Wow: British Airways Launching Nonstop Flights To Charleston

It’s incredible how much growth we’ve seen from British Airways the past few years, especially on transatlantic flights. Rather than just increasing frequencies in major markets, we’ve seen them add service to all kinds of destinations that previously had limited transatlantic flights, including Austin, Nashville, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and San Jose, just to name a few. British Airways has now announced their latest transatlantic flight.

British Airways will be launching a 2x weekly summer seasonal service between London Heathrow and Charleston, South Carolina. The flight will operate between April 4 and October 24, 2019.

The route will be flown with a Boeing 787-8, featuring 35 business class seats, 25 premium economy seats, and 154 economy seats.


British Airways’ 787 business class

The new route will operate with the following schedule on Thursdays and Sundays:

BA220 London to Charleston departing 5:20PM arriving 9:20PM
BA221 Charleston to London departing 10:50PM arriving 11:50AM (+1 day)

The 4,065 mile flight is blocked at 9hr westbound and 8hr eastbound.

I find this to be a fascinating route. On one hand, Charleston is home to a big Boeing factory, where the 787 is produced, so I imagine there’s some business demand. However, the fact that this is a 2x weekly summer seasonal flight suggests that the target with the route is leisure travelers. Regardless, this is a unique route, so I continue to commend British Airways for their expansion into new markets.

As you’d expect, award availability on the route is excellent, given that it was just loaded into the system. Unlike other programs, British Airways Executive Club promises that they release at least two business class award seats and four economy class award seats per flight.

If you were to redeem American AAdvantage miles for this flight, you’d pay 30,000 miles one-way in economy, or 57,500 miles one-way in business class, plus taxes and carrier imposed surcharges.

Meanwhile if you redeemed British Airways Avios for the flight you’d pay the following amounts one-way:

  • Economy: 16,250 Avios off-peak, 25,000 Avios peak
  • Premium economy: 32,500 Avios off-peak, 50,000 Avios peak
  • Business: 62,500 Avios off-peak, 75,000 Avios peak

That doesn’t include British Airways’ hefty surcharges, which can be $500+ one-way for a premium cabin ticket. For example, a roundtrip business class peak ticket between Charleston and London Heathrow costs an outrageous 150,000 Avios plus $1,465.56 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges.

What do you make of British Airways launching flights to Charleston?

Comments

  1. Nice. Great to see new routes and new options. Shame it’s BA which sucks cock obviously, but Charleston is beautiful.

  2. What a bizarre route.

    CHS is one of my favorite destinations. But I do not know that it will generate much business travel. Even the 787 factory is just a factory – not particularly a place international business folk need to go. (Incidentally, I do recall landing there once and wondering why there were 3 Air China planes on the premises untiI recalled the factory there)/

    CHS does have an ever increasing number of fairly well heeled 55 to 80 year old retirees. These people are surely well trained to suck up ATL for trips to Europe, but I do not know that LHR is much more encouraging unless that is a final destination. This segment of the market may also be more tolerant of the lack of daily service than business travelers.

    If nothing else, this proves what the 787 is good for.

  3. Auto manufacturing is also big industry in Charleston. What I find interesting is that there’s no lounge at the airport. I wonder how that will be handled…

  4. Huge German expat population around CHA. A bit surprised to see BA and not LH take this route on.

    Charleston really is a lovely city. I’m pleased to see this route.

  5. I couldn’t be more excited to see nonstop flights to Europe from my home town but the taxes and fees on award travel make connecting in CLT or PHL way more appealing. There’s not a chance that I would pay $1500 in addition to 115k miles for a nonstop on BA with an inferior product when I could just connect on AA and have reverse herringbone seats for $5.60 in taxes.

  6. @nscam

    CHS is a truly easy airport to manage and likely does not need a lounge to support a 10:50 pm departure. That is WAY later than other flights that leave from CHS and pax will have security and facilities pretty much all to themselves. I’d anticipate little connecting traffic for those flights so passengers should be able to arrive a mere hour prior to the flight and never particularly need a lounge as one does when demands on facilities create uncertainty as to how long one needs to allow for parking, security, etc., etc, or when layovers can be a couple of hours.

    Lounges are nice. But if I am confident that getting from curb to gate has a dependable duration, I’ll time my arrival accordingly and happily go straight to the gate.

    I do make my way through CHS enough that a priority pass lounge or restaurant would be fantastic.

  7. What I find funny about this leisure route is that it leaves from LHR instead of LGW like most of the otger leisure routes.

    I’m suprised that CHS got a transatlantic before STL… (and I’m not counting KEF as transatlantic + it’s ending anyway)

  8. Also what made CHS deserve LHR before MCO and TPA (which are both leisure destinations but only fly to Gatwick)?

  9. Not only is this the first TATL route for CHS, but will be the ONLY international route as well! Interesting that there is currently no flights to Canada or anywhere in the Caribbean.

  10. @jfhscott

    I completely agree with you that a lounge would be unnecessary, though it just seems odd to me to have a long haul international service without any type of lounge. When AB was around and operated flights to RSW, they also operated a lounge there. Obviously BA isn’t going to invest in a lounge on a seasonal route, but I’m curious whether they’ll do anything instead, like contract with a restaurant, open a pop-up lounge, etc.

  11. Quinn

    As a regular BA flyer and OW Emerald, I can tell you that nobody books award flights on BA. Rather you fly on BA to earn the Avios and then use AA, Iberia, FinnAir, Aer Lingus, Qatar, Cathay, Qantas, JAL and so on for awards.

    Now, that said, if you travel at short notice and BA/AA are quoting you 6 grand return in Business (not unusual) and there is an award on BA available, then you might just take it anyway. And I’ve done that a couple of times.

    But the key is: “spend with BA – fly free with its partners”.

  12. FYI, Charleston is currently in the process of constructing a lounge, The Club at CHS……..has not been announced yet if it will be Priority Pass

  13. So the crew rostered for the Sunday flight would essentially have a four-day layover in CHS? This must be a great route to work in then!

  14. FYI, Charleston is currently constructing a lounge, The Club at CHS…..no word yet on whether it will be Priority Pass.

  15. Whenever British Airways operates a new route to/from Heathrow, do they discontinue another flight?
    If Heathrow is at capacity, how do they expand so much?

  16. @ Lucky

    Do the fuel surcharges vary with the fare you pay? i.e., more for Business than for Premium Economy?

  17. This is odd, considering until recently CHS didn’t even have a nonstop from the West Coast (and now it does, but it’s one of Alaska’s strange routes from SEA, and probably is more directly related to the presence of the Boeing factory).

    Is this the smallest American city with a transoceanic nonstop? Charleston has a population of 120,000 people. Bradley International Airport does serve Dublin (!), but Hartford has 123,000 people — and the airport dually serves Springfield, Mass., has 150,000 people, and BDL is a larger airport all-around than CHS.

  18. @Nick

    I am surprised as well, but the Charleston population is not the relevant metric – I suspect this flight will appeal to folks as far south as Savannah, as far west as Columbia and as far North as Myrtle Beach, all of whom will be glad to avoid ATL.

  19. Did the airport provide financial incentives to BA for this route? I know Maryland provides a revenue guarantee to BA on the BWI-LHR route.

  20. I imagine proximity to SAV doesn’t hurt for British tourists wanting to experience to romance of the American Old South. I’ll love being able to leave work on a Thursday at normal time, and arriving in CHS easily enough for a three day weekend in London.

  21. Does CHS even have customs facilities? I don’t see any current international flights

    It’s hilarious that BA has a better schedule to Charleston from London than AA has to Charleston from New York (AA flies there mid-day Saturday, which is too late)

  22. South Carolina tried to do that in 1861, but the infernal Yankees wudn’t let them. I reckon they’d do the same today with their modern Yankee army.

  23. Love Charleston — was just there last weekend. Flew AA and an Etihad plane landed a bit after we did (likely to head to Boeing).

  24. The Charleston area population is actually around 750,000 in the trick unity area that makes up the suburbs. Over 110,000 people depart Charleston each year for a destination in Europe. Over 250,000 people visit Charlestone each year from overseas. The question is how will Delta react, they stil have a strong hold on Charleston for Europe flights from Atlanta, You can fly American to Charlotte or Miami for a few Europe destinations but it is limited.

  25. The more people who use Google flights the more people won’t even discover flights which aren’t daily. I wonder whether non-daily flights have a future unless Google flights is changed.

  26. YQ surcharges now much higher ex-US vs ex-UK – the massively higher Avios sign up bonuses and earnings rates in the US clearly have to be paid for somehow…

  27. @Lucky —> Yes, this IS a ridiculous route. Many of these new routings by BA look suspiciously like (and remind me of) their flights out of OAK-LGW, and we all know how well that turned out!

    Some routes make sense. I can see where, for instance, flying out of SJC to LHR might be attractive to *some* hi-tech execs — but SFO is reasonably close to all but the southernmost part of Silicon Valley, and I retain a bit of skepticism re: the long-term viability of even this flight. But LHR-CHS???

    You’re quite right, Lucky, when you say the timing of these flights are targeting tourists/visitors, rather than business people. But if they are only flying between April and October, just when would you be able to fly “off-peak”? ;^) And since BA is based in — surprise! — Britain, certainly it’s British tourists they’re seeing as their primary customer base. Just how many people in the South are going to choose flying BA to the UK (or the rest of Europe via a connecting flight) out of CHS, as opposed to ATL, AUS, BNA, BWI, DFW, IAD, IAH, MCO, MIA, MSY, RDU, or TPA — ALL of which are nonstops… I don’t see CHS as particularly viable either, but then so does BA — that’s why it’s seasonal and only 2x a week.

    How empty do you think the return flights will be?

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