Monday Briefing – 26 November 2018

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British Airways Boeing 767-300 G-BNWP Pictured 1999
British Airways Boeing 767-300 G-BNWP Pictured 1999

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 26 November 2018.

Who Wants To Buy An Airline Like Flybe?

Speculation over the future of Flybe accelerated last week.

Mark Kleinman of Sky News, one of the most consistently reliable sources of business scoops, revealed that Virgin Atlantic is actively looking at a bid for the airline. This was confirmed by both sides.

For an airline that has always attempted to exude glamour and has had only brief forays into the world of short-haul in its near 35 year history, short-haul regional flying is a world away from Virgin’s Clubhouses and Upper Class bars. We take a look at why Virgin may be interested in Flybe here.

The Sunday Telegraph also reported that according to “aviation sources” IAG is a front-runner to buy Flybe. Do bear in mind that, based on the track record of the Sunday papers, “aviation sources” could be anybody.

It is also hard to reconcile this with IAG’s historical approach of buying airlines that either buttress its existing hubs or have strong leadership positions at their own hubs.

Its airlines have also shown little relatively interest in regional airports. Both Aer Lingus and Iberia rely on franchise partners for regional flights. Indeed, Aer Lingus has actually scaled back from UK regional airports. It will also be recalled that BA sold its troubled “BA Connect” regional business to Flybe ten years ago and since disposed of a stake in the airline. IAG of course also has its sights set on Norwegian, which is exactly the sort of “transformational” deal it pursues.

BA Retires The Boeing 767

BA finally retires its last two remaining Boeing 767 aircraft today.

The last two remaining aircraft will fly from Heathrow to The Ministry Of Defence in St Athan. It completed its last passenger flight last night, BA663 from Larnaca, arriving at London Heathrow Terminal 5 at 22:34.

BA’s press photographer flew out to catch the final flight from Heathrow landing in Larnaca, so pictures of the final flights should be available shortly.

In other fleet news, BA took delivery of its first Airbus A321 Neo aircraft last week. This is the first of 10 to be delivered to the airline over the next two years.

BA CityFlyer is also wet-leasing a former Virgin Australia Embraer E190 from Stobart Air, with a dedicated business class cabin.

Frequent Flyer Programmes: Up In The Air

2019 is a potentially interesting year for frequent flyer programmes.

In the UK, the field is dominated by the BA Executive Club and its Avios currency. However, a number of BA’s rivals are starting to make moves.

easyJet has confirmed it is to launch its own frequent flyer currency next year which members will able to redeem for as yet unspecified rewards.

Virgin Atlantic is to also spin-off its Flying Club frequent flyer programme in to a separate legal entity and launch a new loyalty programme which will partner with Air France-KLM.

Back to BA, at some point it is expected to revamp the Executive Club with the possibility of Avios awarded according to the price of the flight and dynamic pricing of reward flights.

BA Returns To Doha

In what must be the longest streak of cancellations without suspending a route, BA returns to Doha this Saturday 1 December after a break of 8 months.

Flights had been cancelled to release aircraft due to maintenance checks on the Boeing 787 fleet. It seems Doha has been spared further cancellations as BA is to continue to wet lease an Airbus A340 from Air Belgium to cover one return flight to Dubai until late March 2019.

Also of note this week:

Air France is to cut its Airbus A380 fleet in half as five aircraft will be returned to lessors. Expect this to be the first of many fleet changes under new leadership from Ben Smith. (Les Echos)

Finnair continues its retrospective to mark its 95th birthday, looking back at pilot uniforms. (Finnair)

The FT interviews Flybondi CEO Julian Cook on breaking into the Argentina’s domestic market. (Financial Times)

Late Post Publication Updates:

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

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