British Airways is eyeing the launch of a new flight connecting London and Indianapolis in mid-2022.
The United Kingdom’s largest airline operator hopes to start offering flights from London’s Heathrow Airport to Indianapolis International Airport next summer, according to information released by a company that helps coordinate capacity at airports. If the route becomes official, it would be the first trans-Atlantic flight from Indianapolis since Delta Air Lines discontinued its Paris flight in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposed British Airways route is included in a larger report published by Airport Coordination Limited, a global coordination service used by Heathrow to parse expansion and service plans for its partner airlines. British Airways has several open slots at Heathrow, which serves as the airline’s main hub.
In the coordination report, British Airways indicated it also plans to resume other international flights, including ones to Calgary, Alberta; Pittsburgh; and Portland, Oregon. It is also expected to end service to Charleston, South Carolina.
In a statement, the Indianapolis Airport Authority said it was working to reestablish an overseas flight but didn’t specify that such a flight would be to London.
“IAA is in conversations with multiple airlines to restore service that was lost during the pandemic, including a transatlantic flight,” the statement said. “At this time, Indianapolis Airport Authority is not aware of any scheduled transatlantic flights for the upcoming summer 2022 schedule.”
Analysts say the move is indicative British Airways has at least had conversations with Indianapolis airport officials—and that it’s likely a deal is on the table.
“I guarantee they’ve discussed it … and I guarantee [they have] had more than tea with British Airways,” Mike Boyd, an industry analyst and president of consultancy Boyd Group International, told IBJ.
Boyd said Indianapolis is a logical location for British Airways to add a non-stop flight because it serves a strong industrial corridor that includes major international companies that do business in both the United States and across Europe.
The route would largely cater to business travelers early on, with the opportunity to add more leisure travelers once the pandemic challenges subside.
Two other cities within 300 miles of Indianapolis—Chicago and Nashville—also have non-stop flights to London through British Airways.
Madhu Unnikrishnan, editor of the aviation industry publication Skift Airline Weekly, said he doesn’t necessarily see the plan as being a “done deal,” but said British Airways’ filing with the coordination service is a strong indicator it wants to add Indianapolis to its route list.
That’s because, under European law, airlines have a limited number of slots for a given airport and, if they are not used, they can be allocated to another airline. While that rule was suspended during the pandemic, authorities recently reinstated it.
“Airlines need to add destinations in order to keep their Heathrow slots,” Unnikrishnan said. “The other thing is, British Airways is pretty bullish on the North Atlantic market—flights between Britain and the U.S. in particular. They’re looking particularly for groups that have strong business demand, [and] I think Indianapolis fits the profile pretty well.”
Boyd said it is likely state incentives will be offered as part of a deal to bring British Airways to Indianapolis, just as they were for the Paris flight. In that case, Delta was given a two-year, $5.5 million performance-based deal by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.—and the flight performed strongly enough to allow the airline to earn all the money on the table.
“It’s not so much the money, but the evidence of … piety toward the airline,” Boyd said. “You have to do that because it shows the airline that we care—we have some skin in the game.”
The IEDC declined to comment for this story. British Airways did not return an email requesting comment.
This fall, Indianapolis is offering non-stop routes to nearly 50 destinations—including seasonal stops—with airport officials hopeful the airport could add several more locales over the coming months.