Virgin Atlantic has today announced that it is to suspend its daily London Heathrow-Sydney service from 5 May 2014. The airline will continue to fly to Hong Kong, where the Sydney flight currently stops en-route.
British Airways has often been criticised in the past for failing to prove it can compete with rival airlines outside its base at London Heathrow, where it now commands nearly 50% of take off and landing slots. Witness how the airline withdrew entirely from regional point to point operations five years ago and, as reported yesterday, has ceded a significant share of traffic at London Gatwick to easyJet.
The one exception to this is at London City. Some five years ago CityJet, an airline with a complex history and structure, but now under the ownership of Air France KLM, dominated short-haul operations at the airport, with more than twice the share of take off and landing slots as British Airways.
easyJet posted a good set of financial results last week solidifying its transition from an upstart low cost carrier to a mature pan-European short-haul airline.
The airline also announced a significant expansion at London Gatwick. This has been aided by its acquisition earlier this year of Flybe’s portfolio of slots at Gatwick which now gives easyJet nearly 50% of take off and landing slots at the airport.
New easyJet routes
In addition to recent route launches to cities such as Bergen and Moscow, next year easyJet will launch new routes to Brussels, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Jersey, Newcastle and Strasbourg. The airline will also increase frequencies by one flight a day on routes to Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Geneva, Inverness and the Isle of Man.
American Airlines & US Airways are, after much speculation and uncertainty over regulatory approval (and significant concessions over slots at US airports), expected to merge.
As the two airlines have large domestic networks in the US much of the coverage has naturally focused on the impact in the US.
However, the merger does have implications for travellers in London, particularly frequent flyers of British Airways and Oneworld which is what I focus on in this post.
Many airlines have long offered passengers in first and business class the opportunity to pre-order their meals in advance of boarding their flight. Singapore Airlines has its “Book The Cook” facility. Qantas offers the same facility under the guise of “Q Eat”.
The passenger benefits in securing their preferred choice of meal and the airline benefits in reducing wastage – catering being one of a very few areas where airlines can actually control costs.
One notable exception in offering this service is British Airways, in spite of it carrying very large volumes of first and business class passengers (some 84 on most Boeing 747s) and having one of the highest proportions of revenue attributable to first and business class traffic.
From an as yet unspecified date in the second quarter of next year (so possibly some six months away), BA is to trial the pre-ordering of meals in Club World business class and First class on the London – New York JFK route.
From what is known so far, passengers will only be able to choose from the existing menu and will not have additional menu choices (and opting out of “Afternoon Tea” does not seem to be an option!). No doubt this is being driven by the desire to reduce wastage, but it would be good to see the proceeds in any savings reinvested in the improving catering.
Update: This facility is now available on all long-haul routes from London Heathrow and Gatwick. You can pre-order your meal through the Manage My Booking tool.
Ever since BA took over bmi 18 months ago, it has found itself returned to a situation it was in three years ago at London Heathrow. That is operating across three terminals in the airport (1, 3 and 5).
This is plainly undesirable from the perspective of both passenger experience and efficiency. Terminal 1 is unpopular for many reasons, not least the general condition of the terminal which is due to close in 2016.
BA has now confirmed that it will consolidate its operations in Terminals 3 and 5 from 2015. The new Terminal 2 will not be used by any Oneworld carriers.
International Airlines Group held its annual Capital Markets Day on Friday 15 November 2013. This is an event where a very large volume of financial and strategic material is presented to institutional investors and analysts. However, there are small items of news (more to follow) of interest to the public at large.
One concerns the London-Singapore-Sydney route. Ever since Qantas jettisoned its partnership with BA in favour of a joint-venture with Emirates there has been speculation as to whether BA would be able to continue to serve Australia directly.
Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines have been busy putting the final touches to their transatlantic joint-venture which launches next year.
Schedules to Boston and New York have been tweaked. Delta launches a daily flight to Seattle on 29 March 2014 and a second daily flight to Detroit on 9 June 2014.
In the most significant move to date, Delta is relocating its services from London Heathrow to Boston, New York and Seattle from Heathrow Terminal 4 to Terminal 3 from 2 April 2014.
BA has launched summer seasonal routes from London Heathrow to Faro, Malaga, Mykonos, Porto and Santorini for summer 2014.
Over the past few years, British Airways has operated summer seasonal weekend flights from its London Heathrow base to European holiday destinations.
Initially, these were charter flights for holiday companies and last year BA launched seasonal weekly flights to Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca. Both of these two destinations are to return to Heathrow next summer.
The use of Heathrow slots for summer seasonal flights ramps up a gear next summer as BA launches twice weekly flights to Faro (also operated from Gatwick), Malaga (also operated from Gatwick and London City), Mykonos, Porto and Santorini.
Flights to Oporto, Faro and Malaga operate from 30 March 2014. Flights to Mykonos operate from 3 May 2014 and flights to Santorini operate from 4 May 2014.
Although it may seem unusual BA is launching these routes from its main hub at Heathrow, instead of Gatwick which has served as BA’s main base for leisure flights over the past years, there is a logic in using Heathrow slots for such flights at weekends when business routes are relatively quiet. No doubt these routes are also supported by bookings from tour operators.
Flights can be booked now on ba.com.
A few months I ago I posted about the disappointment experienced by many British Airways passengers when BaxterStorey took over the catering contract for the British Airways lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5.
The issue had largely died down. That was until last Saturday a poster on FlyerTalk had identified that, following an inspection of two of the six lounges at Terminal 5 (The Galleries First lounge and Concorde Room), Hillingdon Council had awarded these lounges a food safety score of 2 out of a possible 5. This means an improvement is required.
To put this into context, almost all of the outlets at Terminal 5 achieved either a score of 4 or 5 with only Gordon Ramsay’s “Plane Food” restaurant and a branch of Caffe Nero achieving a score of 2.