Monday Briefing – 17 September 2018

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CNN Hurricane Florence Typhoon Mangkhut Coverage
CNN Hurricane Florence Typhoon Mangkhut Coverage (Image Credit: CNN International)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 17 September 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

Hurricane Florence and Super Typhoon Mangkhut

Hurricane Florence and Super Typhoon Mangkhut have dominated the news over the weekend. Both have caused considerable disruption at a substantial human and environmental cost.

In terms of disruption to flights, Hurricane Florence has now been downgraded to a Tropical Depression. There is still disruption to some coastal airports in the Carolinas due to flooding and infrastructure damage. Transatlantic flights from London seem to have largely escaped disruption.

For US domestic flights, American Airlines has largely resumed operations at its hub in Charlotte. However, some cancellations remain. Delta and United have been progressively resuming flights throughout the region.

BA, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic resumed flights from London Heathrow to Hong Kong on Sunday after widespread cancellations on Saturday. Cathay Pacific is now progressively resuming flight operations at Hong Kong. However, there are widespread cancellations today.

BA Catering

BA and catering have long had a troubled relationship.

In December 1997, the airline outsourced its catering operation to Gate Gourmet. Matters flared up in a quite spectacular fashion in the summer of 2005 when an industrial dispute at the company resulted in no catering on BA flights at Heathrow. To make matters worse, some BA ground staff at London Heathrow took wildcat industrial action in support of the workers resulting in days of disruption in the height of summer at a cost to the airline of £40m and negative publicity worldwide.

Given how much the UK’s reputation for food has improved over the past 20 years, for an airline keen to emphasis its Britishness, it has been a source of mystery why BA hasn’t made this more of a point of differentiation.

One answer is that as the catering budget is one of the airline’s few controllable costs, it is an easy target for a repeated cycle of investment and cutbacks.

However, with new Club Europe catering being, by all accounts, well received and Do&Co securing a new contract for the entire Heathrow operation there does seem a genuine desire to improve matters.

If we had one criticism there is still a little too much emphasis on serving what people think Britons eat (eg Full English breakfasts, Afternoon Tea) instead of what Britons actually eat.

Given BA is due to refurbish its London Heathrow lounges in the coming years, a logical progression would be to review catering and service provision in the lounges.

BaxterStorey has been responsible for catering provision in BA’s UK lounges since May 2013. Unlike Qantas, for example, where Sofitel run its international lounges, BA not opted to appoint a premium hospitality brand to run the food and beverage service in its lounges. I would not be surprised to see this reviewed.

The World’s Favourite Advertising Client

In the dog-eat-dog world of advertising there is no account relationship subject to more fascination and industry comment than the British Airways account.

It’s still an account that carries prestige far in excess of the revenue it generates for advertising agencies. On a good day, it can still also result in some of the most creative and groundbreaking advertising.

BA’s relationship with Saatchi and Saatchi is one of the great stories of both 1980s advertising and BA’s pre-privatisation turnaround. BBH prized the account away from M&C Saatchi in 2005 and whilst it did take a while for them to get into their stride and there were a lot of bumps along the way, they produced a lot of great work.

The account is now held by Ogilvy. Under both Saatchi and BBH, BA produced its best work when it was in a position of confidence. It has been seven years since BBH relaunched the brand with the “To Fly. To Serve.” campaign and five years since the last major TV advertising campaign.

Given the recent data breach, BA is likely to keep its head down for a while. But with easyJet and Virgin Atlantic both launching brand-led campaigns last weekend and Heathrow running regular brand-led campaigns (something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago), the absence of a major “Masterbrand” campaign from BA is noticeable. These are not simply done for prestige. They can also play an important role in motivating a global and remote workforce of tens of thousands of employees.

Given BA’s centenary next year and the launch of the new Club World seat, Ogilvy’s work will be much anticipated.

American Airlines & BA giving away free business class flights

American Airlines & British Airways Altitude Academy - London, September 2018
American Airlines & British Airways Altitude Academy – London, September 2018 (Image Credit: American Airlines/British Airways)

If you’re in the vicinity of Canary Wharf this week then it’s worth visiting the joint American Airlines / BA “Altitude Academy”.

Dubbed “Fly The Best Of Both Worlds”, which you’d be forgiven for thinking meant flying an American Airlines business class seat on a BA Airbus A380, the promotion is intended to showcase American Airlines and BA’s transatlantic network and premium cabins and service.

Across four different zones, you will be able to take part in games and challenges to win business class tickets to the US on Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 September. More details here.

How do you get to Dundee?

The V&A Dundee opened this weekend.

Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, it is hoped that a new outpost of the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington will do for Dundee what the Guggenheim museum did for Bilbao.

From a cursory scan of airline timetables the only link between London and Dundee airport is a Loganair flight from Stansted which operates up to twice daily.

Hopefully more inbound tourism to Dundee may prompt more routes from London.

BA receives its 29th Boeing Dreamliner

BA received its 11th Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner last weekend, which together with 18 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, taking its 787 fleet to 29 aircraft.

Aircraft G-ZBJK arrived at Heathrow on Thursday and is currently scheduled to jet off to Rio de Janeiro tomorrow. This will provide some relief for what has been a very stretched schedule.

The airline is expected to take delivery of another Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and then 12 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners by 2021.

East and West Side Story

Finnair has long been keen to emphasise its role as a gateway between East and West.

It has been steadily expanding its network from Helsinki to Asia. Together with the operator of Helsinki airport it has released a mini-film East and West Side Story on a planned encounter between a New York based writer and a photographer in Seoul.

Filmed by two separate Directors, this should be commended for both its original story and the quality of its production values in a field where truly original ideas are few and far between.

Also of note this week:

The Financial Times interviews Flybe CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener. (Financial Times)

Late Post Publication Updates:

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

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