WestJet to launch transatlantic flights from Gatwick

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WestJet Boeing 767 aircraft
WestJet Boeing 767 aircraft (Image Credit: WestJet)

Canadian airline WestJet has announced it is to launch transatlantic services to Canada from London Gatwick in spring 2016.

The airline has yet to confirm which routes will be served (though Toronto seems an obvious choice) or any scheduling, pricing and product information, other than to say flights will be operated by Boeing 767-300 aircraft.

This will be welcome news for London Gatwick which has lost a number of transatlantic airlines to Heathrow over the past few years. It will undoubtedly use this as a case for a second runway at Gatwick.

What happens at Heathrow after Virgin Atlantic Little Red closes?

Virgin Atlantic’s “Little Red” flights from London Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh will end on Saturday 26 September 2015. Until another airline bids for the slots, they will revert back to British Airways.

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Airbus A320 aircraft in Virgin Atlantic “Little Red” livery

Virgin Atlantic’s “Little Red” flights from London Heathrow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh will end on Saturday 26 September 2015.

These flights were operated with slots forfeited by British Airways as a consequence of the takeover by its parent company, International Airlines Group, of bmi.

The trustee appointed to oversee the release of these slots did re-advertise them. The deadline for applications was 2 April 2015.

In the absence of any announcement to the contrary, we can only deduce that no bidder has come forward. This means that the slots will revert back to British Airways.

It also cannot be a co-incidence that BA has just announced an additional 7 flights a week from Sunday 25 October 2015 to Paris Charles de Gaulle, Amsterdam, Milan–Malpensa airport, Zurich, Geneva, Newcastle and Edinburgh. In addition, BA will add an additional 4 flights a week to Manchester.

Finally, it’s worth noting that holders of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles can redeem their miles for Virgin Little Red flights from 7,500 miles. Flying Club members can also earn bonus miles on Little Red flights before it closes.

Emirates Heathrow lounge closed for refurbishment until October 2015

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Emirates’ lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3 is currently closed for refurbishment until October 2015. The lounge closed on Monday 8 June 2015.

In the meantime, eligible passengers can use the British Airways Galleries Lounge.

However, BA has said access to its lounge for Emirates passengers will not go beyond 12 October 2015. The reason for this is that BA will begin to move some long-haul flights from Terminal 5 to 3 in October which will obviously increase demand for the lounge.

“Union Pearson Express” launches in Toronto

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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).

Continue reading ““Union Pearson Express” launches in Toronto”

easyJet provides a glimpse into the future with its Innovation Day

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easyJet held its “Innovation Day” today at Milan Malpensa airport.

The airline has outlined a series of innovations under consideration to improve the operating efficiency of the airline and improve the passenger experience.

These include the use of automated drones to perform visual inspections of aircraft (video below), the use of 3D printing to produce spare parts, virtual reality technology in cabin crew training, and (in partnership with Airbus) the use of real-time flight information to predict aircraft maintenance requirements.

Passengers affected by disruption will also be able to book hotels (paid for by easyJet) on a new easyJet smartphone app.
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BA introduces catering improvements to World Traveller & Club World

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BA Club World Cabin - 2006 (Image Credit: British Airways)
BA Club World Cabin – 2006 (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways has announced it is to introduce a series of improvements to in flight catering in World Traveller economy and Club World business class.

The improvements to World Traveller include an improved main meal tray with a better starter. Cheese and biscuits will also be added on most outbound flights from London Heathrow and London Gatwick (except flights to India, Japan and Korea).
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Is US customs & immigration pre-clearance coming to Heathrow?

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London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: British Airways)
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: British Airways)

There has been much interest following an announcement by the US Department for Homeland Security that it is exploring adding US pre-clearance facilities at 10 new airports worldwide.

These airports include London Heathrow and Manchester airport.

Dublin and Shannon airports are the only in Europe to have US pre-clearance facilities and is a key reason behind International Airlines Group’s bid for Aer Lingus.

Put simply, the benefit of pre-clearance is that passengers clear US customs and immigration at a dedicated facility before boarding the aircraft.

On arrival in the US, the flight is treated in the same way as a domestic flight would and passengers can disembark the aircraft and immediately make their way out of the airport, with no further checks.

Anyone who has experienced immigration queues at the likes of New York JFK and Miami airports can testify to the benefits for passengers.

So will pre-clearance come to London Heathrow?

We hope so. However, there are some challenges.

Currently, transatlantic flights depart from four different terminals (Terminal 2 for United, Terminal 3 for American Airlines, Delta and Virgin Altantic, Terminal 4 for Delta, and Terminal 5 for British Airways).

It would not be feasible, nor desired on the part of the airlines, for all transatlantic flights to depart from one terminal, so each terminal would require its own pre-clearance facilities.

Any attempt to limit pre-clearance facilities to one terminal at London Heathrow is likely to be strongly resisted by those airlines whose passengers would not benefit from pre-clearance.

There is also the amount of available space for pre-clearance facilities. The transatlantic market is by far Heathrow’s biggest long-haul market. There are nearly 30 flights a day from London Heathrow to New York alone. Any facility will have to be of a considerable size to be worthwhile for passengers and compatible with efficient airport operations.

Heathrow airport also receives considerable income from letting terminal space to retailers and is likely to want to be compensated for any loss of income as a result of retail space being sacrificed to make way for pre-clearance facilities. Any attempt by Heathrow airport to be compensated through higher charges to airlines is likely to be strongly resisted by them.

So, many challenges and given the amount of work involved, pre-clearance, if it happens, is likely to be many years away.

Heathrow Terminal 1 to close to passengers on Tuesday 30 June

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London Heathrow Terminal 1, 1969 (Image Credit: Heathrow Airport)

On Tuesday 30 June 2015, London Heathrow Terminal 1 will have closed its doors to passengers for the final time after more than 45 years of operation.

The last remaining resident, British Airways, will disperse its flights from the terminal to Terminals 3 and 5*.

Having opened in 1969, Terminal 1 spent most of its life as the principal hub for short-haul traffic, specifically that of British Airways and the now defunct bmi British Midland. In between the opening of Terminal 5 and the new Terminal 2, it was also home to number of Star Alliance carriers, such as Lufthansa and Swiss.

It has been loved for features such as the former “Zone R” BA premium check-in area and loathed for long walkways and the poor condition of many public areas of the terminal.

In its life the terminal has seen wildcat industrial action, the paralysis of operations due to fog and heavy snow, terrorist threats, fire, and even an altercation that led to the arrest of Snoop Dogg.

The closure of Terminal 1 will eventually allow for the expansion of the new Terminal 2.
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Malaysia Airlines looks set to retain Heathrow presence

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Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380 London Heathrow
Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380 London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

There has been much speculation in recent months about the future of Malaysia Airlines’ long-haul routes, specifically those to Europe, after it became known that the airline was planning a radical restructuring and reports that much of its long-haul fleet, including its Airbus A380s, were being put up for sale.

At a press conference today incoming CEO Christoph Mueller outlined in very broad terms some aspects of the restructuring.

It is known that the restructuring will involve the transfer of operations to a new legal entity and approximately 6,000 job cuts.

Christoph Mueller would not be drawn on specific route decisions, other than to say that London was considered a flagship route and would stay.

Furthermore, the airline would seek joint-venture relationships with fellow Oneworld alliance partners.

We would not rule out some form of capacity cut, either through reducing its twice-daily London Heathrow-Kuala Lumpur frequency and/or by downsizing from an Airbus A380.  

Published traffic data for this route suggests that a double-daily A380 is excessive.

There is also scope to form a joint-venture with British Airways, which returned to Kuala Lumpur only last week, with mutual code sharing on the route and “back and beyond” routes to from London and Kuala Lumpur, as BA currently has with American Airlines and Japan Airlines.

Further details are expected in the coming weeks.

“Britain’s Busiest Airport” premiers on ITV at 9pm on Thursday 4 June

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Virgin Atlantic aircraft taking off at London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic aircraft taking off at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

“Britain’s Busiest Airport”, a three part behind the scenes documentary on London Heathrow will premier on ITV at 9pm on Thursday 4 June 2015.

Here’s a précis of the first two episodes from the ITV Press Centre.  Preview clips and images are also available from Heathrow airport.

UK viewers will also be able to watch on catch-up on the ITV Player.

Episode 1 – Thursday 4 June

This episode follows Heathrow staff racing against the clock to process thousands of passengers arriving from 84 different countries. Airside Safety Officer Glenn and his colleagues work closely with Air Traffic Control to keep Heathrow’s two runways open and clear of debris. Meanwhile, staff from the Animal Reception Centre welcome a variety of weird and wonderful animals – from pet ferrets to a wild tiger. Inside the terminals, Heathrow staff deal with passengers including a man who is stuck living at the airport after being deported from Thailand, and a family whose young relatives have got lost in Arrivals.

Episode 2 – Thursday 11 June

This episode follows Heathrow staff trying to process 100,000 departing passengers a day, and get their flights away on time. Dispatcher Callie and Ramp Manager Steve have their plans thrown into chaos by a passenger who disappears after checking on to their flight. In Security, Sundeep and his team have to search an unusually dressed traveller, and deal with a man who is unhappy about having his bag searched. Meanwhile, Heathrow’s extradition team ensures police suspects are put on departing flights, while paparazzi photographer Kate is on the lookout for celebrities flying through the airport.

The series is produced for ITV by Raw TV.