Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – Tuesday 11 December 2018

The latest developments in media and technology, published every Tuesday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel

“Santa’s Little Helpers” by John Cuneo for The New Yorker

Hello and welcome to our weekly travel media and technology bulletin, published every Tuesday at 06:00 GMT.

This is our last bulletin for 2018. It will return on Tuesday 15 January 2019.

Spotify’s 2018 Wrapped

Unless you’ve been on a social media blackout over the past week, you couldn’t have failed to notice Spotify’s 2018 wrapped.

With services like Spotify there’s a fine line between using data effectively to create personalised experiences and giving customers the impression they’re just one entry in a massive database to be mined for someone else’s benefit.

Spotify stays on the right side of the line. Check out your most played artists, songs and genres at Spotify 2018 Wrapped.

BBC iPlayer Boxsets

In preparation for the Christmas holidays, the BBC has added over 100 TV drama, comedy and documentary “box sets” to the BBC iPlayer. (BBC)

Box sets of audio podcasts and mixes will also be available on the BBC Sounds app. (BBC)

Continue reading “Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – Tuesday 11 December 2018”

Monday Briefing – 10 December 2018

Welcome to our weekly briefing on air travel in London and around the world, published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel

Monday Briefing Montage

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 10 December 2018.

At the risk of being proved wrong, news tends to thin out in the run up to Christmas so this is our last Monday Briefing for 2018. It will return on Monday 14 January 2019.

2018 has been a tough year for the industry.

The oil price remains volatile. Primera Air and Cobalt Air have failed. Flybe is searching for a buyer. WOW air is scrambling to secure new financing. Etihad is shedding itself of aircraft, lounges and routes.

There are still questions over Norwegian. Last week, it reported a fall in its load factor from 83.7% to 78.8% year on year as revenue growth did not keep up with capacity expansion of more than a third.

Alitalia somehow stumbles on regardless.

2019 will be no less an eventful year.

Indeed, before it has even begun we know to expect:

– BA’s Centenary Celebrations

– BA and Virgin Atlantic both introducing the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft and new Club World and Upper Class cabins respectively.

– easyJet launching a new frequent flyer currency.

– JetBlue possibly announcing new transatlantic routes from Boston and New York to London.

– Qantas confirming whether it will launch non-stop flights from London to Sydney.

– Virgin, subject to regulatory approval, launching a new combined transatlantic joint-venture with Air France-KLM; and relaunching its frequent flyer programme.

– WestJet introducing the Boeing 787 with its first international business class cabin at Gatwick.

The one thing you won’t be seeing is Crossrail as this is now expected to be delayed until 2020.

Buckle up, it’s going to be quite a ride!

Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 10 December 2018”

British Airways Trials Sofitel Heathrow Check-In

British Airways is trialling a dedicated check-in facility at the Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5.

London Air Travel

Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5
Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Accor Hotels)

Long time BA flyers may recall there was once a time where you could check-in for your flights before heading to the airport at either London Paddington or Victoria railway stations.

This form of pre-airport check-in is making a comeback at Heathrow of sorts, as BA is now trialling a check-in at the Sofitel Heathrow Terminal 5.

This hotel is of course connected directly to Terminal 5.   If you’re staying at the hotel you can now check-in for any BA Heathrow flight between 05:00 and 13:00.

The one downside is that whilst your luggage will be tagged at the Sofitel you have to take itself to the terminal!

This does sort of defeat the object but direct luggage transfers may be added if it becomes permanent.

As this is a trial, it is a case of “use it or lose it”.  If you value it do make your views known in post-flight surveys.

In any event, we would always recommend checking in online as soon as practicable when online check-in opens.   It’s an extremely rare occurrence, but if there’s a problem with your booking which means you can’t check-in, you do have 24 hours to address the issue, rather than a fraught couple of hours at the airport.

British Airways Is Giving Away One Million Avios

You can win up to 250,000 Avios when shopping online through the Avios eStore up to 21 December.

London Air Travel

Selfridges Rocks Christmas 2018
Selfridges Rocks Christmas 2018 (Image Credit: Selfridges)

The Avios eStore has long been one of the most popular and easiest ways to earn Avios without actually stepping foot on board an aircraft.

There’s even more incentive to use the Avios eStore when shopping online before Christmas as BA is giving away one million Avios to members of the BA Executive Club.

All you need to do is spend more than £50 through the Avios eStore up to Friday 21 December 2018.

You could win one of three prizes of 250,000 Avios or 10 prizes of 25,000 Avios.

The offer is open to all members of the BA Executive Club resident in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle Of Man and the US. Remember you must make sure that you are logged in to your Executive Club account and “click through” the Avios eStore before starting your online orders.  You will be entered only once, and there will be only one winner per household.

The winners will be selected by Friday 15 February 2019.

Bonus Avios

In addition, the following online retailers are offering bonus Avios up to Sunday 23 December 2018:

One of the most generous offers is Selfridges which is offering 12 Avios per £1 spent. Note that some retailers may exclude specific product categories from Avios.

Apple – 6 Avios per £1, instead of 3.
Debenhams – 6 Avios per £1, instead of 3.
Fortnum & Mason – 10 Avios per £1, instead of 5.
Lego – 10 Avios per £1, instead of 5.
NET-A-PORTER – 12 Avios per £1, instead of 6.
Selfridges – 12 Avios per £1, instead of up to 6.

In addition, the following online retailers are offering bonus Avios up to Sunday 9 December 2018:

Etsy – 9 Avios per £1, instead of 2. – 3 Avios per £1, instead of 1.

BA Club World to Club Europe Downgrades

Selected BA medium-haul flights will operate with a Club Europe, rather than Club World cabin, from late January.

London Air Travel
BA Club Europe Seating
BA Club Europe Seating (Image Credit: British Airways)

A number of British Airways medium-haul flights from London Heathrow which ordinarily operate with BA’s Club World cabin will operate with a Club Europe cabin on selected dates in late January and early February 2019.

No specific reason has been given. However, it’s a safe assumption that aircraft shortages are the cause.

These flights are usually operated with Airbus A321 aircraft with a unique 23 seat business class cabin in an alternating 1-2 and 2-1 configuration. BA has been progressively converting these aircraft into its standard short-haul configuration.

BA Airbus A321 Business Class

This means that Club passengers will not have the benefit of a fully flat bed with in-flight entertainment. Leg room will be reduced very significantly. The meal service routine will also follow the standard of Club Europe.

Affected passengers do have the option of changing their flight to an alternative date. Moscow does also have an alternative daily flight: BA235 / BA234. However, full or partial refunds are not available.

BA is likely to resist any claims for downgrade compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004.

The disrupted flights are as follows. Note this is subject to change. Affected passengers should contact BA or their travel agent.


Flight BA147 / BA146 – Thursday 24, Thursday 31 January, Saturday 2 February 2019


Flight BA149 / BA148 – Sunday 27 January, Sunday 3 February 2019

Moscow Domodedevo

Flight BA237 / BA236 – Tuesday 22, Tuesday 29 January 2019

Fiji Airways Is Now A Oneworld Connect Partner

Members of the BA Executive Club and now earn Avios and tier points when flying on Fiji Airways.

London Air Travel

Fiji Airways is to be the inaugural member of Oneworld Connect
Fiji Airways is now a member of Oneworld Connect (Image Credit: Oneworld Connect)

Fiji Airways is now operating as a Oneworld Connect partner from today, Wednesday 5 December 2018.

However, not all benefits are immediately available and these will introduced progressively.

Under Oneworld Connect membership, certain benefits are only available to customers of Oneworld airlines that sponsored Fiji Airways’ membership. These are American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

Eligible members of any Oneworld frequent flyer programme can now use priority check-in and boarding facilities when flying on Fiji Airways.

However, only eligible customers of British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas can access Fiji Airways lounges and earn miles/Avios and tier points/status credits when flying on Fiji Airways. These should be available to customers of American Airlines in early 2019.

In addition, it is not yet possible for members of the BA Executive Club to redeem Avios on Fiji Airways. This should be introduced shortly. More details are available from Fiji Airways.

It is noteworthy how it has taken a relatively short time, some six months, for Fiji Airways to start operating as Oneworld Connect member, whereas it normally takes substantially longer for an airline to become a full member. This arguably bodes well for attracting more Oneworld Connect partners.

Royal Air Maroc To Join Oneworld Alliance

Royal Air Maroc is to join the Oneworld alliance from mid-2020.

London Air Travel

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

Royal Air Maroc is to be the next full member of the Oneworld alliance from mid-2020.

The announcement was made today, Wednesday 5 December 2018, at a press conference in New York. Its regional subsidiary Royal Air Maroc Express will also join as a Oneworld affiliate member.

This means that members of Oneworld alliance frequent flyer programmes will be entitled to earn miles and tier points/status credits and receive reciprocal recognition when flying on Royal Air Maroc.

Royal Air Maroc’s principal hub is in Casablanca. The airlines flies to Casablanca from Gatwick and Heathrow daily. From Casablanca, it serves a signifiant number of destinations in West Africa. This includes a number of routes previously suspended by BA including Freetown, Luanda and Monrovia.

It has a fleet of 55 aircraft, with Boeing 737-800 and Embraer E190 aircraft operating short and medium-haul routes, and Boeing 767 and Boeing 787-8 aircraft operating long-haul routes. The airline does have ambitious plans to grow its fleet and network, and also plans to revamp its brand image and aircraft interiors.

Co-operation between Royal Air Maroc and Oneworld has been expected for some time. It already codeshares with Iberia and Qatar Airways. It was also announced more than two years ago that it was due to adopt the Avios currency. This has not happened yet, possibly due to IT issues.

BA did fly from London Heathrow to Casablanca until October 2012 after it inherited the route from bmi. It may well reinstate the route to offer onward codeshares with Royal Air Maroc.

Earlier this year, Oneworld introduced a new form of membership Oneworld Connect. Fiji Airways is the inaugural Oneworld Connect member. Under Oneworld Connect membership only a limited range of benefits are offered to customers of Oneworld airlines and full Oneworld benefits, such as earning of frequent flyer miles, are offered to sponsoring airlines.

In terms of other prospective members of Oneworld, Alaska Airlines has confirmed it is looking at Oneworld Connect membership. Aer Lingus may also rejoin the alliance after it joins the transatlantic joint-venture with American Airlines, BA, Finnair and Iberia.

easyJet launches London Gatwick – Dusseldorf

easyJet will fly from Gatwick to Dusseldorf from Saturday 9 February 2019.

London Air Travel

easyJet Airbus aircraft
easyJet Airbus aircraft (Image Credit: easyJet)

easyJet is to launch a new route from London Gatwick to Dusseldorf.

The airline will fly to the city up to twice daily from Saturday 9 February 2019. The precise flight times vary by day, but on weekdays there are early morning and early evening departures from Gatwick.

Dusseldorf is also a convenient means of visiting Cologne, which easyJet does not serve from Gatwick, as you can catch a train from Dusseldorf airport to the city.

easyJet has also confirmed that it will suspend London Gatwick – Aberdeen from Friday 8 February 2019. easyJet will however continue to fly to Aberdeen daily from London Luton. This is a route whose performance seems inextricably linked to the health of oil industry traffic.

Flights are on sale now at easyJet.

LOT launches London City – Vilnius

LOT Polish Airlines will fly from London City airport to Vilnius from May 2019.

London Air Travel

Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius, Lithuania (Image Credit: Vilnius Tourist Information Centre)

LOT Polish Airlines (“LOT”) is to launch a new third new route from London City airport, to Vilnius.

The airline will fly from London City to Vilnius in Lithuania up to 12 times a week. This announcement comes after LOT announced Warsaw and Budapest which launch on 7 January and 18 February 2019 respectively.

This will be the only direct route from London City to Lithuania. The route is a “Public Service Obligation” route and is supported by a subsidy from the Lithuanian Government. The only other options to fly direct to Vilnius are Ryanair from Luton and Stansted, and Wizz Air from Luton.

The official announcement from London City says the route launches in May 2019 with flights on sale at before the end of December 2018. At present, a timetable is not available.

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 5 December 2018

The Atlantic Update is a weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel

American Airlines Aircraft at London Heathrow
American Airlines Aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 5 December 2018.

Could American Airlines move to Heathrow Terminal 5?

Interest was piqued this week following comments by Rhett Workman of American Airlines on its “Tell Me Why” employee podcast that it may one day move into Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

American Airlines and BA are at a disadvantage compared to Delta and Virgin Atlantic in that they do not share terminals at Heathrow, nor many other US airports such as New York JFK.

This partially defeats the object of operating a “clock-face” timetable on routes such as Chicago O’Hare and New York JFK.

It also means passengers connecting from American Airlines, some 50% of them, on to most of BA’s short-haul network have to change terminals at Heathrow.

Given the size of American’s operation at Heathrow it is hard to see this happening without an expansion of Terminal 5.

There are also many issues beyond capacity. Terminal 5 was originally intended for the exclusive use of BA and all of its systems and processes were designed around the airline. Consider that Iberia has operated from Terminal 5 for several years, but it was only this year their flights actually operated under Iberia flight numbers.

If this ever comes to fruition, it is certainly a long-term goal. In the interim, BA did issue a rather vague press release earlier this year referring to “big plans” for Terminal 3 in conjunction with American Airlines. The podcast also means increased co-operation behind the scenes such as staff secondments between the two airlines.

There is also the possibility that some transatlantic routes shared between American and BA may ultimately be operated by only one airline. There is some credence to this as in the US market American seems to be focusing more on its traditional strongholds such as Dallas Fort-Worth and it may leave other Heathrow transatlantic routes to BA.

United Begins Selling Premium Economy

United Premium Plus Cabin
United Premium Plus Cabin (Image Credit: United)

United has started selling tickets for travel in its premium economy cabin “United Premium Plus”.

The United Premium Plus cabin will be progressively retrofitted to Boeing 777-200 and 777-300 aircraft and fitted onto newly delivered Boeing 787-10 aircraft.

It is now available for sale on select international routes for travel from 30 March 2019. In the first few months, it will be available on just one return flight between London Heathrow and San Francisco, flights UA900 and UA901, from Tuesday 30 April 2019.
Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 5 December 2018”