60 Years of the Transatlantic Jet Age

How BOAC beat Pan American World Airways in a race to begin the first scheduled transatlantic jet services between London and New York.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Passengers boarding a BOAC De Havilland DH106 Comet 4 at London Airport, 4 October 1958
Passengers boarding a BOAC De Havilland DH106 Comet 4 at London Airport, 4 October 1958 (Image Credit: British Airways)

Today, Thursday 4 October 2018, marks 60 years since the first passenger jet service from London to New York.

One of British Airways predecessor airlines, BOAC, flew two de Havilland Comet 4 aircraft between London and New York International Airport, Idlewild.

This was a mere 24 hours after the Port Authority of New York granted approval for passenger jet services following concerns over noise. It was also less than a month after the aircraft had been delivered to the airline and it had received its certificate or air worthiness.

The westbound flight left London at 09:55 local time and landed in New York at 15:15 local time after a refuelling stop for one hour and ten minutes in Gander, Newfoundland. The total journey time was 10 hours and 20 minutes

There were 31 passengers out of a capacity for 48 on the aircraft. They included Sir Gerald D’Erlanger, Chairman of the board of BOAC. He carried a letter from the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Denis Truscott to Mayor Wagner of New York. There were 12 paying passengers, many of whom had made reservations in anticipation of passenger jet services years ago and were only called to travel at very short notice. There were two classes of travel, First and Deluxe.

The aircraft carried 15 crew members, instead of the usual 8. One of the cabin crew members was Peggy Thorne who made a return visit to British Airways yesterday.
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VLM Airlines in liquidation; London City – Antwerp cancelled

VLM Airlines has entered into liquidation and it has immediately suspended all operations.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

FlyVLM Fokker 50 turboprop (Image Credit: VLM Airlines)
FlyVLM Fokker 50 turboprop (Image Credit: VLM Airlines)

VLM Airlines has yesterday, Friday 31 August 2018, entered into liquidation.

The decision was made by the majority shareholder in the airline and has been confirmed on its website.

SHS Aviation B.V., the majority shareholder of the N.V. SHS Antwerp Aviation (VLM), today decided at an extraordinary general assembly to dissolve the Belgian airline and to liquidate it.

Earlier this month it was announced that VLM would discontinue the connections to Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cologne-Bonn, Maribor, Munich and Rostock and that VLM would henceforth focus on business charter flights and the Antwerp-London City Airport and Antwerp-Zurich routes. Also the scheduled flights from Antwerp to London City and Zurich are now cancelled.

The settlement takes effect immediately. Youri Steverlynck and Birgitta Van Itterbeek (Monard Law) were appointed as liquidators. They are responsible for the contacts with potential buyers.

SHS Antwerp Aviation N.V. is a subsidiary of the Dutch investment company SHS Aviation B.V., which is owned 60% by Dutch investors and 40% by Chinese investors. SHS Antwerp Aviation N.V. is developing airline activities under the trading name ‘VLM’. VLM employs 85 people.

The airline has therefore suspended operations and all future flights are cancelled. VLM flew from London City to Antwerp, a route it inherited from CityJet a little under 12 months ago.

If you do have a future booking with VLM, then the best advice is to contact your credit card company for refund.

Why I Ignore Hotel Loyalty Programmes

Why it is a relief to not to chase hotel loyalty scheme points and a mistake to choose a hotel on the basis of its loyalty programme.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Public Hotel New York City
Public Hotel New York City (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

There’s an interesting feature on the cover of the latest edition Bloomberg Businesweek.

It concerns Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels Group. It happened in 2016. However, it has taken nearly two years for Marriott to combine its frequent guest programme with that of Starwood. The new combined programme will launch later this month.

It seems that the thorniest issue behind the transaction was not both sides and their armies of lawyers agreeing the terms of the deal or combining reservation systems, but their respective frequent guest programmes. Every single development in this regard has been carefully scrutinised by members on tenterhooks that their beloved benefits may be lost.

Put simply, who should be entitled to a free breakfast under the new programme!?

The article gives a good understanding of the workings of hotel loyalty programmes and the sometimes absurd lengths, known as “mattress runs” (it’s nowhere near as interesting as it sounds..), some members will go to climb the ranks of the programmes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a member of some frequent guest programmes and enjoyed their benefits, principally late check-outs. But none have compelled me to be slavishly devoted to one hotel programme and I have been happy to let membership lapse.

Airline and hotel loyalty programmes are not the same

When it comes to flying, there is a logic of choosing to align yourself with one of three airline alliances to accrue frequent flyer benefits.

There is an assurance of flying with an airline in an alliance that there isn’t with booking large hotel groups.

In air travel, there is much scope for things go wrong. As customers of Primera Air and Norwegian have learned, for small airlines there are little means to recover from aircraft availability issues. When flying on a large airline, there is the assurance of the back-up it has through the size of its fleet, its network and its joint-venture and alliance partners. This isn’t so much the case with hotels. The only time I could genuinely see a need to stick with a large chain is when staying in a destination where you need to be confident of hotel security and its support should you have problems.
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10 Years of EU – US Open Skies

As the 10th anniversary of the EU-US Open Skies agreement approaches, we take a look back at how it has reshaped transatlantic travel.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic & British Airways aircraft at London Heathrow
Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic & British Airways aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Some ten years ago, air travel between London and the United States was governed by an archaic treaty known as Bermuda II.

Signed in 1977 as successor to an agreement signed after the Second World War, it placed restrictions on who could operate flights between the UK and the US, and from where.

Flghts from London Heathrow to the US were restricted to two US airlines. These were American Airlines and United Airlines, who had acquired traffic rights from Trans World Airlines and Pan American World Airways respectively. What were then Continental, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and US Airways were forced to fly from London Gatwick.

From the UK, only British Airways and, from 1991, Virgin Atlantic could fly to the US from London Heathrow. Not only that, certain routes could not operate from London Heathrow. So BA had to fly to Atlanta, Dallas Fort Worth and Houston from London Gatwick. bmi which, at the time, held approximately 15% of Heathrow’s slots sat in deep frustration at being unable to fulfil its ambitions to fly to the US from the airport.

Some 30 years later, with negotiations no longer between London and Washington, the EU negotiated an Open Skies agreement the US. It officially came into force on 30 March 2008. Heathrow was opened up to all US airlines. And EU airlines could fly to the US from any airport in the EU.

However, access of European airlines to the US market and US airline ownership rules were untouched. They were officially parked into Phase II and remain so today.

So what has been the impact of EU-US Open Skies?
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London’s new routes for 2018

Here are the new short-haul and long-haul flights launching from London City, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports in 2018, which includes the launch of the world’s longest flight between London and Perth.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

London's New Routes For 2018
London’s New Routes For 2018

A very Happy New Year to all our readers around the world.

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2018, so let’s start by taking a look at what new routes we can expect this year. No doubt many more announcements will follow in the coming months.

London Heathrow – Perth Non-Stop

This big headline is of course the launch of non-stop flights between London Heathrow and Perth from Sunday 25 March 2018.

With a flight time of nearly 17 hours, this route will test passengers’ appetite for “Ultra Long-Haul” travel. It may also presage, subject to aircraft technology, more direct flights between London and Australia in the 2020s.

Qantas has made much of the fact that it is looking to adapt in-flight service to the length of the flight so it will be interesting to see what emerges.

Ultimately, the success of the route will hinge on its technical reliability and financial profitability. The latter depends on sufficient year round demand from business class passengers who will be prepared to pay a premium for a non-stop flight.

This route will replace Qantas’ existing London Heathrow – Dubai – Melbourne flight. At the same time, Qantas will also replace London Heathrow – Dubai – Sydney with London Heathrow – Singapore – Sydney.
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2017 – The Year In Air Travel In Review

As 2017 draws to a close, we look back at the major trends and themes in world aviation over the past year with some predictions for the year ahead as well.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

2017 In Air Travel
2017 In Air Travel

As we prepare to say farewell to 2017 and look forward to what will no doubt be a very eventful and exciting 2018, we take a customary look back at the year just gone. Here’s what we predicted might happen this time 12 months ago.

We should of course thank readers for your support over the past twelve months and hope you will continue reading over the next year.

1. The world of aviation is anything but predictable.

Who would have thought this time last year that a conciliatory Michael O’Leary would agree to recognise pilot unions in order to head off a Christmas strike at Ryanair?

Or that Qantas would reinstate London – Singapore – Sydney?

Or that someone could (allegedly) ground an airline by pulling out a plug?

Well, it all happened in 2017.
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What aviation trends & developments can we expect in London in 2017?

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Airbus A380
The world of air travel is never dull.  For an industry in a near permanent state of revolution there is no shortage of new developments for passengers.

Here is a run through developments we can expect in 2017 in terms of routes, airlines, airports and in flight service.

It’s a bit of long one, but here we go:

2016: The year of “Low Cost Long Haul” at Gatwick

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The founders of Monocle debut the “Kioskafé” at London Paddington

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Kioskafe, Paddington, London (Image Credit: London Air Travel)
Kioskafé, Paddington, London (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Readers of Tyler Brûlé’s column in the weekend edition of the Financial Times, which for the uninitiated documents the travails of a life spent jet-setting around the globe, will know that a frequent target is the poor state of newspaper and magazine retailing in the UK.

One target has long been WH Smith. Specifically, its poorly lit and understaffed shops, the ill-targeted special offers, the self-scan check-outs and, in the case of its Heathrow branches, its parochial selection of newspapers and magazines.

Tyler Brûlé is not someone who isn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth is, nor to challenge convention.

Having long argued that print media is not dead, in 2007 Tyler Brûlé founded the magazine Monocle. As well as being a commercial and editorial success it eschews social media, does not carry out any research, charges more than the magazine cover price for a subscription and double the cover price for back issues.

Monocle has since extended its reach to shops, a cafe at 18 Chiltern Street London, and a 24 hour radio station, Monocle 24.

Tyler Brûlé is also the founder of the design agency Winkreative which designed the original brand identity of Swiss International Airlines, Porter Airlines, the cabin interior of British Airways Club World on Boeing 747-400 and 777-200 aircraft and the recently launched Union Pearson Express in Toronto.

The Kioskafe

The latest venture from Winkreative’s parent company, is the Kioskafé which opened in the past week at 31 Norfolk Place, opposite the Frontline Club and a short walk from London Paddington railway and Underground stations.
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UK Government explores lower rates of Air Passenger Duty for English regional airports

Amongst the many announcements by the Chancellor George Osborne in today’s summer budget, the Government has announced a consulation whereby regional airports in England may be able to offer differing rates of Air Passenger Duty.

This follows the earlier devolution of Air Passenger Duty to national governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and concerns that regional airports may be at a competitive disadvantage.

This may be achieved through either devolving the power to set rates of Air Passenger Duty to local authorities or for differing rates of duty to be set by Central Government. An alternative option proposed is to provide aid to regional airports.

Whilst any reduction in Air Passenger Duty would be welcomed by the aviation industry we suspect that many airlines will argue that the measure is insufficient and that duty must be reduced further to enable the UK and, specifically London Heathrow, to compete against other aviation hubs in Europe and the Middle East.

Furthermore, whilst many regional English airports such as Manchester and Birmingham have been growing their international links, particularly to the Middle East, this is unlikely to result in a significant rebalancing of aviation capacity between London and the English regions.

That said, the measure may attract more long-haul airlines to English regional airports, particulary to operate “pop-up” routes during the peak summer season, such as Virgin Atlantic’s summer seasonal flights between Belfast and Orlando.

The full consultation can be viewed online. Any interested parties are required to respond by Tuesday 8 September 2015.

“Union Pearson Express” launches in Toronto

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Union Pearson Express Train Pearson Airport Station
Union Pearson Express Train Pearson Airport Station (Image Credit: Union Pearson Express)

One of the many things that are often lacking at airports in North America is a direct rail link from the airport to downtown.

Toronto is one city to gain such a link with the launch of the Union Pearson Express on Saturday 6 June 2015.

The new service will link Terminal 1 of Toronto’s main international airport, Toronto Pearson, with its main downtown railway station (Union Station), every 15 minutes with a journey time of 25 minutes on an elevated rail track. A return fare for an adult is CAD$53 (roughly £28).

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