, but when I flew in November 2017 they weren’t as good and when I asked a flight attendant I was told it was typical so I knew the writing was on the wall.

    I’m flying again from Oakland this August so it’ll be my last time, probably with the 10 abreast seating. A real shame, but I guess the economics didn’t make sense.

  36. They do not need to fly to Oakland anyway, they already operate two daily flight to SFO from Heathrow. Oakland seems completely pointless, other than the fact to compete with Norwegian.

  37. That’s like saying why not cancel Gatwick when you can fly into Heathrow depends where you live

  38. Exactly, Barbara! No reason to fly to LGW, or to LCY for that matter, when you can fly to LHR; no reason to fly into OAK (or SJC) when you can fly into SFO…

    Quoting Monty Python, “Silly git.”

  39. The OAK flight was/is a fairly easy Business Class points redemption with both AA and Avios points, once you get past the obscene co-pay, even in summer. We’re heading to FCO xLGW for half the miles of other routes tomorrow. The 777s they use aren’t great, but it’s adequate. For that, it will be missed.

    Connections and passport control seem worse at LGW than LHR, but for access to London proper it’s fine. The last two times they waved us onto the Gatwick Express but charged us the local price on our Oyster cards.

    BA *does* have pre-check now at OAK.

    My main gripe is that I’m 3 for 3 now in having massive delays posted 1-2 days before the flight. For no apparent reason. The inbound flight from Gatwick seemingly *could* leave on time–the plane is there–but posts a 2-3 hour departure delay well in advance. Tomorrow’s 1515 OAK departure is now 1830 with no hope of being earlier, so what time do you arrive at the airport?

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