After years of rumors and seeming near misses, British Airways (BA) has finally commenced service to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). BA Flight 2169 left London’s Gatwick Airport about five minutes late this morning but is en route to FLL at this writing. Scheduled landing time is 2:11 pm. British Airways was first rumored to be considering adding Fort Lauderdale service to compliment its Miami (MIA) offerings in 2001 but that was shelved due to 9/11. Rumors were persistent again in the 2005-2007 time frame that BA would begin Fort Lauderdale flights but nothing came of it as the airline doubled-down on its Miami service after its much-delayed joint venture with American Airlines who operates a major international hub at MIA was finally approved by the EU and US Government.
The trigger to finally launch British Airways service to FLL seems to be the threat from upstart low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle (DY). Fort Lauderdale was Norwegian’s third US destination from London-Gatwick, launching the route in 2014. DY has done well on the FLL route and has increased service levels and aircraft size recently. More critically, DY has cut into BA’s passenger loads on its Miami routes to Heathrow and to Orlando from Gatwick, which Norwegian began flying to from London in 2015. Now DY is adding several more US destinations from Gatwick – Chicago-O’Hare, Seattle, Denver and Austin. Each of those cities are flown to by British Airways from Heathrow.
Fort Lauderdale has for years attracted a remarkable amount passenger traffic from Latin America and is now the 14th busiest international gateway in the country. But many airports that have less international traffic have generated more network carrier flights across the Atlantic – Orlando and Tampa are examples of this. Both transit fewer international passengers than FLL but have attracted network carriers to Europe for years including BA which has served both since the 1980’s.
With BA’s arrival and Emirates last year, Fort Lauderdale is finally attracting network carriers to fly the Atlantic which compliments the intense build up of Latin American traffic from the airport in the last decade.