Monday Briefing – 3 September 2018

Welcome to our weekly Monday Briefing on the main developments in air travel in London and around the world, as published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST.

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BA CityFlyer, CitJet, FlyVLM, KLM
BA CityFlyer, CitJet, FlyVLM, KLM (Image Credits: Respective Airlines)

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 3 September 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week, and a look to the week ahead.

London City

London City airport was once one of London’s better kept secrets.

It wasn’t the most accessible but, whilst passengers grappled with long security queues at a Heathrow once heavily prone to disruption, those in the know headed East for a much less stressful experience.

Its aficionados wanted the airport to stay that way. But, just like an up-and-coming neighbourhood on the cusp of gentrification, the big boys soon moved in.

BA CityFlyer has gone from almost next to nothing in ten years to by far the most dominant airline at the airport. With a degree of autonomy from its parent, it has been aided by a fleet of shiny new Embraers and a very strong frequent flyer base in the airport’s catchment.

BA has confirmed it is had to add four Embraer E190s to its fleet in 2019 – though from whom it is not known. It has already announced a new route to Rome and is expected to add more next year. The Embraer aircraft are one of the few reliable pleasures in short-haul travel in Europe. To cut a long story short, for industrial relations reasons, the seating capacity of these aircraft is capped at less than 100 seats. So they have been spared the “densification” that has befallen their larger Airbus cousins at Gatwick and Heathrow.

Advertisements for BA at London City airport
Advertisements for BA at London City airport (Image Credit: BJL for BA CityFlyer Ltd)

Other European airlines such as Flybe, TAP and LOT (launching two new routes to Budapest and Warsaw next year), have followed to London City.

Smaller airlines have not been so fortunate. BA CityFlyer has seen off CityJet on many routes. This is now to the point where CityJet is withdrawing all scheduled flights from the airport from the end of October 2018. Of its remaining routes, Florence will end in September and Dublin will be operated as a wet-lease for Aer Lingus from the end of October.

Another once dominant airline at London City, VLM, also announced last Friday it is going to into liquidation.

For now it seems that London City’s ambitions will be restricted to short-haul. When BA launched its all business class Club World London City service to New York JFK (with a refuelling stop and Customs & Immigration pre-clearance in Shannon) in September 2009, it was hoped that this would presage many more long-haul routes, but this has not come to pass.

Odyssey Airlines had planned to launch its own all business class long-haul service to New York, but news in this regard has been very quiet. Unless a major corporate client is prepared to effectively guarantee a route, it is unlikely to happen.

OpenSkies 2008-2018

BA OpenSkies Sign - New York JFK airport
BA OpenSkies Sign – New York JFK airport (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

On the theme of niche premium airlines, at the time of “going to press” OpenSkies flight BA8004 will be completing its final fight from Newark to Paris Orly.

It will very shortly join eos, MaxJet and Silverjet on the list of defunct niche premium airlines. It also joins Air Liberte and Deutsche BA in BA’s unsuccessful forays into mainland Europe.

We took a look at the history of OpenSkies in our Wednesday Atlantic Update in mid-August.

BA Club World

Club World has been described as the “profit engine” of BA.

It is by far the airline’s most important cabin. Its financial performance is inextricably linked to the volume of Club World traffic.

It is also the engine of a supertanker. With around 7,500 seats across seven different types of aircraft it is taking more than a year to train thousands of cabin crew and re-equip caterers at more than 70 airports to upgrade its in-flight catering. One year since the new catering has been introduced we take a look based on a number of transatlantic flights.

Club Europe, by contrast, is the great survivor.

Its days have seemed to be numbered on more than one occasion. BA has in the past looked at scrapping it altogether, at least at Gatwick. However, a combination of transfer traffic, premium leisure customers and the few corporates (anecdotally, relatively small organisations) that allow it keep it going. Although no official announcement has been made, BA is expected to upgrade the catering from Wednesday 12 September 2018.

The changes are relatively modest. It is heavily constrained by the available galley space on “densified” Airbus aircraft and new Airbus A320 neo aircraft. The most significant change is expected to be a faster rotation of menus and improvements to choice served on flights of around two hours to destinations such as Barcelona.

In case you missed it

Air Belgium to operate London Heathrow – Cairo for BA. (London Air Travel)

Late Post Publication Updates:

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

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