Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – Tuesday 23 April 2019

The latest developments in media and technology, published every Tuesday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

Two contrasting Wired Magazine covers on Facebook
Two contrasting Wired Magazine covers on Facebook (Image Credit: Wired)

Hello and welcome to our weekly travel media and technology bulletin featuring the latest developments on media and technology around the world, published every Tuesday at 06:00 BST.

WIRED on Facebook

WIRED magazine has an extensive essay on “15 months of fresh hell inside Facebook” as the company stumbled as it sought to confound its critics and reform itself.

It includes the detail that following the magazine cover on the right, an ad targeted at WIRED readers was mistakenly categorised as “engagement bait” which led to a 90% drop in referral traffic from Facebook.

As the UK Government plans measures to make technology companies responsible for harmful online content, the New York Times reports on tensions between the views of Governments outside the US and conservative / free speech forces in the US on regulating freedom of speech on the internet.

The power of television

For all the talk of Netflix, and its many forthcoming rivals, the vast majority of television viewing is still with linear broadcasting channels.

As part of its “More Than TV” brand advertising campaign, ITV has released a new film narrated by Sir Trevor McDonald OBE highlighting some of the powerful stories told across its drama, entertainment and factual programming over the past 60 years.

Also of note this week:

Amazon and Google introduce free music streaming to their respective smart speaker devices. (Rolling Stone)

Beyonce is reported to have signed a three project deal with Netflix worth no less than $60m. This includes the recent “Homecoming” documentary now streaming on the platform. (Variety)

James Murdoch plans to invest $1bn in media companies. (Financial Times)

The National Cyber Security Centre publishes the most hacked passwords. (NCSC)

The New Yorker publishes its latest travel issue, which includes an extensive report on the impact of AirBnb in Barcelona. (New Yorker)

Major social media channels in Sri Lanka have been blocked following the bombing of churches and hotels on Sunday. (Netblocks)

Monday Briefing – 22 April 2019

Welcome to our weekly briefing on air travel in London and around the world, published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 22 April 2019.

Sri Lanka

Following yesterday’s events in Sri Lanka, additional security measures have been put in place at Bandaranaike International Airport.

The airport has advised passengers to arrive four hours before scheduled departure. Sri Lankan Airlines is also providing additional assistance to its customers at its ticket offices and call centres.

Should a curfew imposed yesterday be extended further passengers will still be able to travel to the airport by presenting their passports and tickets to security officers.

A number airlines that serve Sri Lanka, including Cathay Pacific and Emirates have implemented flexible rebooking policies for all passengers.

Norwegian Financial Results

Norwegian publishes its first quarter financial results this coming Thursday 25 April.

These will be keenly awaited to see how Norwegian has survived what is traditionally the toughest quarter and whether measures such as switching some routes to seasonal have been effective.

Norwegian has already advised that it has reached an agreement with Airbus to defer planned deliveries of Airbus A320neo and Airbus A321 long range aircraft. This will reduce capital expenditure by $570m over the next two years.

BA Adds Mumbai Flights

Following the collapse of Jet Airways which, despite being claimed to be a temporary suspension, is unlikely to ever return to the skies, BA has scheduled additional flights between London Heathrow and Mumbai.

BA will add four weekly flights from Sunday 2 June 2019, which will take its flights from Heathrow to Mumbai up to three times daily. BA135 departs Heathrow at 17:50 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. BA134 departs Mumbai at 12:10 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

As part of tactical cancellations announced in March BA139 from Heathrow to Mumbai is cancelled from Friday 14 June to Sunday 30 June 2019. BA138 from Mumbai to Heathrow is cancelled from Saturday 15 June to Monday 1 July 2019.

Monocle on the “Golden Era” of aviation

Monocle continues its audio series on the “golden era” of aviation.

The third episode looks at the former TWA flight centre at New York JFK (soon to be subject of a documentary by filmmaker Peter Rosen), the archives of Cathay Pacific and former Australian airline Ansett. On a related note, The Urbanist looks at the city centre airport.

Also of note this week:

Why failure is the rocket fuel of aviation. (Financial Times)

Canary Wharf is working on a proposal to extend the Docklands Light Railway from Bank to Euston (Ian Visits)

Lufthansa reports a sharp fall in its preliminary first quarter results from a profit of €52m to a loss of €336m, citing fuel prices and over-capacity in Europe. (Lufthansa)

Qantas announces a new winter seasonal route from Sydney to Sapporo from 16 December 2019 to 28 March 2020. (Qantas)

Thomas Cook is reported to be in discussions about the sale of parts, or all, of its business. Any acquisition of its airline would be subject to EU ownership rules. (Sky News)

Our Monday Briefing  is published every Monday at 06:00 BST. If you have any comments, suggestions or tips then please drop us a line at mail [@]

British Airways vs The Financial Times

London Air Travel

British Airways Boeing 747 G-BNLY "City Of Swansea", Dublin (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Boeing 747 G-BNLY “City Of Swansea”, Dublin (Image Credit: British Airways)

Journalism and PR is a murky business.

Journalists depend on PRs for access to stories which, if denied, benefit rival publications. PRs also require the support of journalists for press coverage.

Much of what is written by journalists can be briefed “in background” by PRs. This even applies to stories that are officially denied with the statement “we do not comment on speculation”, but have been briefed off the record for one reason or another. Lines have also become blurred as many journalists, not always by choice, have moved into the world of PR.

There are rules of the game. Press embargoes must be respected. And a PR offered to comment on a journalist’s exclusive story must not try to take the sting out of it by leaking to a rival.

If rules are broken, it’s taken very personally and not forgotten. Scores will be settled.

That might be one reason why BA has withdrawn the Financial Times from its aircraft and lounges around the world. It has run a number of negative stories of late, such as questions over security at its call centre in Bremen. That said, it is hardly the only newspaper to have done so.

The FT has not taken to this quietly. It has taken out adverts on social media and its own paper encouraging readers to buy copies at airports, fly on other airlines, or take out a subscription.

Financial Times Tweet, April 2019
Financial Times Tweet, April 2019

Years ago, if a company was unhappy about its press coverage, rather than indulge in passive aggressive behaviour, its Chairman would simply call the editor or journalist in question and scream at them down the telephone.

As case in point is Lord King, former Chairman of BA. Lord King was notorious for having little patience with journalists. Once under questioning at a news conference, Lord King shouted across the room to a press officer “Hey! I pay you to talk to idiots like these.”

In the early 1990s, the Financial Times ran a series known as “My Office” in which Chairman and CEOs would give FT columnist Lucy Kellaway a tour of their private offices. Many regretted doing so.

Lord King guided Lucy Kellaway through his private picture collection in his office: “That’s me with the Pope…That’s me in the Oval Office with Bush, and me with Billy Graham. That’s me on holiday with Reagan.” 

Lucy Kellaway would, some years later, write: “Lord King was trying to tell me that he was important; but what he actually told me was that he was a shocking snob, name dropper and general pain in the backside.”

Lord King was reportedly so incensed at this portrayal of his pomposity he called the editor of the FT and threatened to withdraw all BA advertising from the paper.

Back to BA and newspapers today, in the past many papers would willingly provide free or deeply discounted copies to airlines and hotels to bulk up their circulation figures. These “bulks” are now separated from paid-for circulation figures and many newspapers have weaned themselves of the habit. However, according to the most recent figures, the FT still gives away 30,650 copies a month. Unless the FT is changing its policy on bulks, the reason for its removal is unlikely to be on cost grounds. Whatever the reason for the spat, the two will likely have to kiss and make up at some point.

Jet Airways Suspends Operations. All Flights Cancelled.

The Indian airline Jet Airways has suspended all remaining flights after it has failed to secure funding from new investors.

London Air Travel

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (Image Credit: Jet Airways)

Jet Airways has suspended all operations after it has failed to secure new funding from either the State Bank of India or new investors.

Jet Airways has been in financial distress for over six months due to heavy financial losses and an over indebted balance sheet. Its operations had been subject to very signifiant disruption due to aircraft being grounded. The airline has long been technically insolvent.

The airline has issued a statement to confirm that all flights have been suspended.

Mumbai, Wednesday, 17th April, 2019: Late last night, Jet Airways was informed by the State Bank of India (SBI), on behalf of the consortium of Indian Lenders, that they are unable to consider its request for critical interim funding.

Since no emergency funding from the lenders or any other source is forthcoming, the airline will not be able to pay for fuel or other critical services to keep the operations going. Consequently, with immediate effect, Jet Airways is compelled to cancel all its international and domestic flights. The last flight will operate today.
This decision has been taken after a painstaking evaluation of all alternatives that were made available to the Company and after receiving guidance and advice on the same from its Board of Directors. Jet Airways has informed the DGCA, and the Ministries of Civil Aviation and Finance and other relevant government institutions, of this course of action.

Over the last several weeks and months, the company has tried every means possible to seek both interim and long-term funding. Unfortunately, despite its very best efforts, the airline has been left with no other choice today but to go ahead with a temporary suspension of flight operations.

This has been a very difficult decision but without interim funding, the airline is simply unable to conduct flight operations in a manner that delivers to the very reasonable expectations of its guests, employees, partners and service providers.

After 25 years of sharing the Joy of Flying with Indian and international guests, Jet Airways has been forced to take this extreme measure as prolonged and sustained efforts with lenders and authorities did not yield the desired results.

Essential services needed to support guest services and the re-commencement of the flight operations will be kept onboard until further notice.

In truth, Jet Airways should have suspended operations some time ago, let alone continue selling flights it had no reasonable prospect of ever operating.

Whilst the suspension of operations has been described as temporary and there is a possibility of new investors coming forward to enable a restart of operations, given the financial state of the airline, this seems unlikely.

Flights from London Heathrow to Mumbai and New Delhi have been cancelled since Friday 12 April 2019. Its three daily slot pairs have also been transferred back to Etihad Airways. In recent days, only a very small number of domestic flights have operated, as its operation had progressively wound down.

Jet Airways was founded in 1993 and was once India’s largest airline by market share. It began flying from London Heathrow in 2005 following a relaxation of a bilateral treaty which allowed more flights between the UK and India.

Civil Aviation Authority Response

Jet Airways is not regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

However, it may provide general guidance shortly on its website shortly. For passengers with existing bookings, the best advice is contact your credit company for a refund or to check your travel insurance policy to see whether it covers airline failure.

Rescue Fares

When an airline suspends operations it is standard practice for rival airlines to offer “rescue fares” to passengers who are stranded.

As far as UK airlines are concerned, British Airways flies from London Heathrow to Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi.

Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to New Delhi.

Both airlines may announce rescue fares shortly for passengers who are mid-way through their journeys.

If made available, they will only be available by contacting the airlines’ respective call centres. Guidance may be available shortly on the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic websites. If rescue fares are offered, in both cases, proof of an existing booking will be required either at the time of booking or check-in.

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 17 April 2019

A weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

Proper Hotel Santa Monica
Proper Hotel Santa Monica (Image Credit: Proper Hotels)

Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 17 April 2019.

Proper Hotel Santa Monica Opens 1 July 2019

The US “Proper Hotels & Residences” brand is due to open its second property in Santa Monica on Monday 1 July 2019.

The property, located at at 700 Wilshire Boulevard, is a renovated 1928 Spanish colonial style building originally designed by Arthur E Harvey. It will feature 271 rooms, 3 restaurant-bar “destinations”, and a roof-top pool. Like its first property in San Francisco, the interiors are designed by Kelly Wearstler. Special opening rates are available until Tuesday 30 April 2019.

Two further properties in Austin and Downtown Los Angeles are due to open this summer. Again, both hotels are period property renovations with roof-top pools. A property in Portland is due to follow in 2021.

The Proper Hospitality group also operates the Avalon hotels in Beverley Hills and Palm Springs and Custom Hotel in Los Angeles.

Also of note this week:

JetBlue has announced that its first Airbus A321 Neo aircraft will enter this service this summer. The aircraft will be used to launch a new route between New York JFK and Guayaquil, Ecuador. (Jetblue)

“The City” a new independent non-profit news service for New York has launched. (The City)

“Congestion Pricing Is Coming to New York. New Jersey Wants Revenge.” More neighbourly love between New York and New Jersey. (New York Times)

Ontario Premier Doug Forward has unveiled a CAD$28.5bn plan for expansion to transport in the Greater Toronto area. (CBC)

United has sought regulatory approval to operate a new winter seasonal service from Newark to Cape Town from December 2019. (United)

Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – Tuesday 16 April 2019

The latest developments in media and technology, published every Tuesday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

Disney Plus
Disney Plus (Image Credit: Disney)

Hello and welcome to our weekly travel media and technology bulletin featuring the latest developments on media and technology around the world, published every Tuesday at 06:00 BST.

Disney launches Disney+

Disney will launch its new streaming service Disney+ in the US on 12 November of this year.

Priced at $6.99 a month or $69 a year, it will feature content from Disney’s portfolio of studios including LucasFilm, Marvel, National Geographic and Pixar.

The service will include many films and series from Disney’s back catalogue, all new films released by Disney this year such as Star Wars: Episode IX shortly after release in cinemas, and many series and specials commissioned specifically for the platform.

The service will launch in Western Europe next year. The availability of archive content in individual territories is likely to be complicated by existing licensing deals until they expire.

Whilst the service is unlikely to every reach the scale of Netflix, it will have an unparalleled line-up of high quality content with significant brand equity. (The Walt Disney Company)

Also of note this week:

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos pens his annual letter to shareholders. Essential reading for an insight into a phenomenally successful, if not universally loved, company that does make many of its legacy competitors look sclerotic by comparison. (Amazon)

Apple spends hundreds of millions of dollars on video games for its forthcoming “Apple Arcade” service (Financial Times)

Facebook spends $22.6m a year on Mark Zuckerberg’s personal security. (Reuters)

How will HBO survive after the “Game Of Thrones” series finale? (Los Angeles Times)

The New York Times launches “The Privacy Project”. (New York Times)

Can Snapchat, once the young upstart that deemed destined to keep younger users away from Facebook, survive? (Financial Times)

Uber files its “S-1” document with the US Securities and Exchange Commission ahead of is IPO. A very long document but worth searching through for the shopping list of issues facing the company. (SEC)

Monday Briefing – 15 April 2019

London Air Travel

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (Image Credit: Jet Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 15 April 2019.

Jet Airways

There is a book to be written about Etihad’s string of disastrous minority investments in airlines.

In near repeat of Swissair’s Qualiflyer alliance, almost every one has been an unmitigated failure: Air Berlin; Alitalia. And of course Jet Airways. It’s not as if there were no warning signs. Alitalia had been through numerous recapitalisations. Many European airlines that could have bought Air Berlin outright had declined to do so.

Jet Airways has long been insolvent and by any standard should have ceased trading some time ago, let alone continue to take forward bookings which after a brief pause over the weekend it is now continuing to do. Over the weekend, hundreds of Jet Airways employees have protested outside New Delhi and Mumbai airports against unpaid salaries – a reminder of the significant human cost of the airline’s troubles.

The one sensible thing Etihad did was take ownership Alitalia and Jet Airways’ Heathrow slots. Jet Airways’ three daily Heathrow slot pairs are to be returned to Etihad and its intentions should become clear in the next couple of weeks.

Virgin Atlantic wants to be loved

Virgin Atlantic launched its latest Upper Class cabin with typical fanfare last week.

There was less positive news when the airline revealed another financial loss. Worse still, the airline does not expect to return to profitability until 2021.

Virgin Atlantic’s ambition is now to be “the world’s most loved travel company”. It has a new three year business plan “Velocity” which runs until 2021. Green joins purple and red in its colour scheme to signify its commitment to sustainability. Virgin is also promising much greater integration between Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays.

As well as taking delivery of four Airbus A350-1000 aircraft this year, it will reduce the number of Airbus A340 aircraft from 7 to 3 this year. The remaining 3 have been taken under the airline’s ownership.

The Connect Airways consortium expects to secure regulatory approval for its purchase of Flybe in the third quarter of this year. It is at this point the consortium can exercise financial and operational control over Flybe. In the interim, the consortium has provided Flybe with £135m of funding to maintain the airline’s operations.

In case you missed it:

JetBlue publicly states its ambition to fly from London from 2021. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

Qantas’ CEO of Qantas International Alison Webster abruptly departs the airline. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Qantas looks at the work of its in-house meteorologists. (Qantas)

UK domestic flights fall 20% in a decade. (Financial Times)

Jet Airways Suspends London – Mumbai / New Delhi

Jet Airways has now removed flights from London Heathrow to Mumbai and New Delhi from sale indefinitely.

London Air Travel

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (Image Credit: Jet Airways)

Following the cancellation of Jet Airways’ flights from London Heathrow to Mumbai and New Delhi since Friday 12 April 2019, Jet Airways has now removed these routes from sale permanently.

These routes had been removed from sale until Friday 26 April 2019. However, this has now been extended indefinitely.

At present Jet Airways is only operating a very limited number of domestic flights. At most only a handful of Jet Airways flights are operating at any one time.

Jet Airways’ three daily London Heathrow slot pairs were leased from Etihad which took back the slots on Friday.

Taking account of these developments, short of a near miraculous injection of capital from a new investor, there is no reasonable prospect of Jet Airways returning to London Heathrow.

Jet Airways’ route to Mumbai was codeshared with Virgin Atlantic who also codeshared with the airline on a number of domestic routes in India. This does leave Virgin Atlantic without a codeshare partner in India. Virgin has mooted a return to Mumbai, a route it has previously suspended twice.

Virgin Atlantic is offering passengers who have booked codeshare flights on Jet Airways through Virgin a full refund, or the opportunity to rebook or reroute. Full details are on the Virgin Atlantic website.

Update: Jet Airways has now put flights from London Heathrow to Mumbai and New Delhi back on sale from Friday 26 April 2019. However, it remains far from certain that they will actually operate.

Update 2: Jet Airways has published a full list of cancellations. It states that its London routes are cancelled until Thursday 18 April 2019. However, again, it remains far from certain that they will actually operate.

Jet Airways Transfers Heathrow Slots To Etihad

Jet Airways has permanently transferred its Heathrow slots to Etihad Airways.

London Air Travel

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (Image Credit: Jet Airways)

Jet Airways has transferred its Heathrow slots to Etihad Airways.

Airport Coordination Ltd, which is responsible for governing slot trades at London Heathrow, has reported a permanent transfer of Jet Airways’ three daily slot pairs to Etihad. This follows significant disruption to Jet Airways’ operations and the recent cancellation of flights from London Heathrow.

Jet Airways - Etihad Heathrow Slot Swap
Jet Airways – Etihad Heathrow Slot Swap (Image Credit: Airport Coordination Limited)

It is likely that these slots were originally leased from Etihad to Jet Airways, after Etihad acquired slots from Jet Airways when it originally bought a stake in the airline.

The transfer officially takes effect from Sunday 28 April 2019. In the absence of any alternative arrangements this means that Jet Airways Heathrow operations will effectively end.

It is not clear at the moment what Etihad will do with the slots. Under “use it or lose it” rules Etihad will need to either lease the slots to another airline and operate them itself.

Jet Airways London Heathrow Cancellations

Jet Airways flights from London Heathrow are subject to cancellation.

London Air Travel

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (Image Credit: Jet Airways)

Jet Airways had been in financial distress for many months due to heavy financial losses and an over indebted balance sheet. Its domestic operations have been subject to signifiant disruption as aircraft have been grounded.

This has now extended to its international operations. Flights have already been operating without in-flight entertainment over the past week and some international routes outside of London have been cancelled.

Jet Airways flies from London Heathrow to New Delhi and Mumbai. The latter route is also codeshared with Virgin Atlantic.

All Jet Airways flights from London Heathrow are showing as cancelled on Friday 12, Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 April 2019:

Flight 9W119 London Heathrow – Mumbai
Flight 9W117 London Heathrow – Mumbai
Flight 9W121 London Heathrow – New Delhi

These flights have also been taken off sale from its website on Saturday 13 April 2019. Until Monday 15 April 2019, Jet Airways is expected to operate only a very limited number of domestic flights.

Jet Airways has provided limited disruption assistance advice on its website. Whilst it is promising full refunds to passengers, there is a long list of creditors, including its own pilots, who are owed money by the airline.

In anticipation of disruption Virgin Atlantic has confirmed that passengers who have booked to fly on Virgin Atlantic with onward connections to Jet Airways can either obtain a refund or rebook to an alternative date or destination. More details are available from Virgin Atlantic.

Whilst efforts are being made to find new investors in Jet Airways, this is clearly a fluid situation. Given the airline’s debts, widespread operational disruption and loss of confidence in the airline, it is hard to see what assets are left for any willing potential purchaser.

About Jet Airways

Jet Airways was founded in 1993 and was once India’s largest airline by market share. It began flying from London Heathrow in 2005 following a relaxation of a bilateral treaty which allowed more flights between the UK and India. Etihad acquired a 24% stake in the airline in 2013, and this is the latest in a truly disastrous string of investments by Etihad.

In the event of continued disruption it’s not clear what happens to Jet Airways’ Heathrow slots as Etihad did acquire three slot pairs from Jet Airways when it acquired a stake in the airline.

Update: Jet Airways’ Heathrow slots have been transferred to Etihad.