What’s Next For Flybe?

What’s next for Flybe pending its acquisition by the Connect Airways consortium?

London Air Travel » Page 2

Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft
Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft (Image Credit: Flybe)

24 hours have passed since the Connect Airways joint-venture between Cyrus Capital, Stobart Air and Virgin Atlantic has confirmed it is bidding to buy Flybe.

For Flybe’s shareholders, this is an absolute stinker of a deal, valuing their shares at just 1p. They duly responded by crashing the share price from 16.4p to 3.75p on Friday. For Flybe’s long-suffering employees, there is at least some certainty as to the future. The alternative would have been a fairly disorderly and undignified winding down of the airline.

In terms of what happens next, there are still a number of unknowns. However, the Ministry for Speculation and Guesswork has been consulted with the following thoughts:

1. The announcement was interesting for what it didn’t mention.

The announcement made much of the scope to grow short-haul connectivity to Virgin Atlantic and Delta’s long-haul flights and London Heathrow and Manchester.

Apart from Southend airport, which is owned by Stobart Group and Stobart Air operates a Flybe franchise, much less was said about other UK airports.

One airport that won’t feature in the consortium’s plans is Gatwick. Flybe announced on Friday that it has sold its last remaining slots to Vueling for £4.5m.

Nothing was also said about the impact on other Flybe franchise operators such as Blue Islands which flies from London City to Jersey, or Eastern Airways.

There are also other airports which, apart from routes to Virgin hubs and those of Virgin’s forthcoming transatlantic partner Air France-KLM, offer little to the consortium. A cursory scan of the departures board for many airports such as Exeter and Southampton shows that these airports would not be viable without Flybe’s operation. Any significant cuts to Flybe’s schedules at these airports will be politically sensitive.

2. This is high risk for the Virgin brand.

Although the new airline will be operated independently from Virgin Atlantic by a consortium, which is a challenge in itself, in the eyes of the public it will be Virgin Atlantic.

As much as Virgin will try to add a bit of fizz, regional short-haul flying is a painfully unglamorous business. As is the thankless task of feeding passengers to long-haul flights where there is a high risk of missed connections and mislaid baggage.

Virgin Atlantic will be the target of opprobrium for any service failings.

3. There are mixed results for BA and International Airlines Group.

Ultimately, if International Airlines Group wanted to buy Flybe it could have submitted a bid.

It is highly likely that IAG has its sights on bigger “transformational” deals. However, there are some downsides for BA and other IAG airlines.

There is now not a chance of the 12 Heathrow bmi remedy slots that BA has had to make available to Flybe ever returning to BA. The new airline will soon be able to make full use of these for short-haul services in perpetuity. It will also n doubt continue Flybe’s ambition to add more routes in the event of a third runway at Heathrow.

BA made a strategic decision over ten years ago to withdraw from regional short-haul flying. It has also shown no interest in franchising the brand in the UK, having withdrawn from all UK franchise agreements some years ago.

Indeed, much of Flybe today comprises the former “BA Connect” regional operation which BA effectively paid Flybe to take off its hands. BA also sold its 15% stake in the airline. When BA sold BA Connect, it turned its attention to BA CityFlyer at London City, which performs extremely well for the airline. Should Flybe downsize at London City, this will give more scope for BA CityFlyer to grow.

Flybe currently uses Avios as its frequent flyer currency. It is inevitable that Flybe will withdraw from the Avios scheme. This will reduce Avios coverage in UK regional markets. Passengers will be able to earn Virgin Flying Club miles. Virgin Atlantic is due to relaunch its frequent flyer programme this year. This, combined with earning and redemption opportunities on Air France-KLM, will make Virgin’s frequent flyer programme a much more competitive rival to the BA Executive Club.

Aer Lingus does rely on Flybe to operate codeshare routes from some UK regional airports such as Exeter and Southampton to Dublin, and these may well cease.

IAG CEO Willie Walsh will no doubt offer some “forthright” views on the merits of the deal when IAG announces its annual results next month.

Virgin Atlantic Consortium Bids To Buy Flybe

A consortium including Virgin Atlantic is bidding to buy Flybe. The new airline will operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand.

London Air Travel » Page 2

Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft Flybe Bombardier Q400 aircraft (Image Credit: Flybe)

A consortium including Virgin Atlantic has made an offer to buy the airline Flybe.

Flybe announced last year that it had put itself up for sale and Virgin Atlantic had made known its interest in the airline.

The consortium also includes Stobart Aviation, which operates flights under the Flybe franchise, and Cyrus Capital Partners. Stobart Group had launched an unsuccessful takeover bid for Flybe last year.

Cyrus Capital will be the single largest shareholder, owning 40% of the consortium. Stobart Aviation and Virgin Atlantic will each own 30% of the consortium.

The transaction is subject to approval by Flybe’s shareholders. In theory, another bid could be forthcoming. However, this is unlikely. Any bid by International Airlines Group would require competition remedies at London Heathrow and BA seems happy with the performance of BA CityFlyer at London City.

This bid offers little to Flybe’s shareholders. On its first day on the stock exchange in December 2010, Flybe’s share price closed at 341¼p, valuing the airline at £249m. Yesterday, Flybe shares closed at 16.4p, valuing the airline at £36m. This offer is for substantially less, at 1p a share, valuing the airline at £2.2m. However, it does provide for a relatively dignified and orderly exit.

As part of the transaction the consortium will also acquire Stobart Air. The combined Flybe and Stobart Air operation will operate under the Virgin Atlantic brand. However, it will remain an independent airline from Virgin Atlantic. Operating under the Virgin brand is not without risk if there are issues with reliability and punctuality.

The consortium has also agreed to provide a £20m bridge loan to support Flybe’s operations pending the acquisition and to invest £80m of further funding after the acquisition.

Stobart Air does provide wet leased aircraft to other airlines, including rivals of Virgin Atlantic, and this will continue to operate.

Full details of the offer can be found at Stobart Group.

Whilst the offer document makes much of the ability to feed Virgin Atlantic at London Heathrow and Manchester, and grow short-haul flights at London Southend, it says much less about operations at other UK regional airports which are heavily dependent on Flybe for traffic. Flybe is by some margin the single largest airline at many UK regional airports, including Exeter and Southampton.
Continue reading “Virgin Atlantic Consortium Bids To Buy Flybe”

BA New York JFK Concorde Room Partial Closure

The Concorde Room at New York JFK will open from 15:00 until late March 2019.

London Air Travel » Page 2

British Airways Concorde Room, New York JFK
British Airways Concorde Room, New York JFK (Image Credit: Oneworld Alliance)

Work continues on BA’s renovation of New York JFK Terminal 7.

The new First lounge opened late last year. The Club lounge is currently being refurbished. The Elemis travel spa and showers are currently closed.

The third departure lounge, the Concorde Room and arguably the best lounge on the network, is not being fully refurbished.

However, due to repair work on its kitchens, it will not open for BA’s sole morning departure from New York JFK, BA178, until the end of March this year. The lounge will now open from 15:00 to 23:00 daily.

Passengers travelling on BA from New York JFK in First Class can of course use the First lounge as an alternative.

40 Years Of Business Class

How long-haul business class has evolved since its introduction in 1979.

London Air Travel » Page 2

LATAM New Business Class 2019
LATAM New Business Class 2019 (Image Credit: PriestmanGoode for LATAM)

This year marks 40 years since the introduction of business class.

That’s if you believe Qantas’ claim that it was the first airline to introduce a dedicated business class cabin.

It was not the first airline to introduce a class between economy and First Class. BA introduced “Executive Class” in 1977, later to become “Super Club”. Pan Am introduced its “Clipper Class” on 29 October 1978. That year, Delta also introduced “Medallion Service”. However, this was essentially designated economy seating with enhanced amenities for passengers purchasing full fare tickets.

The basis for Qantas’ claim seems to it introduced a dedicated cabin on its Boeing 747s in 1979, as per the advert below for the UK press in 1983.

Qantas promised a dedicated check-in, priority baggage handling, a separate cabin with dedicated cabin crew, wider seats and a choice of meals served on fine bone china.

Qantas UK Press Advert 1983
Qantas UK Press Advert 1983

Continue reading “40 Years Of Business Class”

BA’s 10 Abreast Economy Boeing 777 2019 Update

An update on the progress of the refurbishment of British Airways Boeing 777 fleet at Gatwick.

London Air Travel » Page 2

BA World Traveller cabin on LGW based Boeing 777 aircraft
BA World Traveller cabin on LGW based Boeing 777 aircraft (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways is now more than half way through the refurbishment of its fleet of Boeing 777-200 aircraft at London Gatwick.

The main reason for the refurbishment is to increase the number of seats in the World Traveller economy cabin from 9 to 10 a row.

As at January 2019, six Boeing 777-200 aircraft, registrations G-VIIO, G-VIIP, G-VIIR, G-VIIT, G-VIIU and G-VIIX have been refurbished. A seventh aircraft, G-VIIV, is currently being refurbished in Singapore and should return shortly.

At the moment three class Boeing 777-200 aircraft are being refurbished. On these aircraft, BA has installed a new seat in a now larger World Traveller Plus premium economy cabin. It has decreased the number of Club World business class seats. The in-flight entertainment system has also been upgraded.

Four class Boeing 777-200 aircraft will also be refurbished this year, but the overall change in seating configuration is much more modest.

This year, BA will also begin refurbishing its Heathrow based Boeing 777s. Two four class aircraft will receive a full refurbishment. This will include a smaller First Class cabin with 8, rather than 14, seats and an entirely new Club World cabin.

Given BA sees the need for seating configuration in World Traveller to be “competitive”, it’s expected that many more 777s will be refurbished.

Refurbished British Airways Boeing 777 World Traveller Cabin
Refurbished British Airways Boeing 777 World Traveller Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

Seat maps for 3 class Boeing 777 aircraft

If you are flying on a non-refurbished 9 abreast 3 class Boeing 777 at Gatwick you should see the following seat map (pictured left below) for your flight in the Manage My Booking tool:

Club World – Rows 1 – 11 (48 seats)
World Traveller Plus – Rows 12 – 14 (24 seats)
World Traveller – Rows 16 – 40 (3-3-3 configuration)

If you are flying on a refurbished 10 abreast 3 class Boeing 777 at Gatwick you should see the following seat map (pictured right below) for your flight in the Manage My Booking tool:

Club World – Rows 1 – 4 (32 seats)
World Traveller Plus – Rows 10 – 16 (52 seats)
World Traveller – Rows 20 – 46 (3-4-3 configuration)

For passengers travelling with infants it is important to note that the refurbishment of aircraft does change the location of bassinet seats.
Continue reading “BA’s 10 Abreast Economy Boeing 777 2019 Update”

The Economist Bonus Avios Subscription Offer

You can earn up to 25,200 bonus Avios if you take up a subscription to The Economist before 31 January 2019.

London Air Travel » Page 2

British Airways Bonus Avios Economist Subscription Offer.
British Airways Bonus Avios Economist Subscription Offer.

You can earn up to 25,200 bonus Avios for your British Airways Executive Club account if you take up a subscription to The Economist.

This applies to all combinations of print and digital subscriptions in most regions of the world.

The precise number of bonus Avios, which ranges from 10,200 to 25,200, depends on for how long you take up a subscription. The most lucrative Avios earning offer is a three year print and digital subscription.

This is a regularly recurring offer and has also been offered by other frequent flyer programmes that use Avios, such as Iberia.

The offer expires on Thursday 31 January 2019. Simply visit ba.com and click the link to The Economist website to take up a subscription.

Please note that there are specific terms and conditions regarding the cancellation of subscriptions and refunds regarding this offer.

BA Airbus A380 Flights From London Heathrow In 2019

Where will BA’s fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft fly to in 2019? Here’s our guide.

London Air Travel » Page 2

BA Airbus A380 (Image Credit: British Airways)
BA Airbus A380 (Image Credit: British Airways)

BA’s fleet of 12 Airbus A380 aircraft continues to serve the airline well on major gateways from London Heathrow.

At least until BA and Virgin Atlantic take delivery of the Airbus A350, it one of the better ways to fly direct across the Atlantic from London.

Here’s our guide to where you can fly the BA Airbus A380 throughout 2019.

Please note that schedules are subject to change in the medium term. Aircraft can also be substituted at short notice due to maintenance requirements. Flights are now on sale at ba.com

Boston

One of BA’s four daily flights from London Heathrow and Boston, flights BA213 & BA212, will be operated with the A380 for the summer season from Sunday 31 March 2019 to Saturday 26 October 2019.

Chicago O’Hare

The BA A380 will fly to Chicago O’Hare daily on flights BA213 & BA212 for the summer season from Sunday 31 March 2019 to Saturday 26 October 2019.

Dubai

Due to the closure of the Southern runway in Dubai, from Tuesday 16 April 2019 to Saturday 4 May 2019, BA will operate the A380 to Dubai for the first time, on flights BA107 and BA106.

Hong Kong

BA flies the A380 on one of its two daily flights between London Heathrow and Hong Kong, flights BA27 & BA28.

Bar occasional swaps, the remaining flight, BA31 & BA32, is operated with a Boeing 777-300 aircraft.

From Sunday 31 March 2019 until Saturday 26 October 2019, the two flights swap and BA31 & BA32 will be operated with the A380.
Continue reading “BA Airbus A380 Flights From London Heathrow In 2019”

British Airways’ Fleet Refurb & Renewal Plans (2019)

Updated for 2019, here’s our guide to BA’s plans to refurbish and renew its fleet.

London Air Travel » Page 2

British Airways Fleet Montage
British Airways Fleet Montage (Image Credits: British Airways / Heathrow)

Welcome to our updated guide to British Airways’ plans to refurbish and renew its short and long-haul fleet for 2019.

The information below is based on plans published by BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group at its Capital Markets Day in 2018.

BA’s fleet plans are under constant review and can, in the medium term, be influenced by economic and geopolitical events.

BA’s parent company International Airlines Group is also expected to place a new aircraft order with Airbus and/or Boeing in the coming months. BA doesn’t currently have enough long-haul aircraft on order to meet its retirement plans, let alone its growth ambitions, so an announcement should be imminent.

Here’s a run through of recent and forthcoming deliveries and refurbishments by aircraft type:

Airbus A350-1000

BA will take delivery of the first 4 of 16 Airbus A350-1000 this year.

The first Airbus A350s will be in a three class configuration, with no First Class. BA has not given an exact breakdown by cabin, but there will be 331 seats on the aircraft. There will be a substantial Club World cabin (more than 52 seats) and a larger World Traveller Plus cabin than on the 747.

Airbus A380

British Airways Airbus A380 Collage
British Airways Airbus A380 Collage

BA has 12 Airbus A380s in service.

It currently operates on selected flights to destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Miami (winter seasonal), Boston (summer seasonal), Chicago (summer seasonal), San Francisco and Vancouver (summer seasonal). It will also operate briefly to Dubai from 16 April to 4 May 2019 due to the closure of the Southern runway.

Please see here for a detailed guide as to where the A380 will fly in 2018.

BA has options to acquire a further 7 A380s, which it has not exercised. Whilst the A380 clearly serves BA well on major gateways, IAG CEO Willie Walsh insists that the purchase price for new aircraft is too high.

There was talk some ago of BA’s leasing second-hand Airbus A380s but this has not come to anything, most likely due to the cost of reconfiguring aircraft.
Continue reading “British Airways’ Fleet Refurb & Renewal Plans (2019)”

London’s New Routes For 2019

Here are the new routes launching from London City, Gatwick, and Heathrow in 2019.

London Air Travel » Page 2

New London Routes For 2019
New London Routes For 2019

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

We got new routes!

In 2019, we will see many new routes, and former routes from London reinstated.

By this time next year we may also know whether in three years’ time we will be able to fly to Sydney non-stop. Here’s a quick run through of new routes launching in 2019.

London Gatwick Long-Haul

Norwegian continues to reshape its London Gatwick network, launching Rio de Janeiro four times weekly from Sunday 31 March.

It will also swap routes from Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale and Oakland to Miami and San Francisco International respectively from 31 March.

Austin and Seattle will also resume following their winter seasonal suspension on Friday 1 March and 31 March respectively.

In theory, Norwegian is supposed to take delivery of the Airbus A321 Long Range this year and may announce more transatlantic routes but this is very much dependent on its overall financial health.

London Heathrow Long-Haul

Virgin Atlantic will transfer Las Vegas from Gatwick to Heathrow from 31 March.

Air China will transfer Chengdu from Gatwick to Heathrow from 31 March.

BA will return to Osaka after a near 20 year absence, four times weekly from 31 March.

American Airlines will launch a daily service to Phoenix from 31 March.

BA will return to Pittsburgh, four times weekly, from Tuesday 2 April.

BA will fly to Charleston twice a week from Thursday 4 April until Thursday 24 October. It’s relatively unusual for BA to launch a low frequency seasonal long-haul route, and if a success, this could presage more route announcements.

After a break of more than ten years, BA will fly to Islamabad three times weekly from Sunday 2 June.
Continue reading “London’s New Routes For 2019”

What To Expect From easyJet In 2019

What to expect from easyJet at London Gatwick in 2019.

London Air Travel » Page 2

easyJet Airbus aircraft
easyJet Airbus aircraft (Image Credit: easyJet)

As easyJet approaches its 25th anniversary, the airline continues to mature to broaden its appeal to business and leisure passengers.

In keeping with its disciplined approach to cost and lean operations, this is largely through changing its offer on its website rather than physical changes to aircraft. Here’s a quick run through of what to expect at Gatwick in 2019.

New Frequent Flyer Programme

One of the biggest changes next year is the relaunch of easyJet’s frequent flyer programmes.

Currently, easyJet has two parallel schemes:

easyJet Plus is paid for membership scheme which offers free seat selection and fast track ground facilities.

Flight Club is an invitation only scheme for frequent flyers who book more than 20 flights a year with easyJet and are offered benefits such as free flight changes.

easyJet plans to relaunch its frequent flyer programmes next year with a new points based currency.

It will be behaviour led, to encourage activity that contribute to easyJet’s own bottom line. It will be possible to earn points in a variety of ways. This includes using certain online services or buying easyJet branded travel insurance. Third parties will also be invited to participate in the programme.

Points can then be redeemed on “exclusive rewards to enhance the trip” and reward flights for points and a cash payment. easyJet also suggests that the programme will have tiers which will provide additional benefits.

Separately, easyJet also plans to launch a corporate version of Flight Club for business customers. easyJet will also aim to improve its schedule for business travellers, most likely through the timing of “first wave” departures on key business routes from Gatwick.
Continue reading “What To Expect From easyJet In 2019”