West Coast USA

The trio of states that comprise the USA’s West Coast make up an economic powerhouse driven by technology and entrepreneurship. Colin Ellson is your guide to Washington, Oregon and California


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The East and West Coasts of the US are chalk and cheese. While the East is fast-paced and home to financial firms, the cities on the shores of the Pacific are more laid-back and noted for their entrepreneurship and cutting-edge technology.

Consisting of states which include California and Oregon, with an economic output equivalent to the combined wealth of Indonesia, Switzerland and Mexico, the West Coast is big in every sense. California, for example, has the largest population of any state in the country, some 38 million people

The state is home to major many businesses, including those in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, where Facebook, Google and Apple have their headquarters. And with a growing GDP of $2.23 trillion in 2015, there is a significant opportunity for UK firms to enter the market. The clincher is that American customers love British brands, which they associate with high quality, hand craftsmanship, and traditional family skills passed on down the years.

Washington state, meanwhile, is home to business behemoths in Seattle and the surrounding region that include Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, Expedia and Starbucks.

The UK already has a strong trade relationship with the US, worth £45.3billion in exports to the West Coast, but a shadow looms in the shape of Brexit

Which is why the UK International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, flew to the US in June to discuss the two countries’ bilateral trade relationship after Brexit with US trade representative Robert Lightzhizer. During the meeting, both ministers committed to strengthen economic links between the UK and US, including the possibility of laying the groundwork for a potential new trade agreement soon after Brexit

Said Dr Fox, who was making his first international trip after the General Election: “I am delighted to be making my first visit back to the US, which is our largest single trading partner, accounting for a fifth of all exports.

“Our talks underlined the shared interest in forging a closer trade and economic relationship, including making progress on policy coordination, regulatory issues and expanding trade and investment between our economies.”

In a joint statement, Lightzhizer added: “As UK negotiations with the European Union begin, I look forward to working with Dr Fox and the United States Congress to lay the groundwork for our future trade relationship, including exploring the possibility of a new US-UK agreement

“In the meantime, the United States is committed to continuing discussions for improving trade and investment, and coordination on addressing global excess capacity issues.”

Whatever the trade implications of Britain leaving the EU, the West Coast will continue to be a major market for UK trade and investment, with all major cities no more than 11 hours from the UK.

The region is key to the airlines and has attracted significant interest. Virgin Atlantic, for example, has taken over the Heathrow to Seattle route from partner Delta, and the arrival on the scene of low-cost Norwegian Air has shaken up the fares situation.

The airline, which flies from Gatwick to Los Angeles and Oakland, San Francisco, has taken delivery of its first two new Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft. “The Max 8 will pave the road for a totally new concept. It gives us the ability to open up routes between Europe and the US on a new fares basis,” says Norwegian founder and CEO, Bjorn Kjos.

This poses something of a threat to the competition, not least British Airways, which has responded by unveiling its own low-cost carrier, Level. Based in Barcelona, the airline will serve Los Angeles and Oakland, San Francisco, from the Spanish gateway. Talk is of one-way basic economy fares of £99 and premium economy returns from £1,285.

Back in the UK, the flight schedule from the UK to cities on the US West Coast – Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego – continues to expand, as will export potential to the region, whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

Non-stop flights

SEATTLE:
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly from London Heathrow to Seattle, Washington state, 12 times a week and daily respectively.

PORTLAND:
Delta Air Lines flies from Heathrow to the largest city in Oregon four times a week until October 2. The service is due to resume in April 2018.

SAN FRANCISCO:
From Heathrow, United Airlines and BA both serve the city twice-daily, and Virgin flies 13 times a week. From Manchester, Virgin departs three times weekly, while Thomas Cook Airlines offers two services a week. In addition, Norwegian flies from London Gatwick to Oakland San Francisco five times a week.

LOS ANGELES:
From Heathrow, Air New Zealand and United offer daily flights to Los Angeles, while American and BA provide doubledaily services, and Virgin has 21 services a week. In addition, lowcost Norwegian flies daily to Los Angeles from Gatwick.

SAN DIEGO:
The only services to the southern Californian city from the UK are flown by BA from Heathrow seven times a week.

One-stop alternatives
There are around 150 direct flights from the UK to the West Coast every week so it is hardly necessary to fly via a European gateway or through a US transit point unless your journey begins at one of the UK’s many regional airports. In which case it’s worth checking options via Dublin and Reykjavik as well as connections to the non-stop services listed above.