Possible British Airways Strike Ballot

An ongoing pay dispute between British Airways and its trade unions may be about to lead to a ballot for industrial action.

London Air Travel

For some months British Airways has been in negotiations with its trade unions, BALPA, GMB and Unite on a pay deal for staff.

The background to this is that BA has always negotiated separate pay deals with trade unions representing different work groups in the airline such as engineers, ground staff, cabin crew and pilots.

This year, BALPA, GMB and Unite submitted a joint pay claim to the airline arguing for a significantly improved pay offer and profit sharing arrangement.

This is due in part to the dramatic improvement in the airline’s financial health over the past ten years. Last year, BA reported an operating profit of £1,952m.

BA initially only offered a one year pay deal, citing uncertainty over Brexit. These have been resoundingly rejected by employees in consultative ballots.

Following further talks between the airline and trade unions which have not proved acceptable to the unions, it appears that the pilots union BALPA may be about to start a formal ballot for industrial action.

It is important to emphasise that at the time of publication, Wednesday 19 June 2019, BALPA has not made any official announcement.

However, BA is now clearly preparing for a possible strike ballot announcement as it has today issued guidance to travel agents to respond to customer queries.

Timing Of Possible Industrial Action

In terms of timings, it will take four weeks to conduct the ballot. Trade unions are then required to give two weeks’ notice of industrial action.

Therefore, there will be no industrial action in the next six weeks.

It is inevitable that there will be a strong mandate for industrial action based on a high turnout as this increases the union’s negotiating leverage over the airline. Whether this ultimately leads to industrial action is another matter. Very often disputes over pay deals can be agreed right up to the wire.

However, any pay offer by the airline has to first be approved by BA’s parent company International Airlines Group, which is likely to adopt a tough negotiating stance.

BA is unlikely to say much publicly, other than standard comments about wanting to work constructively with unions and that it remains open to negotiations and recommends talks at the conciliation service ACAS. It will only announce contingency plans and cancellations in the event of industrial action.

American Airlines Orders 50 Airbus A321XLR Aircraft

American Airlines has placed an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft.

London Air Travel

Airbus A321XLR American Airlines Livery
Airbus A321XLR American Airlines Livery (Image Credit: Airbus)

American Airlines is the latest airline to order the Airbus A321XLR aircraft.

It has placed an order for 50 aircraft. This has been secured through the conversion of delivery slots for 30 Airbus A321neo aircraft to the Airbus A321XLR and an additional order for 20 aircraft.

The Airbus A321XLR is expected to serve as a replacement for the Boeing 757 which American has previously used on routes from London Heathrow and other UK regional airports. It currently operates on transatlantic routes such as the summer seasonal Edinburgh – Philadelphia route. As well as transatlantic routes from the US East Coast, American Airlines is also expected to use the aircraft on routes to South America.

This follows an order by IAG for Aer Lingus and Iberia. It is certainly clear that when the Airbus A321XLR enters service in 2023 is going to become a significant force in transatlantic travel and route development.

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 19 June 2019

A weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

Airbus A321 XLR Aer Lingus Livery
Airbus A321 XLR Aer Lingus Livery (Image Credit: Airbus)

Hello and welcome to the The 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 BST.

The Airbus A321XLR Makes Its Mark

In the days after the formal launch of the Airbus A321XLR at the Paris Air Show it is already making its mark.

Airbus has secured orders from IAG for Aer Lingus and Iberia, who have both earmarked the aircraft for transatlantic flights.

Aer Lingus already has 8 Airbus A321 Long Range on order and should take delivery of its first aircraft shortly.

With a range of 4,700 nautical miles, Aer Lingus should be able to reach all of the US and Canada from Dublin with the Airbus A321 XLR. Reading between the lines of IAG’s news release it may be used to add frequencies to existing routes to optimise connectivity.

The decision to buy this aircraft will have been dictated by efficiency but IAG is at pains to emphasise passengers can expect the same comforts as a widebody long-haul flight.

One IAG airline not to have ordered the aircraft yet is of course BA. Unless BA is planning a return to UK regional airports, it’s unlikely that this will be operated by BA on transatlantic flights. The Boeing 787-8 clearly serves the airline well as a means of entry into new transatlantic markets.

Virgin’s Run Of Bad Luck In Boston

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300 G-VKSS, Boston Logan Airport
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300 G-VKSS, Boston Logan Airport (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

One of the few reliable pleasures of long-haul flying is the eastbound transatlantic day flight.

The vast majority of passengers are flying direct and fresh from slumber and are in a very relaxed mood. And as the aircraft arrives at the airport from London the day before, you can normally be confident your flight will run as scheduled and can rely on a on-time departure.

This has not been the case with Virgin Atlantic’s relatively new day flight from Boston to London Heathrow.

VS158 has been cancelled for two days running on Monday 17 June and Tuesday 18 June. This seems to be due to a technical issue with one Airbus A330-300 aircraft, G-VKSS, which flew to Boston on Sunday and has not yet been fixed.

Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 19 June 2019”

IAG Signs Letter Of Intent For 200 Boeing 737 Aircraft

IAG has signed a Letter Of Intent to acquire 200 Boeing 737 aircraft for delivery between 2023 and 2027.

London Air Travel

British Airways Boeing 737 in Landor livery
British Airways Boeing 737 in Landor livery (Image Credit: British Airways)

The Boeing 737 may make a return to British Airways at London Gatwick as its parent company International Airlines Group has signed a Letter of Intent with Boeing to acquire 200 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

It is important to emphasise that this is not a firm order for aircraft – which is no doubt subject to the aircraft receiving regulatory approval to return to service.

IAG anticipates an order of 200 aircraft for delivery between 2023 and 2027. The order will be a mix of Boeing 737 MAX 8 and Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft. The 737 MAX 8 seats up to 178 passengers in a two-class configuration. The 737 MAX 10 jet can seat up to 230 passengers.

IAG anticipates that the aircraft would be used by British Airways at London Gatwick, LEVEL and Vueling.

It is noteworthy that IAG is prepared to introduce another type of short-haul aircraft into its fleet when it has made much of standardising the configuration of Airbus A320 aircraft to maximise efficiencies and allow aircraft to be moved between different airlines in the group.

That IAG has specifically earmarked the aircraft for BA at Gatwick and its low cost brands LEVEL and Vueling may signal its intentions for the aircraft. All three are likely to be competing against each other to acquire the aircraft and it is highly likely that the internal configuration will be standardised as much as possible.

IAG had previously advised that BA short-haul at Gatwick would be an exclusively Airbus A320 operation. The Boeing 737 originally operated for BA from 1980 until the last aircraft was retired at Gatwick in September 2015.

Continue reading “IAG Signs Letter Of Intent For 200 Boeing 737 Aircraft”

IAG Orders Airbus A321XLR Aircraft For Aer Lingus & Iberia

International Airlines Group has announced it has ordered 6 Airbus A321XLR aircraft for Aer Lingus and 8 aircraft for Iberia.

London Air Travel

Airbus A321XLR aircraft render
Airbus A321XLR aircraft render (Image Credit: Airbus)

International Airlines Group has announced it has ordered 6 Airbus A321XLR aircraft for Aer Lingus and 8 aircraft for Iberia.

The first aircraft will be delivered from 2023. The group has also secured options for a further 14 aircraft, which could be used by any airline in the group.

This is a clear vote of confidence by IAG in the Airbus A321XLR aircraft.

IAG is now doubt attracted by is efficiency and commonality with the Airbus A320 series. It is noteworthy that IAG is keen to emphasise it will offer the same passenger comforts as existing wide body aircraft.

For both Aer Lingus and Iberia, IAG emphasise that the aircraft will be used to facilitate transatlantic expansion.

Continue reading “IAG Orders Airbus A321XLR Aircraft For Aer Lingus & Iberia”

Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – 18 June 2019

Our weekly bulletin on the latest developments in media and technology around the world, as published every Tuesday morning at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

Hello and welcome to our weekly travel media and technology bulletin featuring the latest developments on media and technology around the world, published every Tuesday at 06:00 BST.

Apple CEO Tim Cook gives Stanford University Commencement Address

Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a Commencement Address to graduates of Stanford University, California, on Sunday 16 June 2019.

The location is symbolic as it is where the late Steve Jobs gave an address, which is probably one of the most quoted by a technology leader, 14 years ago:

Tim Cook covered many themes in his address including digital privacy and the moral responsibilities of technology companies.

Because if I’ve learned one thing, it’s the technology doesn’t change who we are. it magnifies who we are the good and the bad. Our problems in technology in politics wherever our human problems from the Garden of Eden today, it’s our humanity that got us into this past. And it’s our humanity, it’s going to have to get us out.

First things first, here’s the plain fact, Silicon Valley is responsible for some of the most revolutionary inventions in modern history. From the first oscillator built in the Hewlett Packard garage, to the iPhones that I know you’re holding in your hands, social media, shareable videos, snaps and stories that connect half the people on earth. They all trace their roots to Stanford’s backyard. But lately, it seems this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation. The belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility. We see it every day now, with every data breach every privacy violation. Every blind eye turned to hate speech, fake news poisoning our national conversation, but false miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood. Too many seem to think that good intentions, excuse away harmful outcomes. But whether you like it or not, what you build in what you create, define who you are. It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this. But if you built a chaos factory, you can’t dodge responsibility for the chaos. Taking responsibility means having the courage to think things through. And there are few areas where this is more important than privacy. If we accept this normal, and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated, sold, or even leaked in the event of a hack. That we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human

And on succeeding Steve Jobs:

14 years ago, Steve stood on this stage and told your predecessors, your time is limited. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Here’s my corollary.

Your mentors may leave you prepared. But they can’t leave you ready. When Steve got sick, I had hardwired my thinking, the belief that he would get better. I not only thought he would hold on, I was convinced down to my core, that he’d still be guiding Apple long after I myself was gone. Then one day, he called me over to his house and told me that it wasn’t going to be that way. Even then, I was convinced he would stay on his Chairman, that he would step back from the day to day but always be there as a sounding board.

But there was no reason to believe that.

I never should have thought it.

The facts were all there.

And when he was gone truly gone. I learned the real visceral difference between preparation and readiness. It was the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life. by an order of magnitude. It was one of those moments where you can be surrounded by people. You don’t really see here or feel them. But I could sense their expectations.

When the dust settled, all I knew was that I was going to have to be the best version of myself that I could be. I knew that if you got out of bed every morning and set your watch by what other people expect or demand you to drive you crazy. So what was true, then it’s true now. Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life. Don’t try to emulate the people who came before you to the exclusion of everything else contorting into a shape that doesn’t fit. It takes too much mental effort, effort that should be dedicated to creating and building your ways, precious time trying to rewire your every thought. And in the meantime, you won’t be fooling anybody.

Also of note this week:

The BBC’s Dave Lee interviews Amazon’s Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels on its plans for machine learning and artificial intelligence. (BBC)

How Bluetooth beacons can track your every move. (New York Times)

The UK communications regulator OFCOM, subject to consultation, has decided that the BBC can extend the catch-up window of programmes on the BBC iPlayer from 30 days to 12 months. (OFCOM)

Our weekly Travel Media & Technology Bulletin is published every Tuesday morning at 06:00 BST. If you have any comments or suggestions, please e-mail us at mail [at] londonairtravel.com

Airbus Unveils A321XLR Aircraft

Airbus has unveiled its newest single aisle aircraft, the Airbus A321XLR at the Paris Air Show.

London Air Travel

Airbus A321XLR aircraft render
Airbus A321XLR aircraft render (Image Credit: Airbus)

Airbus has unveiled the latest member of its A321 family of aircraft, the Airbus A321XLR.

This will be the longest range single aisle aircraft in the world. Airbus plans for the aircraft to be available from 2023. It has a 15% longer range than the Airbus A321LR aircraft with a range of 4,700 nautical miles. Airbus has cited London – Miami and New Delhi as feasible routes – though established airlines in the UK will be looking at new destinations not already served by wide body aircraft. The aircraft is designed to accommodate 180-220 passengers.

There are attractions for airlines in that has a lot of commonality with Airbus A320 family aircraft, which is of course the workhorse of short-haul travel in Europe. Though, it remains to be seen how willing passengers will be spend nearly ten hours on a single aisle aircraft.

In terms of orders, the third party lessor Air Lease Corporation has signed a Letter of Intent for 27 of the aircraft at the Paris Air Show.  Middle East Airlines has also signed a firm order for four of aircraft.

Further orders may be forthcoming at the Paris Air Show this week. However, we would hazard a guess that many other airlines will want to see how the Airbus A321LR performs before committing to the Airbus A321XLR.

Airbus A321XLR aircraft infographic
Airbus A321XLR aircraft infographic (Image Credit: Airbus)

BA Extends Gold Upgrade Vouchers To Existing Bookings

London Air Travel

British Airways First Class Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways First Class Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

A long standing benefit of the Gold tier of the British Airways Executive Club is the grant of a “Gold Upgrade For Two” voucher to members who earn 2,500 tier points or more in their membership year.

This is often referred to as a GUF2 voucher. BA also grants two “Gold Upgrade For One” vouchers to members who earn 3,500 tier points or more – these can be used either separately or for two passengers in one booking.

These allow members of the Executive Club to upgrade a booking to the next cabin, eg from Club World to First Class. However, this is subject to availability.

BA has advised that from, today Monday 17 June 2019, the use of these vouchers has been extended to existing bookings, as well as new bookings.

To upgrade an existing booking with an upgrade voucher you will need to contact either BA or your travel agent. However, do bear in mind that as agents have only just been advised of this new benefit awareness may be limited. Upgrade vouchers can also take a few days to be processed as it requires manual intervention, so it’s recommended to allow plenty of time in advance of travel to request an upgrade.

There are restrictions on the use of upgrade vouchers and full details of the terms and conditions are at ba.com

Virgin Atlantic Orders 14 Airbus A330neo Aircraft

London Air Travel

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330neo aircraft render
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330neo aircraft render (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic has ordered 14 Airbus A330neo aircraft.

The announcement was made today, Monday 17 June 2019, at the Paris air show.

It is intended that the 14 Airbus A330-900 aircraft will be delivered to the airline from 2021. They will operate at Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester and will replace Virgin’s current fleet of Airbus A330 aircraft.

Eight of the aircraft will be owned by the airline. Six will be leased from a third party lessor. Virgin also has options for a further 6 aircraft. The aircraft will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines.

The Airbus A330-900 has a range of 7,200 nautical miles and is designed to accommodate 260-300 passengers.

Virgin Atlantic’s 49% shareholder Delta Air Lines has 35 of the aircraft on order.  The aircraft is currently in service at TAP Air Portugal, which will have 19 of the aircraft in its fleet by the end of this year. Other airlines to have placed significant orders include Air Asia X which will take delivery of its first aircraft later this month.

Monday Briefing – 17 June 2019

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

London Air Travel

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

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 17 June 2019.

Is “Basic Business Class” on the horizon?

Over the past few years, most network airlines have introduced some form of “basic economy” long-haul fare.

The rationale for this was that low cost airlines such as Norwegian introduced fares that do not include, inter alia, a checked luggage allowance or free seat assignment. As many customers choose fares through price comparison sites, airlines believed that they have to offer a similarly competitive fare to capture these customers.

Like low cost airlines, these fares are offered based on the ability, whether the customer intended to or not, to up-sell at little marginal cost additional services after booking. It is intended to, at best, be revenue neutral.

Emirates confirmed last week that it is launching a new form of business class fare that does not include a car service to the airport nor lounge access. Seat selection privileges are also restricted and frequent flyer mileage accrual is also reduced.

This fare is not available on all routes and from a cursory scan of Emirates booking engine it does not appear to be available on any flights from London to Dubai.

Does this mark the start of the unbundling of business class?

This is not the first time airlines have discriminated between different groups of business class passengers.

BA requires Club World passengers who are not Silver & Gold members of the Executive Club to pay a fee to select a seat at the time of booking. Virgin Atlantic only provides a car service to the airport for passengers booking certain types of Upper Class fare. Indeed, business class was born out of airlines wanting to provide more to passengers buying full fare economy tickets.

Airlines have also got better at targeting different passenger groups – there are competitive Club World fares available for passengers willing to fly mid-week and book more than six months in advance.

It is a slippery slope if airlines start a full unbundling of business class. Airlines have always been fearful of business class passengers trading downwards, hence why so many took long to introduce premium economy – a stepping stone between economy and business class that Emirates does not yet have. The whole structure of airline fares and ground and onboard services is to encourage passengers to trade upwards.

Whilst price is a factor in securing business class passengers, there are many other factors too, namely networks and schedule, ground services and onboard product.

Successful business class products come from really understanding the needs of business passengers. It is this that led to valuable innovations such as fully flat beds, arrivals lounges and Fast Track immigration channels. If airlines start dismantling this – the clue is in the brand name most synonymous with business class “Club” – then it is a slippery slope downwards.

Heathrow Expansion Consultation

Heathrow will launch a statutory consultation on the expansion of airport tomorrow, Tuesday 18 June.

This follows an earlier consultation exercise this year. The significance of this exercise is that its fundings will be incorporated into a final proposal to the Planning Inspectorate next year.

After a period of public examination, the Secretary of State will then make a decision whether to grant a Development Consent Order which will encompass most of the authorities required to construct the third runway. This process is expected to take at least 18 months.

The consultation will cover four areas:

  1. Heathrow’s preferred masterplan for expansion, including the layout of the new north west runway (CGI image above) and supporting airport infrastructure, as well as the pace of expansion in the number of flights.
  2. How the airport will operate with a third runway such as how it will alternate flights between the three runways, a possible ban on scheduled night flights, and how additional flights may operate before the third runway opens.
  3. Heathrow’s assessment of the impact of expansion on the environment and local communities
  4. Heathrow’s plans to mitigate the impact of expansion in areas such as air pollution, carbon and noise.

The consultation will close on 13 September 2019 and more details will be available at the Heathrow Consultation Hub.

Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 17 June 2019”