Vueling’s Alex Cruz replaces Keith Williams as Chief Executive of British Airways

British Airways gains a new Chief Executive Officer this week as its current CEO Keith Williams, who has occupied the role since January 2011, has retired.

Keith will be replaced by Alex Cruz. Alex was previously CEO of Vueling, the Low Cost Carrier with its principal hub in Barcelona and smaller hubs around mainline Europe.

Alex’s appointment is an internal move as both British Airways and Vueling are (along with Aer Lingus and Iberia) part of International Airlines Group (“IAG”). The two airlines do co-operate with codeshares on each other’s short-haul flights.

What are we to make of this move and what does it mean for the future of BA?

Alex is certainly not the first CEO of a LCC to be appointed CEO of a full service network airline. Alan Joyce headed up Australian LCC JetStar before being appointed CEO of Qantas Airways Group.

At BA, in many respects it will be business as usual. This is because BA’s strategy and investment decisions are set by its parent company, IAG.

The past five years have been BA grow substantially at London Heathrow through its merger with bmi. It has added new long haul routes to Chengdu, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Austin and San Jose.

BA has also added the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 to its fleet. Its operations at London Heathrow have been relatively stable compared to some extremely volatile periods in the run up to the opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 and industrial conflicts following the financial crisis. It has also avoided some of the high profile PR blunders and crises of the aforementioned periods.

Whilst the airline has grown profitably, the tight cost control that has in part driven the growth in profitability is often in evidence to passengers – particularly in the area of in flight catering. This has also resulted in some truly absurd decisions, like removing eye shades from Club World amenity kits.

Also, for an airline known for innovation and being the first to install fully flat beds in first and business class, it has not delivered any significant in-cabin innovation in the past ten years. It has (so far at least) committed to keeping its “yin yang” Club World business class seat which is fundamentally unchanged from when the current seat was introduced in 2006. This is in spite of the fact that all aisle access seating is becoming standard in business class on most long haul airlines.

There has also been no major innovation with ground services at London Heathrow. A recent refurbishment of the Terminal 5 lounges was a modest refresh, rather than an opportunity to introduce new services. Again, this is in spite of the fact that many rival airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Qantas are making significant investments in their London Heathrow ground facilities.

What should we expect from Alex Cruz? 

Well, we don’t expect the regime of tight cost control to change. We suspect Alex has in part being recruited in this role to bring in new thinking to increase the efficiency of BA’s operations.

On a positive note, Vueling has achieved a very high growth rate and is known for being very responsive to market opportunities and launching new routes quickly. We await with interest to see if Alex brings an injenction of greater fleet footedness to BA.

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British Airways launches summer seasonal route from London City to Alicante

British Airways adds to its growing portfolio of summer seasonal routes with the launch of a new summer seasonal route from London City to Alicante.

The route will operate for some ten weeks from Monday 27 June 2016 to Monday 5 September 2016.

The route will be flown four times weekly on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays and Fridays. Flights will be operated using an Embraer E190 aircraft in a two class, Club Europe business and EuroTraveller economy configuration. Flights can also be “mixed and matched” with BA’s daily services to Alicante from London Gatwick.

Flights are on sale now at ba.com.
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Virgin Atlantic takes firsts steps to create a hub at Manchester with the launch of Boston & San Francisco in 2017

Virgin Atlantic has today announced that it is to launch new routes from Manchester to Boston & San Francisco from the weekend of 27 & 28 March 2017.

Boston will initially operate twice weekly (Wednesdays & Saturdays) and San Francisco will initially operate thrice weekly (Tuesdays, Fridays, & Sundays).

Flights will be operated by Virgin Atlantic’s fleet of Airbus A330 aircraft with Upper Class (business), premium economy and economy seating.

Virgin Atlantic has of course long had a presence in Manchester. It flies to Orlando, Barbados, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. The latter being the hub of its transatlantic partner and minority shareholder, Delta Airlines.

However, what is noteworthy about today’s announcement is that first these routes seemingly are geared to attracting business as well as leisure traffic.

Furthermore, Virgin will (for the first time we believe) offer a significant number of short-haul connections at Manchester with Flybe from a large number of airports in the UK and Europe such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Exeter, Southampton and Newquay.

As such, today’s announcement could presage the development of small, but growing, hub for Virgin Atlantic at Manchester.

It is also good to see Virgin Atlantic expanding after a period of contraction at London Heathrow with the closure of its “Little Red” domestic flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester, as well as the closure of a number of routes such as Cape Town, Mumbai, Tokyo and Vancouver.

It also points to a very growing and competitive transatlantic market in the UK. Indeed, Boston and San Francisco are two recently announced routes by Norwegian at London Gatwick.

In terms of competitive response from carriers in London, we don’t expect any immediate response from British Airways or its parent company IAG.

BA attracted considerable criticism many years ago for withdrawing its final non-London international route, Manchester – New York JFK. BA would no doubt point to its growing transatlantic network in London, its codeshare partner American Airlines flights from Manchester to New York JFK, Chicago and Philadelphia and its IAG sibling Aer Lingus flights to North America from Manchester via Dublin (with the benefit of pre-clearance). That said, we have no doubt today’s developments will be watched with interest.

Virgin’s flights from Manchester to Boston and San Francisco should be on sale shortly on the Virgin Atlantic website.

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Brussels Airport Closure: British Airways launches temporary London Heathrow – Liege service

Following the closure of Brussels Airport, British Airways has suspended all of its London Heathrow – Brussels services until Tuesday 29 March 2016. In addition, flight BA389 from Brussels to London Heathrow on Wednesday 30 March is cancelled.

Update Sunday 3 April: All BA flight to and from Brussels have been cancelled through to Thursday 7 April 2016.

The airline is running an alternative service to Liege Airport which is located approximately 90km from Brussels.

Flights will operate up to Thursday 7 April 2016 at the earliest.

Update Sunday 3 April: Flights to Liege will continue until Thursday 7 April 2016 at the earliest.

Flight BA406 Depart London Heathrow 08:55 – Arrive Liege 11:05
Flight BA407 Depart Liege 11:55 – Arrive London Heathrow 12:15

Flight BA410 Depart London Heathrow 13:55 – Arrive Liege 16:10 (28 & 29 March only)
Flight BA411 Depart Liege 17:00 – Arrive London Heathrow 17:15 (28 & 29 March only)

Flight BA408 Depart London Heathrow 15:15 – Arrive Liege 17:30
Flight BA409 Depart Liege 18:15 – Arrive London Heathrow 18:30

Note that if you are booked onto a flight to/from Brussels which has been cancelled you will not be automatically accommodated on these flights to/from Liege. You need to contact BA or your travel agent to be reboooked.

BA is also offering passengers booked to fly to Brussels up to Sunday 3 April 2016 to rebook onto alternative services to Brussels up to Sunday 17 April or to alternative airports such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Paris, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. More details are on BA’s trade website.

It should also be noted that BA will not meet any incidental expenses such as ground transportation as a consequence of the change in departure / arrival airport.

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British Airways to launch seasonal London Gatwick – Cape Town service from Thursday 24 November 2016

British Airways is to launch a winter seasonal service from London Gatwick to Cape Town in South Africa from Thursday 24 November 2016.

Flights will operate three times a week and will complement the airline’s existing twice daily service from London Heathrow. It will also compete directly against Thomas Cook’s new service to Cape Town from London Gatwick which runs from 15 December 2016 to 20 March 2017.

BA flights will be operated using a three class Boeing 777 aircraft which will offer Club World business class, World Traveller Plus premium economy and World Traveller economy.

This new route also adds to a growing portfolio of long-haul routes from London Gatwick which includes Norwegian’s long-haul flights to the USA and Cathay Pacific’s new service to Hong Kong from 2 September 2016.

BA itself is launching flights from London Gatwick to Costa Rica on 27 April 2016 and Peru on 4 May 2016. BA also returns to New York JFK from London Gatwick on 1 May.

Flights are on sale now at ba.com

London Gatwick – Cape Town Timetable

Flight BA2065 Depart London Gatwick 18:00 – Arrive Cape Town 07:50 (Mon, Thurs, Sat)
Flight BA2064 Depart Cape Town 19:10 – Arrive London Gatwick 05:05 (Tue, Fri, Sun)

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Flybe launches temporary London City – Cardiff service during Severn Tunnel Railway Closure

The Severn Tunnel, which the Great Western Railway operates through between London Paddington and South Wales, is to close for six weeks from Monday 12 September 2016 and Friday 21 October 2016.

As a consequence of the closure trains will be diverted and journey times from London Paddington to South Wales will increase by up to 40 minutes.

In response Flybe has launched a temporary service between London City airport and Cardiff airport from 12 September 2016 to 21 October 2016. Flights will operate up to four times daily on weekdays and twice daily on Saturdays and Sundays. Flights will be operated by VLM Airlines on behalf of Flybe.

Flights are on sale now and a full timetable is available from Flybe.

This is not the first scheduled passenger service between London City and Cardiff. Air Wales operated a short-lived service between London City, Cardiff and Swansea airports in 2006.

Further details on the Severn Tunnel closure are available from GWR and Network Rail.

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British Airways to suspend London Heathrow – Baku (Azerbaijan) service from Friday 29 April 2016

British Airways is to suspend its service from London Heathrow to Baku (Azerbaijan) from Friday 29 April 2016.

The airline has cited unsatisfactory commercial performance as the reason for the cancellation.

Passengers affected by the cancellation have the option of rebooking on an alternative BA flight before Friday 29 April 2016 or a full refund.

Will British Airways rebook me on to another airline between London Heathrow and Baku?

BA has now agreed rebooking options with a number of airlines which include Azerbaijan Airlines from London Heathrow, Lufthansa via Frankfurt, Air Baltic via Riga, Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and Ukraine International Airlines via Kiev Boryspil International. Note that some options are not available for tickets purchased using the Avios frequent flyer currency. Full details are on BA/s trade website.

Affected passengers should contact their travel agent, or if your booking was made directly with BA, you can access your booking via the Manage My Booking on the BA website.

The London Heathrow – Baku route was one which has inherited by British Airways following its merger with bmi in 2012. It joins a long list of former bmi London Heathrow routes which have been suspended by BA and include Almaty, Damascus, Addis Ababa, Dammam, Bishkek, Khartoum, Yerevan, Amristar, Casablanca, Marrakech and Tbilisi.

Azerbaijan Airlines will continue to fly between London Heathrow and Baku.

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