Monday Briefing – 8 April 2019

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Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 aircraft
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 aircraft (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 8 April 2019.

Virgin Atlantic unveils new Upper Class Cabin today

Virgin Atlantic unveils its new Upper Class cabin today. The new seat will make its debut on the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss has given a preview of the new cabin in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

The new cabin will feature all forward facing seats. The signature Upper Class bar will be replaced by an 8 seat lounge area, something Upper Class used to have in its early days.

From the supporting image the colour scheme looks very different, with a maroon seat coverings and fabrics. The use of a colour associated with control and being thoughtful, perhaps, reflects another step by Virgin to break from its “look at me” past.

Virgin is due to take delivery of 4 A350-1000 aircraft this year, with a further 8 aircraft to be delivered by 2021. These will operate at both Heathrow and Gatwick, with separate configurations for both airports.

Shai Weiss also indicates that Virgin is looking at further expansion, having already announced Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv. A return to Mumbai and Tokyo is under consideration, as is the launch of Beijing.

On a less positive note, Virgin is expected to report a financial loss for 2018. There will inevitably be comparisons between BA Club World and Virgin’s new Upper Class but, as Shai Weiss indicates, the real battle will be for corporate customers and frequent flyers through its expanded partnership with Air France-KLM. Given the stark difference in financial performance between BA and Virgin, this seems critical to turning around its fortunes.

Trouble at Jet Airways

Jet Airways has for many months been seeking new financing as it grapples with heavy losses and an indebted balance sheet.

It has defaulted on loan payments. Many creditors, as well as its pilots, have not been paid. This has resulted in many cancellations to domestic flights as aircraft have been grounded. Potential investors in the airline have been invited to make submissions of interest by tomorrow.

Whilst London Heathrow flights to Delhi and Mumbai have continued to operate as scheduled, it appears that these are now operating without any in-flight entertainment. This is presumably because licensors of content have not been paid.

The rules of airline PR (Part 1)

One of the many rules of airline PR is that airlines should only announce something, whether a new seat or route, when it is actually ready.

Partly this is out of expectations management, which is what any service provision is fundamentally about.

This is also so you don’t give your competitors too much advance notice. JetBlue’s planned launch of transatlantic flights to Europe which, if not announced on Wednesday will be the biggest damp squib in history, has been trailed for so long, Delta has already got a head start with planned flights from Gatwick to Boston and New York JFK next year.

The rules of airline PR (Part 2)

Another rule of airline PR is that when you mess up, you need to just say so and apologise.

Flybe produced a shopping list of excuses following a number of short notice cancellations last week. It has also confirmed that it will no longer base aircraft and crews at Cardiff and Doncaster from 1 October 2019. If the last weeks of BA Connect before it was absorbed into Flybe were anything to go by, matters may get worse before they get better. It is also likely to be some time before Virgin, which will be acutely aware of the early days of Virgin Trains, puts its brand name on Flybe aircraft.

New Istanbul Airport Opens

Istanbul’s new international airport has opened this weekend.

Turkish Airlines has successfully transferred its flights to the new airport, as has BA. The new international airport has acquired the code IST from Ataturk airport which will no longer be used for scheduled passenger traffic.

In case you missed it:

BA’s Geneva lounge is to close for refurbishment on Tuesday 28 May 2019. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

Air Traffic Control delays in Europe are expected to get worse this summer. (Financial Times)

Monocle 24 continues its radio series on the “golden age” of aviation with a visit to the Museum of Flight and Teague Seattle. (Monocle 24)

Late Post Publication Updates:

After falling out of the Top 20 last year, BA makes a return to the Top 10 in the UK’s “Superbrands” survey for 2019 as the No 5 Consumer Superbrand and No 4 Business Superbrand. (Superbrands)

We welcome any thoughts and comments below: