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

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”

Flying Over The Florida Keys

London Air Travel

Sunset at the Florida Keys
Sunset at the Florida Keys (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

The Florida Keys, as the southernmost point of the US, have long been a popular escape from winter in the Northern hemisphere for those seeking a more bohemian alternative to the crowds and overt self-confidence of Miami Beach. And it has better sunsets.

You can of course drive there, but there is also the option of flying. Many US airlines, through their regional affiliates, fly to Key West International Airport with varying degrees of frequency from their respective hubs. American Airlines from Dallas Fort Worth and Miami; Delta from Atlanta; and United from Chicago O’Hare and Newark.

You’ll also see a number of private plans on the airfield at Key West. Other than that it’s largely Silver Airways flights to the Florida region, an airline we don’t know enough about to comment on – though online reviews don’t instil confidence.

It’s flying between Miami and Key West over the Florida Keys on American Eagle that we’ll cover as it is the most likely route for visitors to Florida.

American serves the route many times a day, typically using Embraer E175 aircraft operated by Republic Airlines under the American Eagle livery.

American Eagle Embraer E175 aircraft at Key West airport
American Eagle Embraer E175 aircraft at Key West airport (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

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Hopping from Boston to Cape Cod on Cape Air

Flying on Cape Air from Boston to Provincetown on a 9 seat Cessna 402 Turboprop aircraft.

London Air Travel

Cape Cod
Cape Cod (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Something a little different, as it is summer…

The peninsula of Cape Cod and the islands of the New England have long been a popular summer destination for locals and visitors. You can of course get there by a combination of road and ferry. But if you prefer to avoid the hordes and enjoy a more exclusive experience, you can fly on one of the US’s smaller regional airlines, Cape Air.

We’ve taken a few flights on Cape Air over the past couple of years. It’s a quite different experience to what you may be accustomed to flying the Airbus A320 workhorses of short-haul travel in Europe where, if we’re honest, there are few reliable pleasures.

Cape Air

Cape Air has been flying for nearly 30 years.

Cape Air’s principal hub is in Boston where it serves destinations such as Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Provincetown, Cape Cod. Some are seasonal services. Others operate year-round. It also operates a small number of routes from White Plains, Westchester County, New York.

The vast majority of flights are operated with Cessna 402 Turboprop aircraft, with seating for just nine passengers.
Continue reading “Hopping from Boston to Cape Cod on Cape Air”

BA launches London Heathrow – Pittsburgh

British Airways is to launch a new direct route from London Heathrow Terminal 5 to Pittsburgh, operating four times weekly from Tuesday 2 April 2019.

London Air Travel

Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways is to launch a new direct route from London Heathrow to Pittsburgh from Tuesday 2 April 2019.

The airline will fly to Pittsburgh from London Heathrow Terminal 5 to Pittsburgh International Airport four times weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Flights will be operated with the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner in a three class, Club World business class, World Traveller Plus premium economy and World Traveller economy configuration.

This will be the only direct route from London to Pittsburgh. Condor and Delta fly to Pittsburgh from Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle respectively on a summer seasonal basis. Wow Air also flies from Reykjavik year round.

BA previously flew from London Heathrow to Pittsburgh via Washington from May 1986 to June 1993. It was then operated from Gatwick until October 1999 using a US Air Boeing 767 aircraft and crew in BA colours.

This news continues a trend of BA launching one new transatlantic route from London Heathrow a year, all initially with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Previous route launches include Austin, San Jose, New Orleans and Nashville. All routes seem to have performed well, though San Jose was a target for tactical cancellations during recent Boeing 787 Dreamliner engine issues.

In terms of the prospect of further North America routes from London Heathrow, BA has previously said it expected to launch about five new routes with the 787. Any further route launches are likely to follow the trend of BA launching routes to cities not currently served by London, which rules out cities currently served by Delta such as Detroit, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City.

Flights are on sale now at ba.com Visitor information is available at Visit Pittsburgh. BA has also produced a summary brochure for the travel trade.

London Heathrow – Pittsburgh

Flight BA171 Depart London Heathrow 17:00 – Arrive Pittsburgh 20:15 (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday)
Flight BA170 Depart Pittsburgh 21:50 – Arrive London Heathrow 10:25 (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday)

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 25 July 2018

The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday morning at 06:00 BST, providing a weekly bulletin on developments on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America.

London Air Travel

Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta
Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 25 July 2018, providing a weekly bulletin on developments on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America. The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday morning at 06:00 BST.

Air France, Delta, KLM and Virgin Atlantic at London Heathrow

As we reported on Sunday, Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have sought regulatory approval to combine their two transatlantic joint-ventures.

At present, Delta has a joint-venture with Virgin Atlantic covering flights between the UK and the US. It also has an entirely separate joint-venture with Air France-KLM covering flights between Europe and the US.

What’s the rationale behind combining them?

Put simply, American Airlines and BA.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic serve all major US gateways from London Heathrow, bar some exceptions such as Chicago. They serve cities such as Los Angeles and New York with a competitive level of frequency. They also have a growing presence in Manchester.

However, it is clear from their submission that this is not enough to win corporate contracts and the loyalty of European frequent flyers from American and BA. Following the merger of bmi British Midland into BA in 2012, Virgin has very little by way of short-haul connections at Heathrow. It also has a shrinking non-US network.

A key principle behind these joint-ventures is the concept of “metal neutrality”. All participating must treat each others flights equally for marketing purposes.

By combining their joint-ventures, the four airlines will be able to offer a vast number of connections from the UK, mainland Europe and the rest of the world to North America via Heathrow, Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Air France and KLM have a much stronger non-US network than BA, notably in Africa and Asia.

Passengers in the UK will have the option of connecting via Paris Charles de Gaulle, albeit with an element of backtracking, to flights not served at London Heathrow such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

Virgin Atlantic will also be able to draw feed from Amsterdam and Paris to routes not served by either airport such as Las Vegas, which moves to London Heathrow in March 2019.

The combined joint-venture will also have a much stronger presence at UK regional airports. Indeed, KLM operates from a number of UK airports not served by BA such as Cardiff, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside and Norwich.

The possibility of all four airlines consolidating in the same terminal at Heathrow has also been mooted. This is of course subject to the agreement of the airport.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 25 July 2018”

Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – Tuesday 24 July 2018

Our weekly bulletin on the latest developments in media and technology around the world, as published every Tuesday morning at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

New York Daily News Front Pages Saturday 14 July & Tuesday 17 July 2018
New York Daily News Front Pages Saturday 14 July & Tuesday 17 July 2018 (Image Credit: New York Daily News)

Hello and welcome to our weekly travel media and technology bulletin featuring the latest developments on media and technology around the world, published every Tuesday at 06:00 BST.

New York Daily News Editorial Staff Slashed

The American newspaper market is a different world to the ferociously competitive daily tabloid market of the UK. Whilst most American newspapers have a closer relationship to the truth, many are local monopolies and can be just a little too earnest.

The one exception is New York which has two tabloids, The New York Daily News and the New York Post. The former is owned by Tronc which also owns the Chicago Herald Tribune and, until recently, The Los Angeles Times. The latter is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The New York Daily News is known for its uncompromising front pages and campaigning local journalism. Tronc has announced that it is to slash its editorial staff by 50%. Many staff have already announced their departures.

There is little better news for the daily newspaper market in the UK. Most are reporting double digit circulation declines with The Daily Boris Johnson Telegraph reporting a 23% year on year fall to 370,613 copies a day and there is little sign of this abating.

Continue reading “Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – Tuesday 24 July 2018”

Monday Briefing – 23 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

HiFly Airbus A380 in Save the Coral Reefs livery
HiFly Airbus A380 in Save the Coral Reefs livery (Image Credit: HiFly / Mirpuri Foundation)

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 23 July 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week, and a look to the week ahead.

Delta, Air France-KLM & Virgin Atlantic’s New Joint-Venture

Delta, Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic have submitted a request for regulatory approval from the Department for Transportation in the US to combine their two respective transatlantic joint-ventures.

The submission, set out in more detail here, gives a flavour of what to expect in the UK from the combined joint-venture:

– The airlines have expressed a desire to co-locate at London Heathrow. Given Virgin Atlantic’s significant investment at Terminal 3, this would most likely mean Air France and KLM moving from Terminal 4 to 3. This is of course subject to Heathrow being able to accommodate such a move.

– Virgin Atlantic will codeshare on Air France and KLM flights from UK airports to their respective hubs in Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam.

– Virgin Atlantic will also codeshare on Air France and KLM flights around the world, thus offering significantly more booking options to Virgin Atlantic passengers.

– Virgin Atlantic will retain its own frequent flyer programme, but with earning and redemption opportunities on Air France and KLM flights.

It should be emphasised that these are broad-brush submissions. Once regulatory approval has been obtained, these are likely to be rolled out progressively as there is a lot of detail to be worked through. Indeed, it took a year from the airlines announcing their plans to combine their joint-ventures to agreeing commercial terms between themselves.

A clear theme is a desire/need for Virgin Atlantic and Delta to be a stronger competitor against BA and Oneworld at London Heathrow and in the UK market, particularly for corporate customers and frequent flyers.

The combined joint-venture sees it itself as a much stronger competitor in UK regional airports by offering competitive connections via Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Air France and KLM can also compensate for Virgin’s relatively weak non-US network where it can offer codeshares to a very large number of worldwide destinations. Indeed, Air France and KLM serve very many destinations in Africa and Asia that are not served by BA.

It will be interesting to see how BA and American Airlines respond, both at London Heathrow and at UK regional airports.
Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 23 July 2018”

Air France-KLM, Delta, & Virgin Atlantic’s Joint-Venture Plans

Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have set out their plans to combine their respective transatlantic joint-ventures.

London Air Travel

KLM, Air France, Delta, Virgin Atlantic Tailfins (Image Credit: Delta Air Lines)
KLM, Air France, Delta, Virgin Atlantic Tailfins (Image Credit: Delta Air Lines)

Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have this week sought regulatory approval from the Department of Transportation in the United States to combine their respective transatlantic joint-ventures.

The documents they have submitted as part of this process give a flavour of what we can expect when the combined joint-venture takes effect.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic have operated a joint-venture between the UK and USA since 2013 and wish to combine this with Delta’s joint-venture with Air France-KLM. Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic. When the joint-venture completes, Air France KLM will acquire a stake in Virgin Atlantic from Virgin Group, making Delta the single largest shareholder.

Headline Changes

– The airlines have expressed a desire to co-locate at London Heathrow. Given Virgin Atlantic’s significant investment at Terminal 3, this would most likely mean Air France and KLM moving from Terminal 4 to 3.

– Virgin Atlantic will codeshare on Air France and KLM flights from UK airports to their respective hubs in Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam.

– Virgin Atlantic will also codeshare on Air France and KLM flights around the world, thus offering significantly more booking options to Virgin Atlantic passengers.

– Virgin Atlantic will retain its own frequent flyer programme, but with earning and redemption opportunities on Air France and KLM flights.

In practice, this is likely to be rolled out progressively and codeshares may only be available for certain routings, eg when connecting to/from certain destinations covered by the joint-venture.

Competing Against American Airlines and British Airways

A clear theme is a desire/need for Virgin Atlantic and Delta to be a stronger competitor against BA and Oneworld at London Heathrow and in the UK market, particularly for corporate customers and frequent flyers.

The combined joint-venture sees it itself as a much stronger competitor in UK regional airports such as Manchester and Glasgow where it can offer both direct flights to the US and connections via Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Air France and KLM can also compensate for Virgin’s relatively weak non-US network where it can offer codeshares to a very large number of worldwide destinations. Indeed, Air France and KLM serve very many destinations in Africa and Asia that are not served by BA.

As Virgin Atlantic reported a loss in 2017, achieving higher margin corporate revenue and cost savings from merging back office functions will be critical to its future.

There is a degree of irony in this submission in that BA and KLM did once explore a merger. This was arguably one of the greatest missed opportunities in aviation. The plan for co-operation between Virgin and Air France-KLM was very much that could have been explored between BA and KLM. It will be interesting to see how American Airlines and BA respond, both at Heathrow and at UK regional airports.
Continue reading “Air France-KLM, Delta, & Virgin Atlantic’s Joint-Venture Plans”

Flying British Airways World Traveller Plus

What’s it like to fly World Traveller Plus premium economy on British Airways and how does it compare on different aircraft and routes?

London Air Travel

British Airways World Traveller Plus Cabin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish / British Airways)
British Airways World Traveller Plus Cabin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish / British Airways)

Some 15 years ago, our first ever long-haul flight on BA was in its premium economy cabin, World Traveller Plus. Having flown in the cabin on every type of BA long-haul aircraft, a review is long overdue.

At the time, BA and Virgin were virtually the only airlines to offer premium economy. Having overcome their fear of cannibalising business class revenue, most European and Asia Pacific airlines have followed suit. On the other side of the Atlantic, American Airlines, Delta and United are also rolling out premium economy.

More than any other cabin on BA, the value of World Traveller Plus is very subjective. Some see little difference from economy. Others see it as a welcome relief. There are also significant differences depending on which aircraft you are flying.

So here’s our guide based on a number of flights over the past 12 months or so.

World Traveller Plus on BA

World Traveller Plus is available on every BA long-haul flight from London Gatwick and Heathrow.

The one exception are flights on Airbus A321 aircraft to Amman, Beirut and occasionally Cairo, Moscow and Tel Aviv.

Ground Services

The one relative weakness compared to other airlines, notably Virgin Atlantic, is that you don’t get much extra in terms of ground services.

You do have an increased checked luggage allowance of two bags. There is priority boarding of sorts as you will board before economy under the group boarding system. But that’s about it. Some airports outside of London may have dedicated check-in desks, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

After the 2008 financial crisis, BA did trial paid for lounge access for World Traveller Plus passengers at New York JFK but this was not extended.
Continue reading “Flying British Airways World Traveller Plus”

British Airways orders 3 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft

British Airways has ordered 3 new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft which will join its 12 strong fleet at London Heathrow.

London Air Travel

British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

Boeing has today, Thursday 19 July 2018, announced that British Airways has committed to ordering an additional 3 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

The announcement was made to coincide with the Farnborough Air Show. These aircraft will be leased from an undisclosed third party lessor. They will join BA’s 12 strong fleet of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft at London Heathrow. These were delivered to the airline from 2010 to 2014. 3 of these aircraft are leased and 9 are owned by BA.

Based on plans published by BA’s parent company International Airlines Group at its Capital Markets Day late last year, it is expected that these three aircraft will replace three of BA’s oldest Boeing 777-200 aircraft. These were delivered to the airline in 1995 and operate principally to the US East Coast and the Middle East.

BA has not made any comment on the announcement. The planned configuration of the aircraft is not known. The current fleet of Boeing 777-300 aircraft all operate in a four class configuration. BA is in the process of “densifying” its existing Boeing 777 fleet so these aircraft could well arrive with 3-4-3 seating in World Traveller economy. The delivery dates are also not known.

The BA Boeing 777-300ER currently operates from London Heathrow to Beijing, San Diego, Sao Paulo, Singapore-Sydney and Tokyo Haneda. It also operates selected frequencies to Boston and Hong Kong. It has also previously operated to Rio de Janeiro. Please see here for our full guide to BA’s fleet.