Delta to take over United's New York/London route

Already expanding its international route map to countries as varied as Mexico and Russia, Delta appears on the verge of adding a far more mainstream (and potentially lucrative) route: New York to London.

Pending approval from the DOT, United plans to sell the New York/London route to Delta for a reported $21 million according to a Travel Weekly report (subscription required). This makes perfect sense for Delta, which is pinning its comeback hopes on international routes, and has recently made New York's JFK airport an international hub, adding 25 new destinations (both foreign and domestic) since last fall.

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Unlike United, however, Delta cannot fly into Heathrow (the U.S.-based airline rights to Heathrow are exclusive to United and American) so Delta would fly to nearby Gatwick airport.

As to why United is selling the route, the answer is that the route "did not perform well" according to United spokesperson Robin Urbanski. That's likely attributable to the fact that United does not have a New York hub. United plans to focus its international efforts on Asia routes; the carrier will add 40 additional weekly flights to Asia. It will also, however, continue to fly to Heathrow from Chicago (O'Hare), Washington (Dulles), Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

United's last New York/London flight will be October 30. Delta, if approved for the route, would start flying later this year and add a second flight in 2007.

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