On 21 May 2008, British Airways held a press conference at Terminal 7 of New York JFK airport. The then Chief Executive of the airline Willie Walsh outlined ambitious plans for a $30 million revamp of the terminal. The plans included a “drive through” check-in for First Class class passengers and Gold Executive Club card holders, revamped check-in and security zones, and refurbished lounges and travel spa.
What happened to the global financial system and the world economy shortly afterwards is well documented. The collapse of Lehman Brothers and state bail-outs of banks such as RBS and HBOS led to a dramatic fall in business and first class traffic, particularly from passengers who buy highly profitable flexible fares.
The plans for a revamp were put on hold and have remained on the drawing board ever since.
British Airways is to relaunch a daily service from London Gatwick to New York JFK from Sunday 1 May 2016.
The airline last flew between the two airports for a short period in 2008-2009 and the service was then ostensibly a “slot-sitting” exercise pending the launch of BA’s London City – New York JFK service.
The route will be operated with a three class Boeing 777-200 aircraft with Club World business class, World Traveller Plus premium economy and World Traveller economy cabins.
BA will be competing head on against Norwegian Air Shuttle which has a growing transatlantic network at London Gatwick including routes such as Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles.
The flight is being accommodated by the cancellation of BA’s thrice weekly London Gatwick – Las Vegas service and frequency adjustments on other routes.
The route will also be bookable as a codeshare with American Airlines, Iberia and Finnair.
Passsengers should also be aware that from January 2016 BA will have limited lounge facilities at Gatwick as its lounges will be closed pending its move to the South terminal in November 2016.
In a further sign of US airlines continuing to narrow the historical gap in service levels between their European rivals, United Airlines is to provide complimentary beer and wine in economy class on long-haul flights to and from London Heathrow from 1 June 2015.
This is part of a package of service improvements announced by United Airlines. The airline will continue to charge for spirits in economy. Passengers will also have the option to purchase additional snacks in flight.
This move does, if we’re not mistaken, put United Airlines broadly on a par with Delta and American Airlines. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic continue to offer a full bar service free of charge in economy.
Whilst in the grand scheme of things, this is a very modest change and, in truth, only a reversal of a previous cut, it’s perhaps less likely other airlines will start charging for alcoholic drinks in economy.
United Airlines flies from London Heathrow Terminal 2 to New York Newark, Chicago, Washington Dulles, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
It was a little under ten years ago that the concept of the all business class airline gained traction in the UK.
In October 2005, Eos Airlines launched all business class flights to New York JFK from London Stansted using 48 seat Boeing 757 aircraft. Silverjet launched all business class flights from London Luton (using a private terminal) to New York Newark using Boeing 767 aircraft, later adding Dubai.
Whilst both airlines received very positive reviews and many industry accolades, Eos collapsed in April 2008 after an additional round of financing fell through at the last minute. Silverjet fell victim to rising oil prices shortly afterwards.
Both airlines did have a lasting impact.
British Airways launched an (almost) all business class operation from Paris to New York under the name OpenSkies. In 2009, BA also launched a twice daily all business class service from London City to New York JFK (via Shannon). Whilst there was talk of additional routes being added, none have materialised. Unsurprisingly, claims by Virgin Atlantic that it was looking into launching all business class flights never came to fruition.
KLM have released a short series of “Cockpit Tales” videos showing the work its pilots undertake on a day to day basis to ensure flights operate safely and according to plan.
Filmed using “fixed rig” cameras in the cockpit of KLM aircraft, the first video “Autopilot in Action” shows Captain van Dorst planning a flight from Amsterdam to London Heathrow, how the flight is programmed using flight management software and the use of autopilot, and communications with Air Traffic Control from takeoff through to landing.
In the second video, “Highways In The Sky”, Captain de Vries on a flight from Amsterdam to New York JFK airport shows how the airline plans a flight across the atlantic ocean, where for a large part of the journey the crew and aircraft will have no radar communication with Air Traffic Control.
Finally in “Big plane, short runway”, at just 2,300 metres, Princess Juliana International Airport on the island of Saint Martin has one of the most challenging runways in the world. Captain ten Velde shows how KLM ensures it lands a Boeing 747 jumbo safely on the island.
We like these videos. There’s a huge amount that gets taken for granted in aviation and anything that increases understanding of aviation should be welcomed.
Virgin Atlantic has announced a significant over-haul of its network, suspending a number of non-US routes. Mumbai & Tokyo are suspended from 31 January 2015. Seasonal flights to Vancouver & Cape Town are suspended from 11 October 2014 and 26 April 2015.
We’re not quite sure what has prompted this, but British Airways has today, 13 April 2014, e-mailed large numbers of members of its Executive Club who hold blue or bronze cards offering a complimentary Silver card (which affords privileges such as access to business class check-in desks and lounges) if they book a business class return from London to New York, subject to certain booking restrictions, in the next 90 days.