Monday Briefing – 1 October 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

A BOAC operated Canadair Argonaut aircraft Hong King airport, circa 1950.
A BOAC operated Canadair Argonaut aircraft Hong King airport, circa 1950 (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 1 October 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

London – Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a destination that BA has, through its predecessor airlines Imperial Airways and BOAC, served for more than 80 years.

The first flight from London to Hong Kong, on 14 March 1936, took ten days, required seven aircraft, and stopped at 24 cities en route.

Today, the two cities with significant economic and historic links, are served direct by three airlines using some of the most advanced commercial aircraft.

It’s a prestigious route for BA. When BA launched fully flat beds in Club World nearly 20 years ago, Hong Kong was the second route to fly with the new cabin after New York JFK. It was the second route after Los Angeles to be operated with the Airbus A380 in 2013.

BA has long faced a formidable competitor in the form its Oneworld alliance partner Cathay Pacific. It’s an airline hailed for its attentive service and vast lounge complex in Hong Kong. In recent years, Cathay has gained a number of competitive advantages. After its initially unpopular business class bed, criticised for being too narrow, it has a seat with direct aisle access. It has also added premium economy and widely acclaimed business and First Class lounges at Heathrow Terminal 3.

It dwarfs BA on frequency at Heathrow, flying five times a day, in addition to daily flights from Gatwick. Aided by the Airbus A350, Cathay Pacific has also added many destinations in Europe including Barcelona (seasonal), Brussels, Dublin, Madrid and Zurich.

There are signs this is hitting BA hard. A cursory scan of flights shows substantial differences between business class fares between BA and Cathay Pacific. Last week, BA also announced that it is closing its cabin crew base in Hong Kong with the loss of more than 80 jobs.

Hong Kong is a route BA has no option but to make work. An equivalent of its joint-business with Japan Airlines which enables easier access to local corporate clients and distribution networks, even if Cathay Pacific were so minded, would not be allowed by competition authorities.

Some measures such as new lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5 and a new Club World seat will come, but don’t be surprised to see more activity to improve the financial performance of this route.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 1 October 2018”

Monday Briefing – 24 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Emirates Airbus A380 Heathrow
Emirates Airbus A380 Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 24 September 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

Emirates and Etihad

For a time it seemed that the future of air travel have pivoted permanently towards the Middle East.

With favourable Government support, geographic advantages, relatively unrestricted operating conditions and seemingly unlimited budgets, all the Big Three Middle Eastern airlines had to do was announce blockbuster aircraft orders at air shows, launch ever more capacious First and business class cabins, run celebrity endorsed ad campaigns and the traffic would just come its way. European and US airlines seemed positively pedestrian and spartan by comparison.

However, reality did not quite work out like that.

Etihad pursued a disastrous strategy of acquiring minority stakes in troubled European airlines such as Air Berlin and Alitalia that haemorrhaged cash. It has been heavily loss making, having reported a loss before exceptional items of USD$ 1.52 billion for 2017. The airline has also suspended routes, significantly curtailed its growth plans, and put aircraft orders under review.

Bloomberg, a traditionally cautious and reliable news outlet, reported last week that Emirates is in talks to acquire Etihad. Leaving aisle the regional politics of such a merger, in which we are not well versed, this deal will not escape the attention of regulators in both Europe and Australia.

Etihad codeshares with Air France and KLM on flights between Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi and from their respective hubs. Etihad has similar agreements with Lufthansa from its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich. Surprisingly, there’s no such relationship with Virgin Atlantic.

It owns just over 20% of Virgin Australia and has an extensive codeshare relationship. Qantas and Emirates also have their own joint-venture covering Australia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

It is implausible that the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (or indeed Qantas or Virgin Australia) would allow both joint-ventures to continue under single ownership. Given Virgin Australia’s complex shareholding structure shared between rival airlines with conflicting priorities, it is likely that a combined Emirates and Etihad would let this fall by the wayside.

Closer to home, Etihad currently operates three departures a day from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. It also owns Alitalia’s Heathrow slots, which currently operates six daily departures to Italy. As such, a deal could more than double Emirates’ capacity at Heathrow of six daily flights.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 24 September 2018”

Monday Briefing – 17 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

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.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 17 September 2018”

Monday Briefing – 10 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz Media Appearances Friday 7 September 2018
British Airways CEO Alex Cruz Media Appearances Friday 7 September 2018 (Image Credit: BBC, CNN, ITV News)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 10 September 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

BA Customer Data Breach – Additional Guidance

BA has over the weekend updated its advice page on its well publicised data breach.

Additional advice published on Sunday 9 September includes:

– Telephone numbers provided during the booking process were not compromised.

– Customers who used PayPal to pay for a flight will not have had their PayPal accounts compromised, but there is some risk that personal information was accessed.

– Passengers who used Apple Pay to pay for a flight through the mobile app are not affected.

– Passengers who attempted to pay for a flight but the transaction was unsuccessful would have had their data compromised.

– Passengers who made changes to their bookings free of charge would not have had their data compromised.

– Bookings cancelled or refunded during the breach are not affected.

The Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Cyber Security Centre (part of GCHQ) will also be providing periodic updates.

We will also keep our page updated as the story develops.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 10 September 2018”

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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

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.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 3 September 2018”

Monday Briefing – 27 August 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

British Airways 99th Birthday Montage
British Airways 99th Birthday Montage (Image Credits: British Airways)

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 27 August 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week, and a look to the week ahead.

BA prepares for its centenary year

If you were flying through Heathrow Terminal 5 on Saturday you may have noticed celebrations for BA’s 99th birthday.

The airline’s official birthday is 25 August when, in 1919, a De Havilland DH4A aircraft flew from Hounslow Heath to Paris. This marked the world’s first scheduled international transportation service.

Although the celebrations were relatively low key, this really should be seen as a small taster of what is to come next year. It will celebrate its centenary. No doubt preparations are well underway and the airline will need to be putting its best foot forward. Next year we will of course see a new Club World seat as BA takes delivery of the first of 16 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

On a related note, here are some archive images of one of the most defining aircraft of the airline’s history, Concorde.

Qantas reiterates commitment to non-stop London – Sydney flights

Qantas released its annual results last week.

Its CEO Alan Joyce described the new direct London Heathrow – Perth service as the “highest rating” service for customer advocacy on the Qantas network.

Only Qantas knows the exact financial performance of the route, and is never going to divulge anything beyond vague comments. However, the route has at least proven successful operationally, with little by way of known teething problems or technical issues.

Qantas has reiterated that it is actively in discussions with Airbus and Boeing for aircraft for non-stop flights from London to Sydney from 2022. A final decision should be made next year.

In its investor presentation, Qantas did refer to the UK as one of its slowest growing markets that is suffering from overcapacity. With that in mind, it is likely that any direct service would replace Qantas’ existing Airbus A380 service from London to Sydney via Singapore. This is in the same way that that the non-stop Perth flight replaced the Airbus A380 service from London to Melbourne via Dubai. It is also highly unlikely that Qantas will go back to four daily services from London of ten years ago.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner issues continue

Time for a mea culpa.

Last week we said that BA’s schedules should be returning to normal after wet-leases from Qatar Airways to cover some flights had ended. This is now evidently not the case. BA has, once again, grounded some of its Boeing 787 fleet and instituted blanket cancellations to Doha, Los Angles and Mumbai.

Air New Zealand also confirmed last week it is continuing to lease in aircraft (one Boeing 777-300 and two Boeing 777-200) to cover grounded aircraft. It has also changed schedules to release aircraft capacity.

Singapore Airlines Brand Review

A little over six months ago, Channel 4 (UK) broadcast an hour long documentary “The World’s Most Luxurious Airline”.

It followed the design and launch of Singapore Airlines’ latest Airbus A380 First Class seats. There were the predictable production devices of the juxtaposition of the worlds of First Class and the everyday and Alan Partridge moments from carefully cast and edited contributors.

The Twittering classes duly followed the prescribed hashtag and engaged in the typical gentle mocking of the programme. However, a cloud darkened and the mood took an abrupt turn when the programme turned to Singapore Airlines’ stringent cabin crew recruitment processes for “Singapore Girl”.

Apropos of nothing, Singapore Airlines has invited marketing agencies to pitch to the airline for, inter alia, “fresh perspective on how the Singapore Airlines brand should be modernised”.

Airlines around the world from easyJet to Qantas are actively seeking to increase recruitment of female pilots. TUI was admonished in the UK press last week because some cabin crew handed out “Future Pilot” and “Future Cabin Crew” children’s stickers along gender lines.

There’s nothing inherently wrong in promoting highly trained and attentive front line staff. However, Singapore Girl is literally a product of the 1970s and Singapore Airlines is likely to face a backlash at some point unless it changes direction.

Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 27 August 2018”

Monday Briefing – 20 August 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

BA Boeing 787 at British Airways Maintenance Cardiff
BA Boeing 787 at British Airways Maintenance Cardiff (Image Credit: British Airways)

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 20 August 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week, and a look to the week ahead.

BA Boeing 787 Operations Return To Normal

BA’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner operations appear to be returning to normal after it was required to carry out additional maintenance checks on their Rolls-Royce engines.

The wet lease of Qatar Airways A330 aircraft comes to end this week, with wet leases on London Heathrow – Dehli (flights BA143/BA142) and London Heathrow – Muscat (flights BA79/80) routes ending today.

At present, just 1 Boeing 787-8 aircraft out of 28 Boeing 787 aircraft is grounded. Aircraft G-ZBJE last flew in March. This compares to 7 grounded aircraft in early June.

There’s less good news for the London Heathrow – Doha route. In what must be a record for the most cancellations without suspending a route, its period of cancellation has been extended yet further from the end of August to Friday 7/Saturday 8 September 2018.

Update: As has been pointed out on Twitter, there are still some tactical cancellations with some frequencies to Los Angeles cancelled. In addition, G-ZBJA has also not flown since 6 August, G-ZBJD has not flown since 16 August and G-ZBJI has not flown since 15 August.

Air France-KLM’s New CEO

Air France-KLM roused the ire of Air France’s trade unions when it announced that Benjamin Smith as its new CEO.

The source of their irritation? Monsieur Smith is not French.

It is a sign of how far Air France-KLM lags its peers that the nationality of its parent company CEO is considered an issue. Over the past 20 years BA has had Australian, Irish and Spanish CEOs. Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, is Irish. Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates, is British.

Benjamin Smith joins Air France-KLM from Air Canada where is was President, Airlines and Chief Operating Officer. Air France-KLM is keen to emphasise two particular developments during his tenure at Air Canada. The growth of its low cost brand Air Canada Rouge and securing long-term collective bargaining agreements with trade unions. Like many legacy airlines, Air Canada has had fractious industrial relations in the past. It also has to navigate delicate regional tensions. Under the Air Canada Public Participation Act and Canada’s Official Languages Act, Air Canada is required to demonstrably provide bilingual services across Canada.

Benjamin Smith will have a very full in-tray when he takes up his position in September.

Air France KLM’s previous CEO, Jean-Marc Janaillac, resigned two years into his post after Air France trade unions rejected a pay offer in a consultative ballot. His predecessor Alexandre de Juniac also resigned after three years having been unable to achieve meaningful reform at Air France. A little under three years ago a meeting between senior Air France managers and trade unions resulted in a physical assault and one senior manager fleeing with his shirt ripped off.

Air France-KLM’s financial performance is sharply behind its peers. It reported a first half operating profit of €228m compared to €1,115m for IAG and €967m for Lufthansa.

It also has a somewhat confused approach to low cost travel. It has a low cost brand Transavia. It has also launched Joon which is progressively taking over some Air France short and long-haul routes. Ostensibly aimed at millennials, Joon has its own livery and separate in-flight service standards and cabin crew, but is operated by Air France pilots.

Given industrial relations tensions have claimed two Air France-KLM CEOs, it is implausible that Air France will not reform itself without at the very least the French Government disposing of its stake in Air France-KLM (its owns 14% of the group and 23% of voting rights).

It should also be noted this is not the first time European airlines have tapped Air Canada for talent. BA also recruited its Chief Operating Officer Klaus Goersch from Air Canada.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 20 August 2018”

Monday Briefing – 13 August 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Ryanair Aircraft
Ryanair Aircraft (Image Credit: Ryanair)

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 13 August 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week, and a look to the week ahead.

Trouble At Ryanair

As has been widely reported, Ryanair faced the biggest single act of industrial action in its near 35 year history last Friday.

Trade unions representing pilots of five countries (Germany, Sweden, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium) undertook industrial action, leading to the cancellation of over 400 flights. Ryanair was caught off guard in Germany by pilots giving only 48 hours’ notice of industrial action.

Politico has a good primer on the background to the dispute. In essence, pilots at Ryanair bases around Europe wish to be employed under contracts recognised under local employment law and benefit from better employee protection, rather than contracts recognised Ireland.

Ryanair has withstood knocks before and is no stranger to public opprobrium. It launched its “Always Getting Better” initiative when even institutional investors were questioning its approach of effectively putting tripwires in front of customers. It survived mass cancellations last year when it couldn’t roster enough pilots. However, it will have to be able to live with trade union recognition in perpetuity and that requires it to find long term solutions and not short term fixes.

Ryanair has earlier this year signed a recognition agreement with the UK pilots union BALPA. However, there is no immediate prospect of any industrial dispute between BALPA and Ryanair’s UK pilots. If there was, there is a relatively lengthy ballot period and notice of industrial action required.

Trouble At Jet Airways

The Financial Times reports that Jet Airways has delayed indefinitely the release of its latest financial results. This is whilst it is “exploring sources of funding [as a] priority”.

Airlines in India have been grappling with a double whammy of rising fuel prices and a weakening local currency. Jet Airways is 24% owned by Etihad which has not indicated any sign being prepared to recapitalise Jet Airways.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 13 August 2018”

Monday Briefing – 6 August 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

IAG & Norwegian
IAG & Norwegian

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 6 August 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week, and a look to the week ahead.

Has IAG really given up on Norwegian?

IAG released its half-year results last week. As did Air France-KLM and Lufthansa.

Much of the press picked up on comments by IAG CEO Willie Walsh that it planned to sell its shares in Norwegian if talks don’t move forward, which they have yet to do. Does this really mean IAG has given up on Norwegian?

Don’t bet on it. Whilst IAG is unlikely to make a hostile take-over bid for Norwegian, it can be said with confidence that it has been studying for Norwegian for quite some time. Regardless of what happens with its shareholding, I would suspect IAG will sit this one out.

Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic

Air France-KLM Virgin Atlantic joint-venture (Image Credit: Air France-KLM)

Two weeks ago, we reported on proposals for Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic to operate a combined transatlantic joint-venture with Delta.

Air France-KLM has confirmed that the planned launch date is 1 April 2019. Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic are to also explore co-operation on non-North Atlantic routes. This is a logical progression of Air France-KLM soon becoming a shareholder in the airline. It would help Virgin Atlantic compensate for its lack of non-North American routes. Assuming it goes ahead, together with reciprocal frequent flyer recognition, this would help Virgin and Air France-KLM become a much stronger competitor in the UK market, particularly in UK regional airports.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 6 August 2018”

Monday Briefing – 30 July 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.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Star Alliance Connection Service
Star Alliance Connection Service (Image Credit: Atomic London for Star Alliance)

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

Is the aviation industry heading for its next crisis?

The notoriously cyclical aviation industry has had a relatively good run of late.

There have been some failures such as Air Berlin and Monarch, and there are others that are clearly struggling. However, the majority of major airlines have experienced consistent profitable expansion. Alitalia, of course, continues to manage to suspend economic reality and survive in a financial theme park of its own.

Buoyant demand and relatively low fuel prices combined with new aircraft have facilitated a significant number of new routes, notably on transatlantic. BA continues to add more Boeing 787 routes, with the launch of Pittsburgh in April 2019.

However, there was a string of bad news from airlines around the world last week.

American Airlines announced a 45% fall in its 2nd quarter pre-tax profit to $769m. The principal cause is its fuel bill which has increased by more than 40% (approximately $2 billion) this year.

Ryanair, whose pilots are due to strike again this coming Friday 3 August, reported a 20% fall in first quarter profit to €319 million. Ryanair cited a shopping list of fuel prices, weather, Air Traffic Control strikes and the World Cup. Ryanair has also issued protective notices to its pilots and cabin crew that it plans to cut the number of aircraft at its Dublin base this winter from 30 to 24.

Singapore Airlines, widely regarded for having a near impeccable financial track record, reported a 52% reduction in operating profit for its first financial quarter.

There were similarly subdued updates from Flybe and WizzAir. There are signs that at the very least capacity growth is moderating. Most airlines should be able to absorb higher fuel prices. However, should this be combined with a demand shock, there could be trouble ahead.

On a related note, International Airlines Group reports its 2nd quarter financial results this coming Friday.

Sunday Times: Thomas Cook mulls sale of airline

The Sunday Times has reported Thomas Cook is considering a partial sale of its airline to help pay down debt.

At Gatwick, Thomas Cook has a relatively small long-haul presence, serving Cancun, Cayo Coco, Holguin, and Orlando, It also has a number of short-haul routes. It has also built up a substantial long-haul presence at Manchester serving Boston, Cancun, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle.

The Sunday Times’ track record of aviation business stories citing “industry sources” is patchy at best. However, very often these stories are deliberately leaked (with a non-denial denial on the record) to drum up interest from potential buyers.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 30 July 2018”