Virgin Atlantic Relaunches London Heathrow – Mumbai

Virgin Atlantic is to return to Mumbai for the third time with the launch of daily flights from 27 October 2019.

London Air Travel

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Virgin Atlantic is to return to Mumbai for the third time with the relaunch of flights from London Heathrow from Sunday 27 October 2019.

Virgin Atlantic and Mumbai has a long history.

Virgin first launched flights from London Heathrow to Mumbai following the liberalisation of services between the UK and India in 2005. This saw a number of airlines, such as bmi British Midland, enter the market and the route was suspended.

The route was launched again in 2012 with different timings in the hope of capturing connecting traffic to Virgin’s North America route network. It was suspended for a second time in 2015 as part of a wide-ranging reshaping of Virgin’s route network towards North American routes.

Since then, Virgin had relied on a codeshare with Jet Airways to serve Mumbai, and following its recent collapse Virgin has now reinstated the route.

This, together with the launch of Tel Aviv and Sao Paulo, does point to Virgin seeking to move beyond North American routes at London Heathrow. What may work in Virgin’s favour this time is a potential future codeshare partnership with Air France and KLM.

Flights will be operated with a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft and will go on sale at Virgin Atlantic from Tuesday 28 May 2019.

London Heathrow – Mumbai

Depart London Heathrow 10:15 – Arrive Mumbai 00:40
Depart Mumbai 02:55 – Arrive London Heathrow 07:35

BA Introduces Pay Excess Baggage Fees With Avios

You can now use Avios to pay for excess baggage charges on British Airways flights.

London Air Travel

Avios
Avios (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways has introduced the ability to pay for excess baggage charges using Avios.

This follows a move last year to allow passengers to use their Avios to pay for seat selection charges.

This applies only to British Airways operated flights. Rather unhelpfully, BA has not published a set tariff of Avios charges for excess baggage and this is unlikely to be the best use of Avios.

Excess baggage charges can vary widely by route, cabin, and type of fare. These charges have become more prevalent with the rise of “basic economy” short and long-haul fares. They can range from £20 to £120 per bag, so this may be at least a good way for some to take the edge off parting with cash.

Passengers can use Avios to pay for excess baggage charges in full or in part and passengers with existing bookings can compare charges using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com

Full details of BA’s current cash seat selection charges can also be viewed at ba.com

Travel Media & Technology Bulletin – Tuesday 21 May 2019

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

London Air Travel

British Airways WiFi
(Image Credit: British Airways)

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.

British Podcast Awards

The winners of the annual British Podcast Awards were announced at the weekend.

The full list of winners is here. “Have You Heard George’s Podcast” from George The Poet won five Gold awards, including Podcast of the Year. The BBC’s “Brexitcast” won the People’s Choice award.

Staying on the theme of podcasts, there are signs of much larger players continuing to enter the market, NBC News’ current affairs strand “Dateline” has launched a true crime podcast “13 Alibis” which explores how a man who claimed he had 13 alibis was convicted of murder.

Also of note this week:

“AI: More Than Human” an exhibition exploring our relationship with Artificial Intelligence opens at the Barbican. (Barbican)

BBC Radio 4’s “The Media Show” interviews Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix. (BBC)

“Inside Google’s Civil War” (Fortune)

Google also reports on the effectiveness of account security measures. (Google)

New York Times photographer Josh Haner documents the impact of climate change around the world – these were on display at Photo London, Somerset House last weekend. (New York Times)

Facial recognition has been adopted by many airlines to facilitate airport procedures such as boarding of aircraft, with claims that it saves substantial amounts of time. However, there are concerns about permissions and privacy. San Francisco has now banned city departments from using facial recognition surveillance technology. (San Francisco Chronicle)

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

BA Refreshes Heathrow Elemis Travel Spas

BA has refreshed its Elemis travel spas at London Heathrow with new soft furnishings and an updated complimentary treatment menu.

London Air Travel

British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways has relaunched its Elemis travel spas at London Heathrow with new interiors and soft furnishings designed by the acclaimed Kelly Hoppen MBE, and a new spa treatment menu.

The structure and format of the spas remains the same with an updated complimentary treatment menu for passengers travelling in First Class, Club World, and Gold members of the Executive Club when flying long-haul.

Only passengers in First Class can book an appointment in advance. Access to spa treatments for all other eligible passengers is dependent on availability on the day. This can vary widely – it is generally much better in the arrivals lounge, rather than the departure lounges.

British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow
British Airways Elemis Travel Spa, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)

The Elemis spas are located in London Heathrow Terminal 3 departures, Terminal 5A South departures, Terminal 5B departures and the Terminal 5 arrivals lounge. There is also an Elemis spa in BA’s recently updated lounge complex at New York JFK Terminal 7, which will benefit from a new treatment menu later this year.

Continue reading “BA Refreshes Heathrow Elemis Travel Spas”

Monday Briefing – 20 May 2019

London Air Travel

Thomas Cook aircraft
Thomas Cook aircraft

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 20 May 2019.

Thomas Cook

There was more bad news for Thomas Cook over the weekend after it announced its half-year results with a loss of nearly £1.5bn on Thursday.

The bulk of the loss was a goodwill writedown in respect of its acquisition of MyTravel in 2007. However, the loss prompted Citigroup to claim Thomas Cook’s shares are worthless.

Sky News reported on Saturday that one credit card acquirer company that works with Thomas Cook in the Nordic region is reported to be seeking to hold on to customer payments for longer.

Key for Thomas Cook is the sale of its group airline. Whilst this has attracted interest, given it is known that Thomas Cook must complete the sale, and quickly, in the cold hard world of commercial negotiations, it is going to face demanding terms from potential purchasers.

Qantas Flight 72

More than ten years have passed since Qantas flight 72 was involved in an incident en route from Singapore to Perth on 7 October 2008.

The A330-300 aircraft, carrying 303 passengers and 12 crew, experienced two uncontrolled nosedives following a computer failure. It made an emergency landing at Learmonth Airport in Exmouth, Western Australia. A large number of passengers and crew were injured, and some experienced life changing physical and psychological injuries.

The Captain of the aircraft, Kevin Sullivan, has written a book “No Man’s Land: The Untold Story Of Automation On QF72” which will be published in the UK by HarperCollins on 27 June 2019.

In advance of publication, Kevin Sullivan has given an interview the Sydney Morning Herald.

Virgin Australia contemplates frequent flyer programme sale

Staying in Australia, Virgin Australia issued a profit warning last week, citing weaking demand.

The airline which has a complex history and ownership structure, with multiple shareholders with competing interests (Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, HNA Group, Nanshan Group and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group), expected profits to be AUD$100m lower than last years profit of AUD$64.4m.

Its entire strategy is under review by its recently appointed CEO Paul Scurrah, which may explain the desire to get bad news out early, and some route network changes have already been made.

It is also contemplating a sale of a stake in its Velocity frequent flyer programme, of which it currently owns 65%. Like an airline selling off Heathrow slots, this is an easy means to raise cash in the short-term, but is of little benefit in the long term.

Heathrow “Britain’s Busiest Airport” Returns

Heathrow “Britain’s Busiest Airport” returns for a fifth series at 20:30 on ITV (UK) tomorrow.

Across no less than 12 twelve parts, it uses the all too common production devices of familiar recurring characters, this series covers the fall out of the Gatwick drone closures last Christmas.

Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 20 May 2019”

BA Suspends Heathrow – Kiev & St Petersburg

British Airways has suspended routes from London Heathrow to Kiev and St Petersburg from Thursday 3 October 2019.

London Air Travel

London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

British Airways has suspended its routes from London Heathrow to Kiev, Ukraine and St Petersburg, Russia.

Based on timetables on ba.com, the last flights from London Heathrow to both Kiev and St Petersburg are currently scheduled to operate on Thursday 3 October 2019.

The affected flight numbers are BA882 & BA883 for Kiev and BA878 & BA879 for St Petersburg.

At present, BA has not provided any details of arrangements to accommodate passengers whose flights have been cancelled. It normally takes at least a week for rebooking arrangements to be agreed with other airlines and passengers are best advised to wait until these have been confirmed.

Alternatively, passengers whose flights have been cancelled are entitled to a full refund.

Affected passengers should check the status of their booking at ba.com and contact either BA or their travel agent.

Update Tuesday 21 May 2019

For passengers due to travel to St Petersburg, BA has secured a rebooking agreement with SAS Scandinavian Airlines, for travel after 27 October 2019. Passengers can fly on SAS via either Copenhagen or Stockholm. In all cases, passengers must fly on a British Airways operated flight between Heathrow and Copenhagen or Stockholm.

BA Johannesburg Lounges Close For Refurbishment

BA is to close its lounges in Johannesburg for refurbishment from Thursday 23 May. The new lounges will open in October.

London Air Travel

British Airways Galleries lounge, O.R. Tambo International Airport International Departures Terminal, Johannesburg
British Airways Galleries lounge, O.R. Tambo International Airport International Departures Terminal, Johannesburg (Image Credit: Oneworld alliance)

British Airways is to close its Galleries Club and Galleries First lounges in Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo International Airport) for refurbishment from Thursday 23 May 2019.

The new lounges will open in October 2019. It is not known what format the new lounges will take and whether BA will adopt the “Concorde Bar” format adopted in Dubai and Singapore, which is exclusively for ticketed First Class passengers only.

In the interim, First Class passengers will be able to use the Slow lounge. This lounge is used by BA’s franchise partner in South Africa, Comair. It is located after security, on the upper level of the international departures terminal.

Passengers in Club World, and Silver and Gold Executive Club cardholders in World Traveller Plus and World Traveller will be able to use the Aspire lounge. This lounge is located after emigration. Passengers are advised to follow directional signage to gates 7-30, passing through the duty free shop. The lounge is on the left just before the esclator to the International Pier.

Aspire lounge, O.R. Tambo International Airport International Departures Terminal, Johannesburg
Aspire lounge, O.R. Tambo International Airport International Departures Terminal, Johannesburg (Image Credit: Oneworld alliance)

Given this route is served by an Airbus A380 and an 86 Club World seat Boeing 747 that depart within two hours of each other in the evening, crowding is likely to be an issue.

This is the last lounge closure of the planned refurbishments for 2019. BA’s lounge in Geneva will close for refurbishment on Tuesday 28 May 2019. The San Francisco lounge is currently closed for refurbishment and should reopen this summer.

American Airlines Opens Dallas Fort Worth Flagship Lounge

American Airlines has opened its latest Flagship lounge at Dallas Fort Worth airport.

London Air Travel

American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Terminal D, Dallas Fort Worth
American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Terminal D, Dallas Fort Worth (Image Credit: American Airlines)

American Airlines has opened its latest “Flagship Lounge” at its principal hub, Dallas Fort Worth airport.

If your only experience of an American Airlines lounge is an Admirals Club, the Flagship lounges are a huge step up.

The principal difference is a substantially broader and more generous range of hot and cold food, as well as a free self-pour bar.

The Flagship lounge can be accessed by all Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire cardholders, as well as international business and First Class passengers.

The 23,130 sq ft lounge is located between gates D21 and D22 in Terminal D of Dallas Fort Worth airport. This is the terminal BA flights to London Heathrow also operate from. If you are taking an American Airlines flight from another terminal at Dallas Fort Worth, you can take a shuttle train between all five terminals after security.

If you have limited time then the Admirals Clubs in other terminals (a lounge in Terminal E will open this summer) are perfectly satisfactory for a quick drink and recharging of devices.

Other Flagship lounges are also available in Chicago O’Hare Terminal 3, Los Angeles Terminal 4, Miami Concourse D and New York JFK Terminal 8.

Further Flagship lounges are due to open at London Heathrow Terminal 3 and Philadelphia. If American’s new Heathrow departure lounge is as well run as its Heathrow arrivals lounge, it should certainly be a very competitive option for Oneworld passengers at London Heathrow Terminal 3.

American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Terminal D, Dallas Fort Worth
American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Terminal D, Dallas Fort Worth (Image Credit: American Airlines)
American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Terminal D, Dallas Fort Worth
American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Terminal D, Dallas Fort Worth (Image Credit: American Airlines)
American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Terminal D, Dallas Fort Worth
American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Terminal D, Dallas Fort Worth (Image Credit: American Airlines)
Continue reading “American Airlines Opens Dallas Fort Worth Flagship Lounge”

British Airways Flight Number Changes

British Airways flights on certain routes from London Gatwick and Heathrow are changing flight numbers.

London Air Travel

British Airways Logo
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways in the progress of changing flight numbers on selected routes from London Gatwick and Heathrow.

If you are flying on a route subject to a flight number change you should receive an e-mail from BA to advise that your flight has been cancelled and that you have been automatically rebooked on a new flight under the new flight number.

Affected passengers can check the status of their booking using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com

London Gatwick – Edinburgh

The following flights between Gatwick and Edinburgh change numbers on or around Monday 2 September 2019:

London Gatwick – Edinburgh

BA2936 – BA2500
BA2944 – BA2502
BA2946 – BA2506

Edinburgh – London Gatwick

BA2937 – BA2501
BA2945 – BA2503
BA2931 – BA2507

London Gatwick – Glasgow

The following flights between Gatwick and Glasgow change numbers on or around Monday 2 September 2019:

London Gatwick – Glasgow

BA2956 – BA2510 / BA2514
BA2960 – BA2512
BA2964 – BA2516
BA2968 – BA2518

Glasgow – London Gatwick

BA2957 – BA2511 / BA2515
BA2961 – BA2513
BA2965 – BA2517
BA2953 – BA2519

London Heathrow – Hong Kong

BA’s twice daily return flights between London Heathrow and Hong Kong swap flight numbers of Sunday 29 March 2020.

London Heathrow – Hong Kong

BA27 swaps with BA31.

Hong Kong – London Heathrow

BA28 swaps with BA32.

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 15 May 2019

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

London Air Travel

American Eagle & British Airways aircraft, Miami
American Eagle & British Airways, Miami (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 15 May 2019, 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.

BA London Heathrow Winter Schedule Changes

BA has advised of the following transatlantic schedule changes at London Heathrow for the winter timetable, which officially begins on Sunday 27 October 2019:

Boston increases to 25 flights a week, compared to the summer, with an extra flight on Thursdays.

Calgary is once again suspended for the winter from Friday 25 October 2019.

Dallas Fort Worth maintains its summer daily frequency, compared to 6 flights a week last winter.

Nashville reverts back from a daily summer service to four flights a week, on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Philadelphia increases to 12 flights a week, compared to 10 flights a week in summer and a daily service last winter, with additional flights on Monday and Tuesday.

There are also changes to Airbus A380 operations. For many years, BA has operated the Airbus A380 to Miami during the winter season, with an all Boeing 747 operation in the summer.

Based on current timetables, it appears that the Airbus A380 will not return this year. Instead, it will operate to Washington Dulles.

The big downside is that as Miami is operated exclusively with a 52 Club World seat Boeing 747, you’re not sure what you’ll get as a passenger until you board the aircraft. Some of these have been fully refurbished with new in-flight entertainment systems, some have received a light refurbishment, and others not at all.

WestJet to be acquired by Onex Corporation

WestJet announced on Monday that it is to acquired by private equity firm Onex Corporation, which has a broad portfolio of investments.

The transaction is subject to approval by WestJet shareholders which is expected to take place in July.

There is a bit of history here as in 1999 Onex engaged in an unsuccessful hostile take over bid for Air Canada, and had proposed to merge it with the now defunct Canadian Airlines International. Onex’s bid was backed by what was then AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, which also owned a third of Canadian Airlines.

WestJet has released a video below featuring comments WestJet President and CEO, Ed Sims taking questions from journalists:

WestJet is keen to emphasise that it is business as usual, specifically regarding its presence in Calgary and employee industrial relations.

On a related note, CBC reports that the parent company of Air Transat has been approached by a potential buyer and the company is entertaining potential bidders.

American Airlines opens Dallas Fort Worth Flagship Lounge on Thursday

American Airlines opens its latest “Flagship Lounge” at Dallas Fort Worth tomorrow.

This follows existing Flagship lounges at Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, Miami and New York JFK.

These are American Airlines’ top tier lounges and are a big step up from its Admirals Club lounges.

Whilst the decor is not radically different from refurbished Admirals Club lounges (non-refurbished ones are another story..), the big difference is in food and beverage. There are self-pour bars and a substantially broader and more generous range of complimentary hot and cold self-service food. There is also a dedicated dining area for passengers travelling in international First Class.

It’s important to add that the Admirals Clubs and Flagship First lounges are not equivalents to BA’s Club and First lounges. American’s Flagship First lounges are open to both Oneworld Emerald & Sapphire cardholders and international business class and First Class passengers.

Further Flagship lounges are due to follow at London Heathrow and Philadelphia.

When the London Heathrow lounge opens, it might not snatch the crown of the best Oneworld lounge in Terminal 3, but it will certainly give Cathay Pacific, BA and Qantas a run for their money.