Over the past couple of years there has been significant growth in routes between London and Canada, notably with the launch of flights by Canadian airline WestJet this summer from London Gatwick to a number of cities in Canada.
Although WestJet’s entry into the long-haul market was far from smooth with significant technical problems with its fleet of 2nd hand aircraft, it is pressing ahead with its long-haul operation at London Gatwick.
British Airways has outlined its initial plans to invest in its long-haul business class cabin, Club World. These include radical changes to food & beverage, new bedding and new service routines designed to maximise the available time for sleeping on flights.
BA has announced today (4 November 2016) at the Capital Markets Day of its parent company, International Airlines group, a significant investment in its Club World long-haul business class cabin.
At the outset, we should say this is unlikely to involve BA removing its “yin-yang” 2-4-2 Club World seating configuration from existing long-haul aircraft.
A new Club World seat is planned for the Airbus A350 aircraft which is not due to enter service for some time. However, this is expected to maintain the 2-4-2 configuration, but with modifications to provide direct aisle access for all.
Whilst this is uncompetitive against many airlines which have introduced business class seats with all aisle access, BA favours the density of seating afforded by this configuration.
What BA does promise is a significant improvement in food & beverage through, for example, the ability to pre-order a wider range of meals online in advance of a flight and a complete redesign of the in-flight service.
BA also promises investment in cabin crew training and an improvements to cabin ambience to provide a better environment for sleeping (we’re not quite sure what that will be).
In the interests of expectations management, this investment is unlikely to involve increases in cabin crew numbers in the cabin nor changes to the size of the galleys on the aircraft, so we would not expect anything truly radical. BA is also not likely to introduce anything that adds significant weight to aircraft or could result in high levels of wastage.
No date has been set for the changes. However, when they are implemented it is likely they will be introduced gradually across the route network.
You can view the full slide deck from the Capital Markets Day here.
British Airways has confirmed at the Capital Markets Day of its parent company, International Airlines Group, that it is to increase the density of seating on selected long-haul Boeing 777 aircraft from 9 to 10 seats a row in its World Traveller economy cabin.
This move will be implemented on 25 Boeing 777 aircraft which is understood to be all of BA’s Boeing 777s at London Gatwick and selected Boeing 777s at London Heathrow. It will add an additional 36 economy seats to the aircraft.
BA will also reduce the size of the Club World business class cabin from 40 to 32 seats and increase the size of the World Traveller Plus premium economy cabin from 24 to 42 seats on these aircraft.
The reconfigured aircraft are expected to enter service in 2018.
This is in fact not the first time BA has implemented 10-across seating in World Traveller economy as many Gatwick based Boeing 777 aircraft had this configuration in the 1990s.
There are no plans to increase the density on other long-haul aircraft. However, you can be confident that BA will be monitoring closely passenger feedback and the financial performance of routes with the increased seating density.
This is no doubt a competitive response to both the growth of Norwegian at London Gatwick and many other airlines which have similar configurations on Boeing 777 aircraft.
Whilst the airline will no doubt say this is a necessary competitive move, it will mean a more crowded cabin, less overhead baggage space, lower crew-passenger ratios, and more queues for the washrooms.
On a similar note, BA also hints that its long-haul economy product may be “unbundled” with separate charges for items such as checked bags for certain fates, as has happpend on short-haul. If this does happen, it is likely to operate on a trial basis, initially at London Gatwick.
You can view the full slide deck from the Capital Markets Day here.
Update February 2018:Here are details of the routes on which the densified Boeing 777s are expected to operate.
British Airways parent company, International Airlines Group, is holding its annual Capital Markets Day today, Friday 25 November 2016.
Whilst the event is very much aimed at the group’s institutional investors, there are also a number of announcements of interest to passengers.
One of which is that BA is to introduce the equivalent of its European short-haul business class product Club Europe on U.K. Domestic routes from London to Belfast, Manchester, Leeds-Bradford, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness. Historically, aircraft on UK domestic routes have operated with a single class configuration.
This means passengers will benefit from seating in 2-2, rather than 3-3 configuration as well as complimentary food & drink (though this is likely to be limited given the relatively short flying times).
The exact timescale is to be revealed though it should be relatively easy to do given it doesn’t require any physical changes to aircraft.
This is no doubt a response to the decision to introduce buy-on-board catering in economy on all European and domestic short-haul flights and will ensure passengers in business and first class connecting from long-haul flights receive complimentary catering on their short-haul connections within the UK.
You can view the slide deck from the Capital Markets Day here.
Update: Club Europe will be available on UK domestic routes from Friday 31 March 2017. More details here.
Dutch airline KLM is to return to London City airport from Monday 6 February 2017 with direct flights to Amsterdam Schipol airport.
Flights with initially operate once a day on weekdays from Monday 6 February 2017. The schedule will progressively increase to four times a day on weekdays with daily flights on Saturdays and twice daily on Sundays from 28 March 2017.
A four times daily schedule will clearly allow for ample connections to and from KLM’s extensive international network at Amsterdam Schipol.
Flights will be operated by KLM CityHopper using 100 seat Embraer E-190 aircraft, which should afford good leg room.
Over the past few years British Airways has steadily built up a large portfolio of seasonal summer routes from London Heathrow to sunshine destinations in Europe.
BA has today announced another tranche of seven new seasonal routes for the summer of 2017.
Montpellier, France (from 3 May 2017 – 30 September 2017) Nantes, France (from 28 March 2017 – 28 October 2017) Murcia, Spain (from 28 March 2017 – 28 October 2017) Tallinn, Estonia (from 28 March 2017 – 28 October 2017) Pula, Croatia (from 1 July 2017 – 30 September 2017) Brindisi, Southern Italy (from 3 June 2017 – 30 September 2017)
The Greek Island of Zakynthos (from 3 June 2017 – 30 September 2017)
All of these routes will operate twice weekly on Saturdays and either Tuesday or Wednesday.
All flights will operate to and from London Heathrow Terminal 5, with the exception of Pula which will operate from Terminal 3.
Additional weekly frequencies may be announced in the coming months, depending on commercial demand.
A large number of seasonal routes operated in previous years, such as Ibiza, Corfu, Mykonos, and Palermo will also return in 2017.
British Airways has announced its third new transatlantic route in as many weeks with the launch of a four times weekly service from London Gatwick to Oakland California (Oakland International Airport) from 28 March 2017.
Flights will operate four times weekly (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) in the summer season and three times weekly in the winter season.
Flights will be operated with a three class Boeing 777 aircraft featuring Club World business class, World Traveller Plus premium economy, and World Traveller economy.
Oakland is BA’s fifth destination in California after San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose.
Like Fort Lauderdale, this route is also served by Norwegian from London Gatwick and there can be no doubt this is a competitive response to Norwegian’s growing network of long-haul routes to the USA at London Gatwick.
BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group, clearly sees Norwegian as a major competitor that requires a strategic competitive response. Further announcements may be made by both BA and other IAG group airlines such as Iberia and Aer Lingus in the coming weeks.
It is also BA’s fourth destination in Florida after Miami, Orlando and Tampa.
Flights will operate three times weekly (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) with additional flight on Sunday in the peak summer season (16 July – 3 September 2017).
Flights will be operated using a three class Boeing 777-200 aircraft with Club World business class, World Traveller Plus premium economy, and World Traveller economy.
BA is not for the first airline to fly to Fort Lauderdale from Gatwick as Norwegian have been flying the route for some time. Indeed, this is the second time BA has launched a new route to head-to-head with Norwegian at Gatwick, after reinstating flights from Gatwick to New York JFK.
This route will popular with tourists to South Florida and those taking cruises from the area.
It is also a potentially better gateway than Miami airport and should promise a smoother experience in US Customs & Immigration.
That said, BA’s Airbus A380 operated flights from London Heathrow to Miami will offer the option of First Class, newer World Traveller Plus and World Traveller seating, a more advanced in flight entertainment system and a more pleasant cabin environment. It will of course be possible to “mix and match” flights between different airports. Flights will also be codeshared with Aer Lingus, American Airlines, Finnair and Iberia.