Monday Briefing – 30 April 2018

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BOAC Boeing 747-136 aircraft
BOAC Boeing 747-136 aircraft (Image Credit: British Airways)

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 30 April 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week, and a look the week ahead.

Alex Cruz interviewed

Two years in to his role as CEO of British Airways, Alex Cruz has been something of a lightning rod for criticism of the airline.

Whatever the complaint, the finger of blame is pointed squarely at Alex. The reality is far more complex. Some decisions, such as not installing a new Club World seat on Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 aircraft, were made before his arrival. Many decisions, such as required levels of profitability on short-haul, are set by the parent company IAG and are outside of his control.

Alex made a number of public appearances last week, including the Routes Online conference in Bilbao, where he was interviewed by John Strickland.

As with any interview, Alex is constrained by the fact that some initiatives have to remain commercially confidential and City rules require any significant announcements to be announced by IAG to the Stock Exchange first.

However, there were some points of note:

– Alex is adamant that lessons have been learned from last May’s IT outage, both in terms of IT resilience and customer support.

– First Class is going to remain at BA, but it will continue to be downsized, as it has been over the past 20 years. It is expected that some four class Boeing 777-200 aircraft will be converted to three class and it seems inevitable that First will go from more routes as the Boeing 747 is retired.

– The much anticipated new Club World seat is still in development. So the seat you will see on Iberia’s soon-to-be-unveiled Airbus A350-900 aircraft will not be installed on BA’s Airbus A350-1000 when it arrives in 2019. Alex understandably did not give much away about the new cabin. However, it will be an entirely new seat and cabin layout for BA. There are 11 defined parameters such as direct aisle access for all and greater privacy.

– It has been known for some time that Club Europe catering is going to be reviewed again. However, as this was initially planned for April, it is going to be delayed for a few months.

– Buy-On-Board catering on short-haul is going to evolve with the possibility of pre-ordering food and improved options for the use of Avios and possible changes for Executive Club members.

– There is a strong emphasis on improving BA’s ground services, both in terms of departure punctuality and premium ground services. You may have noticed dedicated First Class areas at baggage belts for arrivals at Heathrow from New York JFK and initiatives such as this are to extended.

British Airways: 100 Years In The Sky

A clear leitmotif of Alex Cruz’s interview is that the airline is acutely conscious that it needs to be putting its best foot forward for its centenary year in 2019.

Channel 5 will take a look at the history of BA in a two part series “British Airways: 100 Years in the Sky”.

The first episode airs at 21:00 on Tuesday 1 May 2018 and will be available to watch on demand at My5 after broadcast.

The programme is produced by Title Role Productions whose related credits include World’s Wildest Flights.

Judging by the trailer and the absence of a BA press release, BA has not actively participated in the programme. However, there seems to be plenty of archive footage from its predecessor airlines, such as BOAC (pictured above).

On a related note, “Britain’s Busiest Airport” returns to ITV at 20:00 on Wednesday 2 May 2018.

IAG & Norwegian First Quarter Results

Norwegian reported its first quarter results last Friday, showing a widening operating loss year on year.

Norwegian is having little difficulty filling its planes. Making money whilst doing so is proving more of a challenge and will remain so as the fuel price continues its upward trajectory.

The real story is that Norwegian has appointed advisors following IAG’s expression of interest in Norwegian which has inevitably been followed by other airlines who at the very least want to have a look at the books. This means it is clear that Norwegian is prepared to entertain bids.

The Sunday Times has a well researched article on how Norwegian keeps flying.

IAG will report its first quarter results, this coming Friday 4 May. Few surprises are expected. IAG CEO Willie Walsh will inevitably be asked about a possible bid for Norwegian, but is unlikely to give much away.

BA Winter Schedule

BA has started to update its schedules for the start of the Winter Season on Sunday 28 October 2018.

London Heathrow – Santiago increases from 4 to 5 times weekly and Washington Dulles gains an extra three weekly flights.

More announcements are expected, particularly for Gatwick short-haul as BA has yet to announce its schedules for the extra 20-odd slots it acquired from Monarch beyond the summer.

Airbus A350 ULR Test Flight

The Ultra Long Range version of the Airbus A350 took its first test flight last week.

Singapore Airlines, which has ordered seven of the aircraft, is expected to reinstate a non-stop service from Singapore to Newark by the end of the year, with Singapore – Los Angeles to follow in 2019.

Qantas has also tasked Airbus and Boeing to produce proposals for aircraft that could fly from London to Melbourne and Sydney non-stop. (CNN)

Bank Holiday Travel

A quick reminder that due to engineering works the Heathrow Express will not run at all on Sunday 6 May 2018.

The Heathrow Connect service will also not run on Sunday 6 May. Services on Saturday 5 and Monday 7 May are also subject to alteration.

The Circle line is also closed for the entire weekend.

Lufthansa introduces AnyWay Travel Pass from Hong Kong to Europe

Lufthansa has introduced an “AnyWay Travel Pass” for travel from Hong Kong to select destinations in Europe for travel between 20 May 2018 and 27 October 2018.

Put simply, you choose your final destination in Europe and Lufthansa will advise of your precise routing on one of its group airlines up to two days before departure.

This does seem a smart way for Lufthansa to manage demand across its respective hubs and match demand to capacity accordingly.

France Is Not In The Air

Trade unions representing certain Air France staff have called for further industrial action on Thursday 3, Friday 4, Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 May 2018.

Air France is awaiting the outcome of a non-binding direct electronic ballot of its employees on its pay off, which trade unions had rejected. Air France CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac has intimated that he would resign if the offer is not accepted. Reuters reports that one trade union has urged staff to accept the offer.

Also of note this week:

Stefano Paleari one of the Commissioners responsible for the Alitalia administration process speaks to Il Sole 24 Ore. (Il Sole 24 Ore)

BA finally improves the coffee in Club World. (London Air Travel)

Has British Airways “really gone to the dogs” asks Michael Skapinker. (the article is quite balanced but the FT inserted the word “really” in the headline shortly after initial publication). (Financial Times)

Nashville and Williamson County Tennessee prepare to welcome BA from Friday 4 May. (Williamson Herald)

The BBC Travel Show takes a look at 90 years of the Royal Flying Doctor service in Australia. (BBC)

Ryanair has exercised options to purchase 25 Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft, taking its total order to 135 aircraft. (Ryanair)

Thomas Cook has issued its 2nd annual Holiday Report. (Thomas Cook)

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