Virgin Atlantic Ends Partnership With Air China

Virgin Atlantic is ending its partnership with Air China.

London Air Travel

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

Virgin Atlantic is ending its partnership with Air China.

Currently members of the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club can earn miles when flying on Air China, as well as redeem miles on Air China flights.

This will end from Monday 16 March 2020. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members who have made redemption bookings on Air China up to 16 March 2020 will still have their bookings honoured.

Flying Club members will also be able to make retrospective mileage claims in respect of flights taken on Air China before 16 March 2020 up to six months after the date of travel.

Virgin Atlantic also codeshares on Air China’s flights from London Heathrow to Beijing as well as on local routes from Shanghai. The Virgin Atlantic website currently indicates that these will also end from 16 March 2020.

London Air Travel's Atlantic Update – 22 January 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel

Manhattan at Sunrise
Manhattan at Sunrise (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Hello and welcome to London Air Travel’s Atlantic Update providing a weekly bulletin on developments on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America. The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday morning at 06:00 GMT.

CMA Investigation Into AA/BA Joint Business

There is something that was been underway for quite some time. It may prove to be insignificant. It could otherwise prove to be seismic.

More than 10 years ago, the European Commission gave regulatory approval for AA and BA (as well as Finnair and Iberia) to have anti-trust immunity to operate their transatlantic joint business. As a condition of this, AA and BA had to make certain commitments slots available to willing entrants on certain overlapping routes between the two airlines. These included a number of routes from London to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and New York.

In October 2018, the UK regulator, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) announced it was opening a review of the joint business pending the expiry of the above commitments and the UK’s imminent departure from the European Union.

Who knows what exactly is going on behind the scenes, but the review is taking considerably longer than expected. Last week, the CMA announced it has added Aer Lingus, which is currently seeking approval from the US Department of Transportation to be added to the joint business, to the scope of its review.

AA and BA will be able to say with some considerable justification that joint business has helped BA launch many new transatlantic routes from London Heathrow, where additional sales from AA’s local customer base can be vital to making thinner routes profitable. Nor could either airlines be accused of reducing capacity on over-lapping routes.

However, it will certainly be the case that there will have been intense lobbying by JetBlue to secure new remedy slots at London Heathrow. Norwegian has also sought to secure slots at Heathrow. Airlines using regulatory reviews to secure Heathrow slots for free isn’t new. However, it also the case from the CMA’s work in other industries that it is prepared to flex its muscles and will take whatever time it sees fit.

Meanwhile, the AA and BA joint business continues to operate as normal, but both airlines will be awaiting the CMA’s findings with interest.

Continue reading “London Air Travel's Atlantic Update – 22 January 2020”

London Air Travel's Monday Briefing – 20 January 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel

Flybe Bombardier Q400 Aircraft, Cornwall Airport Newquay
Flybe Bombardier Q400 Aircraft, Cornwall Airport Newquay (Image Credit: Cornwall Airport Newquay)

Hello and welcome to the London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 20 January 2020.

Flybe

The news over the past week has of course been dominated by the financial difficulties of Flybe.

Who knows what will be the ultimate fate of the airline, but it can be said with confidence that this story will run and run. It could well end with some high profile figures appearing before a Transport Select Committee hearing.

There are a lot of multi-faceted aspects as to how Flybe got here. There are also a lot of vested interests in its ultimate fate.

It’s worth recalling that the original sale of Flybe to the Connect Airways Consortium comprising Cyrus Capital Partners, Stobart Air and Virgin Atlantic was highly controversial. The need for approval from Flybe’s public shareholders was circumvented by structuring the sale of the airline as a sale of its assets, thus wiping out any remaining shareholder value. When Flybe floated on the stock exchange in 2010, it was valued at some £250m. The urgency of the sale was seen as critical to securing the airline’s future.

Flybe has now secured what is known as a “Time To Pay” arrangement with the UK’s tax authority HM Revenue & Customs in respect of an outstanding liability of Air Passenger Duty of approximately £10m. This is a common arrangement used by businesses in financial distress.

The Government has also promised to look at the levying of Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights. Airlines have spent years lobbying against Air Passenger Duty to no avail. The Treasury, which is no stranger to complaints and lobbying from industry groups, will at best come up with a fudge that is revenue neutral.

Flybe is also in discussions with the UK Government about securing a short-term loan on commercial terms.

Flybe’s rivals are furious. IAG, whose slots are being used by Flybe at London Heathrow, has submitted a complaint to the European Union alleging that Flybe is in receipt of state aid. Should Flybe be seen to receive any special treatment from the UK Government, its rivals could well also seek a judicial review.

They can argue, with some justification, that Flybe’s financial problems were well documented before its current owners bought the airline. The Connect Airways consortium had ample opportunity to do a full due diligence.  

Virgin has an uncanny ability to keep its head down when trouble is brewing. However, assuming the rebranding to Virgin Connect ultimately goes ahead, it will not be able to avoid scrutiny.

Managing an airline with multiple shareholders is hard enough. With its shareholders having different interests – Virgin wants Flybe to feed its operations at Heathrow and Manchester and Stobart Air wants it to grow Southend airport (which it owns) – turning around Flybe is not going to be easy.

Continue reading “London Air Travel's Monday Briefing – 20 January 2020”

Royal Air Maroc To Join Oneworld On 1 April 2020

Royal Air Maroc will be a full member of the Oneworld alliance from 1 April 2020.

London Air Travel

Royal Air Maroc joins the Oneworld alliance
Royal Air Maroc joins the Oneworld alliance

Royal Air Maroc will become a full member of the Oneworld alliance from Wednesday 1 April 2020.

Its regional subsidiary Royal Air Maroc Express will also join as a Oneworld affiliate member.

This means that from this date passengers of Oneworld frequent flyer programmes will be entitled to full frequent flyer programme recognition when flying on Royal Air Maroc. This includes additional baggage allowances, access to priority check-in facilities, departure lounges, priority boarding and earning of Avios/miles and tier points/status credits.

Royal Air Maroc currently flies from London Heathrow Terminal 4 and London Gatwick North Terminal to Casablanca. Both of these routes are served with Boeing 737 aircraft.

The addition of Royal Air Maroc does substantially improve Oneworld’s coverage of Africa where it is relatively weak to compared to SkyTeam and Star Alliance.

From Casablanca, Royal Air Maroc does offer connections to a number of destinations in Morocco such as Agadir and Tangier, and destinations in West Africa such as Luanda. Full details of Royal Air Maroc’s network can be seen here.

Royal Air Maroc has announced co-operation through codesharing with some Oneworld alliance members such as American Airlines.

There is obvious scope for co-operation between BA and Royal Air Maroc to improve BA’s coverage of Africa. However, this is unlikely to happen without BA serving Casablanca with its own aircraft, which it doesn’t at the moment.

London Air Travel's Atlantic Update – 15 January 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel

New York Skyline
New York Skyline (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Hello and welcome to London Air Travel’s Atlantic Update providing a weekly bulletin on developments on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America. The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday morning at 06:00 GMT.

The Talk Of The Town

American Airlines and BA have provided a little more detail on their plans to co-locate at New York JFK Terminal 8 from 2022.

Terminal 8 is of course well established and houses not only American Airlines but also Oneworld alliance partners Cathay Pacific and Qantas. In order to accommodate BA’s move into the terminal, an additional 70,000 square feet of space will be added. As will five wide body gates and four remote stands capable of handling wide body aircraft.

Given BA can have up to 8 departures from New York JFK in the space of five hours in the evening, there will be some concern that some passengers may have to use remote standards, which would not be fitting for a “blue riband” route.

There’s been much less news on American and BA’s plans for London Heathrow. There was a very vague release some time ago about “big plans” for Terminal 3 which have so far come to nothing.

American has expressed a desire to co-locate with BA at Heathrow Terminal 5, which would make sense, particularly for a route like New York JFK where both airlines are at a disadvantage compared to Delta and Virgin Atlantic who share terminals at both London Heathrow and New York JFK. However, there are likely to be significant process and systems issues to be addressed before American can move into Terminal 5.

The plans for the broader redevelopment of New York JFK are of course a classically American approach to infrastructure investment: celebrating private investment whilst not being prepared to spend public money on underlying problems – namely access to New York JFK from Manhattan.

On that note, the idea of a direct link from Manhattan to La Guardia airport should be welcomed. However, the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo is pursuing a proposal, at a cost of some $2 billion, that would result in the majority of passengers from Manhattan passing by La Guardia and then backtracking to get to the airport. This is in spite of considerable protests. (Streets Blog)

Continue reading “London Air Travel's Atlantic Update – 15 January 2020”

London Air Travel's Monday Briefing – 13 January 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel

Luis Gallego, Chief Executive Designate, International Airlines Group
Luis Gallego, Chief Executive Designate, International Airlines Group (Image Credit: Iberia)

Hello and welcome to the first Monday Briefing from London Air Travel for 2020.

Two weeks into the year, we’ve had a reminder that airlines are never far away from geopolitical events. A number of airlines are still financially vulnerable – late on Sunday evening Sky News reported that Flybe is in talks to secure additional financing. This year will also see a significant upheaval in the management of IAG.

IAG Prepares For Life After Willie Walsh

It has been known for some months that Willie Walsh was due to retire from IAG before October 2021.

IAG has since moved very quickly – there has been speculation in the Sunday papers as to why – to replace Willie Walsh as CEO. Last week, IAG announced that Luis Gallego will be CEO of the group from Thursday 26 March 2020.

Luis is currently CEO and Chairman of Iberia as well as Chairman of its low cost long-haul brand LEVEL. Luis has also previously been CEO of Iberia Express – long seen by Willie Walsh as a model of operational excellence.

There is no question that Luis will have a very different management style to Willie Walsh.

I’ll quote Oscar Wilde that whenever people agree with me, I always think I’m wrong, but the fact that they’re disagreeing with me means I’m right.

Willie Walsh, 2018

Memories about BA are often very short and very selective. It’s worth recalling that many commentators were convinced that a merger of BA and Iberia could not work. Ironically, one concern was that IAG would not be able to exert control over the two airlines, which has proved to be far from the case.

IAG can justifiably claim to have pursued cost & revenue synergies with considerably more vigour than Air France-KLM and Lufthansa and introduced genuinely new ideas.

There have certainly been some mis-steps. It wasn’t until that long ago that Willie Walsh was convinced that BA did not need to change its “yin-yang” layout in Club World. In reality, BA would have saved itself a lot of grief it had introduced an entirely long-haul business class new seat with the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 in 2013. BA’s high profile IT failures point to a lack of investment which has since has been addressed with a higher profile for IAG’s Chief Information Officer.

It is also only until very recently that IAG appears to have taken a look at the relative positioning of its brands in the market. Talk of “stretching” the BA brand a few years ago has since been reversed.

Willie Walsh’s departure does seem premature. Having long been an advocate of “rational” behaviour and disciplined investment, he has almost relished the opportunity to prove IAG’s financial resilience during an industry crisis. That will now fall to Luis.

Luis Gallego will have no shortage of items on his to do list. The acquisition of Air Europa will inevitably be challenged by regulatory authorities. IAG will also need to decide how to rationalise its brands in Spain, which will number five. There is also the question of LEVEL, where its ambitious growth plans appear to have been put in hold.

There is also the question of how IAG’s structure will be compatible with the terms of an eventual UK-EU trade deal with many investors and journalists left unconvinced by IAG’s apparent lack of concern to date.

From a UK perspective, when relative weakness is that having not run BA, Luis Gallego is not known amongst UK Government ministers. IAG will have to lobby the UK Government on a number of matters, including the third runway at Heathrow and possibly the Competition & Markets Authority’s findings on its review of the transatlantic joint business with American Airlines.

A new CEO will undoubtedly lead to other management changes in a group that does like to move executives around and there has inevitably been speculation about Alex Cruz at BA.

Continue reading “London Air Travel's Monday Briefing – 13 January 2020”

BA Airbus A380 Flights From London Heathrow In 2020

Where will BA’s fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft fly to in 2020? Here’s our guide.

London Air Travel

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

With the arrival of the Airbus A350, the A380 has been superseded as one of the most popular aircraft in BA’s fleet, particularly for passengers flying in Club World.

However, BA’s critical mass of 12 Airbus A380 is still the preferred choice of aircraft on many routes it operates from London Heathrow.

Here’s our guide to where the Airbus A380 is due to fly in 2020. The one significant change from previous years is that the A380 no longer flies to Miami and there appear be no plans to reintroduce the aircraft to this route.

Please note that schedules are subject to change throughout the course of the year. Aircraft can also be substituted at short notice due to unforeseen circumstances. 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 Monday 30 March 2020 to Saturday 24 October 2020.

Chicago O’Hare

The BA A380 will fly to Chicago O’Hare daily on flights BA297 & BA296 for the summer season from Sunday 29 March 2020 to Saturday 24 October 2020.

Hong Kong

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

From Sunday 29 March 2020 until Saturday 24 October 2020, the two flights swap and BA31 & BA32 will be operated with the A380. It then swaps back to BA27 & BA28.

Continue reading “BA Airbus A380 Flights From London Heathrow In 2020”

British Airways' Fleet Refurb & Renewal Plans (2020)

Updated for 2020, here’s our guide to BA’s plans to refurbish and renew its fleet.

London Air Travel

British Airways Airbus A350-1000 G-XWBA Aircraft, London Heathrow
British Airways Airbus A350-1000 G-XWBA Aircraft, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our updated guide to British Airways’ plans to refurbish and renew its short and long-haul fleet for 2020.

The main theme for 2020 is the delivery of new Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 777-300 and 787-10 aircraft, as well as the refurbishment of Boeing 777-200 aircraft at London Heathrow.

As BA now has clear plans to replace all of its Boeing 747 and much of its Boeing 777-200 fleet, no wide body aircraft orders are expected this year.

BA’s fleet plans are under constant review. In the short term, they are subject to aircraft manufacturers meeting delivery deadlines. In the medium term, they will also be influenced by economic and geopolitical events.

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

Airbus A350-1000

British Airways Airbus A350-1000 G-XWBA Aircraft, London Heathrow
British Airways Airbus A350-1000 G-XWBA Aircraft, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)

BA has started to take delivery of the Airbus A350-1000, of which there are 18 on order. As at 1 January 2020, four aircraft are in service.

The first Airbus A350s are in a three class configuration, with no First Class. There are 56 Club World “Club Suite” seats, 56 World Traveller Plus seats, and 219 World Traveller seats.

The first long-haul routes are London Heathrow – Toronto (BA93 / BA92), London Heathrow – Dubai (BA107 / BA106), London Heathrow – Tel Aviv (BA163 / BA162) and London Heathrow – Bengaluru (BA119 / BA118).

BA will take delivery of further aircraft in 2020, with all expected to be delivered by 2022. The airline also has options for 36 more aircraft.

Please see here for details of the new Club World cabin and here for internal and external pictures of the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

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, Boston (summer seasonal), Chicago (summer seasonal), San Francisco, Vancouver (summer seasonal) and Washington Dulles.

BA had options to acquire a further 7 A380s. However, these have now lapsed. With Airbus suspending production of the A380 in 2021 it is now a given that BA will not be acquiring any more aircraft.

There was talk some time ago of BA’s leasing second-hand Airbus A380s but this has not come to anything due to the cost of reconfiguring aircraft.

BA will also begin retrofitting its new “Club Suite” to A380 aircraft from 2023.

Continue reading “British Airways' Fleet Refurb & Renewal Plans (2020)”

How Will We Be Flying In 2030?

The major themes and trends in aviation over the next decade.

London Air Travel

CGI Image of Heathrow Airport Masterplan 2050
CGI Image of Heathrow Airport Masterplan 2050 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

How will we be flying on 1 January 2030?

Many things are a given. A number of existing airlines will fail or fold into others. New start-up airlines will come and go.

Climate change will dominate public discourse over the next decade, with airlines acutely conscious of the need to reduce CO2 emissions.

Both IAG and Qantas have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Qantas has committed to cap its net carbon emissions at 2020 levels. easyJet is also offsetting carbon emissions from all flights.

Here are some of our predictions for themes and trends over the next decade:

No Third Runway At Heathrow

Even if Heathrow manages to overcome the environmental opposition and legal challenges to a third runway, the chances of it being operational by 2030 are slim at best.

Even based on current estimates if a third runway is constructed by 2026 it won’t be until 2050 that all the supporting infrastructure is completed.

At least Crossrail should be running to Heathrow by 2030.

Non-Stop Flights to Brisbane, Melbourne & Sydney

Is Qantas’ talk of non-stop flights from London to the East Coast of Australia merely hype?

It’s certainly true that Qantas have managed to generate a huge amount of PR before even ordering any aircraft.

That said, Qantas would not be briefing institutional investors, who are very unforgiving about not managing expectations, if it wasn’t intent on launching these flights.

So, bar some major unforeseen problem, look forward to non-stop flights from London Heathrow to Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney from 2023 and beyond.

More New Long-Haul Routes

A number of airlines have placed orders for the Airbus A321 XLR aircraft.

These include Aer Lingus (6 aircraft), American Airlines (50 aircraft), Iberia (8 aircraft), JetBlue (13 aircraft), Qantas Group (36 aircraft) and United (50 aircraft).

The Airbus A321 XLR is due to enter service from 2023. With a range of 4,700 nautical miles, the aircraft is seen as a enabling many new transatlantic routes between Europe and the US.

Electric Powered Aircraft & Sustainable Aviation Fuels

If not in the air by 2030, we should at least be close to hybrid electric aircraft for short-haul flights.

Harbour Air Seaplanes has completed a test flight of an aircraft powered by an electric propulsion system developed by magniX.

Eviation is developing a battery powered commuter aircraft and US airline Cape Air has purchase options for this aircraft.

Airlines around the world continue to invest in Sustainable Aviation Fuels. United already procures fuel from World Energy and has invested in Fulcrum BioEnergy. IAG is partnering with Velocys which aims to introduce waste-to-jet-fuel from 2024 from a new plant in South Humberside.

Continue reading “How Will We Be Flying In 2030?”

A Decade Of Air Travel 2010-2019

The themes and trends from a decade of air travel between 2010 and 2019.

London Air Travel

BA Boeing 747 at sunset
BA Boeing 747 at sunset (Image Credit: Heathrow)

In January 2010, BA was still reeling from the impact of the 2008 financial crash. The airline had just inked the terms of its merger with Iberia after calling off talks with Qantas. Norwegian was a largely short-haul airline based in the Nordics. Business travellers used devices known as Blackberrys to check work e-mails. Instagram did not exist.

The decade where everything changed is coming to an end. Here are some of the main themes and trends in air travel of the past ten years.

The Future Of Long-Haul Travel Has Two Engines

In January 2010, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, El Al, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Thai Airways, and Virgin Atlantic all operated the Boeing 747 at London Heathrow.

Today just one airline does, BA.

And on the subject of quad-engined aircraft…

The Hub-Busting Aircraft Won

Before the launch of the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, there were two competing narratives offered by Airbus and Boeing.

The future of air travel was passengers flying via major hubs, hence the demand for larger aircraft. Or it was smaller aircraft flying over hubs by opening up new routes that had not previously been financially viable.

There’s no doubt who won the argument. Whilst the Airbus A380 is much loved by passengers, it has only really worked for Emirates and, to an extent, BA. Airbus is to suspend production of the A380 in 2021. A number of airlines including Air France and Lufthansa are retiring the aircraft early with no evident second hand market. Others have cut A380 services from London.

Airlines clearly like smaller efficient aircraft as it enables them to be the exclusive operator of new routes from their hubs. Many more routes will follow in the next decade with the Airbus A321 XLR aircraft.

And on the subject of efficiency…

One Stop Long-Haul Flights Are On Their Way Out

10 years ago, Qantas operated up to five daily services between Europe and Australia via Asia.

BA also operated two daily services to Sydney via Bangkok and Singapore, and Virgin Atlantic served Sydney via Hong Kong.

Today, this has been reduced to one daily flight by both BA and Qantas to Sydney via Singapore.

Air New Zealand will also suspend London Heathrow to Auckland via Los Angeles in 2020 having already suspended its eastbound service to Auckland via Hong Kong.

With so many one-stop options between Europe and Australia/New Zealand on airlines with hubs in Asia and the Middle East, one-stop flights are simply not economic for European and Australian/New Zealand airlines. Qantas’ flight to Sydney via Singapore will in all likelihood be replaced by a non-stop flight from 2023.

Low Cost Long-Haul Is Here To Stay

Before Norwegian launched low cost long-haul flights at Gatwick, some senior industry figures had doubts it would work.

The Boeing 787 was the wrong aircraft and there was little point in charging customers for hot meals on long-haul flights.

Whilst the jury is still out on whether Norwegian can achieve long term profitability, IAG has launched its own low cost long-haul airline LEVEL and all major transatlantic airlines now offer “basic” unbundled long-haul economy fares.

And on the subject of basic economy…

The Decade Of Personalisation

Once upon a time, most airlines had economy and business class cabins and a Saturday night stay rule to distinguish between business and leisure passengers.

Now economy has been split into three cabins with the addition of basic economy and economy comfort at the front. Most major airlines have finally learned to embrace Premium Economy after years of resistance for fear of business class passengers trading down.

Thanks to new distribution channels and the easy ability to up-sell ancillary services via their websites and apps, airlines now target groups such as (in their words) “Frugal Fun”, “Efficiency Seeker”, “Global Getaway”, “Care Seeking Family” and “Leisure Indulgence”.

Airlines Adopted “Densification”

Put simply, this is squeezing in more seats.

Whether it’s ten abreast seating on the Boeing 777 or squeezing in as many seats as possible on Airbus short-haul aircraft with the aid of thinner seats, “densification” became a firm part of many airlines’ lexicon.

The Basic Rules Remain The Same (Part 1)

Sir Richard Branson and Willie Walsh may not agree on many things, but there is one thing they do agree on.

Both would say that new airlines need to pursue steady, cautious growth as new routes take years to establish and excess unprofitable capacity is destructive of value.

Norwegian did not do this. Nor did failed airlines such as Primera Air and WOW air. After a period of seemingly relentless expansion, Norwegian is now desperately backtracking having suspended many long-haul routes and forming a joint-venture to relieve itself of future aircraft financing obligations.

Continue reading “A Decade Of Air Travel 2010-2019”