Qatar Airways acquires a 9.99% stake in British Airways parent International Airlines Group

Interesting news breaking this morning, and proof that aviation is never dull.

International Airlines Group has confirmed in announcement to the stock exchange that Qatar Airways has acquired a 9.99% stake in International Airlines Group.

The news has been welcomed enthusiastically by IAG CEO Willie Walsh, citing the fact that Qatar Airways has recently joined the Oneworld alliance and British Airways has recently started co-operating with BA on areas such as codesharing on Qatar routes from Doha to Asia.

Willie Walsh also cites the opportunity for further commercial co-operation between Qatar Airways and IAG mber airlines.

There is certainly scope for greater collaboration. For example, BA still serves Doha via a stop in Bahrain and the two airlines could explore a revenue sharing joint-venture on routes to and beyond Doha, as BA has with other Oneworld alliance partners such as American Airlines and Japan Airlines.

At the moment there are no changes to the board structure of IAG. Should Qatar Airways wish to increase its stake in IAG, under EU ownership rules, it would be capped at 49%.

Qatar Airways is not the first Middle Eastern airline to invest in European aviation as Etihad Airways has taken equity stakes in a portfolio of airlines such as Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Alitalia and Air Serbia. Etihad also has a codeshare relationship with Air France KLM. Emirates has so far eschewed taking equity stakes in other airlines.

Finally, it is also noteworthy that Qatar Airways has invested in IAG at a time when it’s share price is at an all time high, above 550p. IAG’s share price has previously hit lows of around 110p.

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Iberia Express launches London Heathrow – Tenerife & Gran Canaria flights

Iberia’s low cost sister airline, Iberia Express, will launch London Heathrow – Tenerife and London Heathrow – Gran Canaria flights from late March 2015.

Flights to Tenerife operate thrice weekly (Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday). Flights to Gran Canaria operate four times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday). Flights depart from London Heathrow Terminal 5.

Here’s the timetable:

London Heathrow – Tenerife

Flight IB3603 Depart London Heathrow 17:05 – Arrive Tenerife 21:30
Flight IB3602 Depart Tenerife 11:20 – Arrive London Heathrow 15:45

London Heathrow – Gran Canaria

Flight IB3605 Depart London Heathrow 17:05 Arrive Gran Canaeria 21:30
Flight IB3604 Depart Gran Canaria 11:20 Arrive London Heathrow 15:45

Flights are now on sale on Iberia.com

Iberia’s International Airlines Group sibling British Airways also flies from London Heathrow to Gran Canaria on a Saturday until the end of March. BA also flies to Tenerife from London Gatwick.

BA flights on these routes tend to be scheduled as morning departures from London, with the return flight departing late afternoon. In part, this to allow the aircraft and crew to do a round-trip in one day. Iberia’s timings work the opposite way and may be more convenient for some.

We have commented recently on IAG’s turnaround of Iberia and an increased presence in the UK is to be expected.

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British Airways’ Executive Club announces major changes to earning and redeeming Avios for bookings made after 28 April 2015

British Airways has today announced major changes to the way members of the British Airways Executive Club can earn and redeem Avios on BA and partner airline flights.

BA’s International Airlines Group sibling Iberia has also announced changes to its Iberia Plus programme that take effect from 1 March 2015.

The changes are quite significant and will impact on members depending what level they are in the Executive Club, what cabins they fly on BA and, for the first time, what type of ticket is purchased.

There are some definite negatives and some positives may emerge in time. It is also important to emphasise that they only apply to bookings made after 28 April 2015, so there is a three month window to make bookings in advance of the changes.

Here’s a summary of the key changes and our take on them:
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Cathay Pacific launches its latest brand advertising campaign #lifewelltravelled

Cathay Pacific has launched its first over-arching brand campaign since the airline undertook a very subtle rebranding exercise last year.

The campaign emphasises how Cathay Pacific’s Asian hospitality and attention to detail improves the travel experience for passengers, whether the frequent business traveller or occasional passenger, and makes “Life Well Travelled”.

In keeping with its stated brand philosophy “Softly spoken. Strongly felt.”, Cathay Pacific’s passengers take centre stage in the campaign.

It is supported by a dedicated Cathay Pacific microsite which features contributions from the airline’s staff and frequent travellers. The campaign also features regular postings on Cathay Pacific’s Instagram account.
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Iberia returns to Havana, Cuba and launches new route to Medellin and Cali in Colombia

Some positive signs of a real turnaround and expansion at Iberia.

The airline is to reinstate flights between Madrid and Havana in Cuba from 1 June 2015. Flights will operate five weekly, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sundays.

Iberia will also add Cali and Medellin in Colombia to its route network from 3 July 2015.

This will operate as a “triangular” route, whereby Iberia will fly Madrid-Medellin, Medellin-Cali, and Cali-Madrid. Flights operate three times weekly on Wednsday, Friday and Saturday.

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International Airlines Group makes a further takeover bid for Aer Lingus

After much press speculation over the past few weeks, International Airlines Group (parent company of British Airways, Iberia and Vueling) has submitted a further takeover bid for Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus has formally acknowledged the bid, valued at €2.50 a share with a cash dividend of €0.05 per share.

Aer Lingus say the bid remains conditional on, amongst other things, confirmatory due diligence, the recommendation of the Board of Aer Lingus and the receipt of irrevocable commitments from Ryanair and the Minister for Finance of Ireland to accept the offer.

The key stumbling block to IAG acquiring Aer Lingus will be the Irish Government which holds a 25.1% stake in the airline. The Irish Government will need to be satisfied that links between London Heathrow and Ireland will be maintained and Aer Lingus will not loose its Heathrow slot-holdings.

Here are some thoughts we gathered before Christmas on what may happen of IAG is successful in acquiring Aer Lingus.

Update: Ireland’s RTE is reporting that Aer Lingus may make a statement on Tuesday about the bid.

Update:

Aer Lingus has issued a statement on Tuesday recommending the bid. International Airlines Group has also statement confirming that if the acquisition goes ahead Aer Lingus will maintain its own brand and join the Oneworld alliance and transatlantic joint-venture with BA and American Airlines. IAG will also seek to assuage concerns about the maintenance of links between London Heathrow and Cork and Shannon by entering into discussions with the Irish Government.

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British Airways cabin cleanliness called into question

Owen Thomas, British Airways, MailOnline

Owen Thomas, British Airways, MailOnline

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