The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 4 December 2019

London Air Travel

Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta
Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta

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 GMT.

Air France-KLM & Virgin Atlantic

What is going on between Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic?

There’s been considerable press speculation, confirmed by Virgin Group, that it will retain control of the airline and Air France-KLM will no longer acquire a 31% stake in it.

The background to this is back in 2017 when Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic announced their attention to operate a combined transatlantic joint-venture, Air France-KLM was to acquire a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic for £220m when the new joint-venture launched. This would have reduced Virgin Group’s ownership to a mere 20%.

This appears to no longer be the case. The way that this has been framed by Virgin Group is that this was their decision and Air France-KLM buying a stake was no longer necessary, given Virgin’s new plans to become a “second flag carrier” at Heathrow if a third runway goes ahead.

This is something of a non-sequitur. Even if Virgin was granted special status on the allocation of new slots at Heathrow, the degree of expansion proposed would require significant injections of capital, which do not appear to be forthcoming from Virgin Group.

(Virgin’s rivals will argue, with some justification, that given its historical unwillingness to expand through slot acquisitions, it has lost any special pleading for different treatment from other incumbent airlines at Heathrow).

The key phrase in Virgin Group’s letter is “subject to contract”. The details do not yet appear to be ironed out with Air France-KLM. Given this is a material transaction, an announcement should be made to Air France-KLM’s shareholders when the details are agreed. And it is to avoid confusion in situations like this that all parties usually agree to issue joint statements simultaneously.

Delta is also holding an annual investor day on Thursday 12 December 2019, and hopefully there’ll be more details of the combined joint-venture.

Update: Air France-KLM has confirmed to La Tribune that it will not acquire a stake in Virgin Atlantic.

Aer Lingus Adds PressReader

Aer Lingus has confirmed that it has joined BA and many other airlines and hotels, in offering free downloads of magazines and newspapers through PressReader.

Like BA, an e-mail will be sent to passengers in advance of their flight. It is recommended that titles are downloaded at home in advance, rather than at the airport or on board the aircraft. More details are available at Aer Lingus.

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Qantas Opens New Singapore First Class Lounge

London Air Travel

Qantas First Lounge Singapore
Qantas First Lounge Singapore (Image Credit: Qantas)

Qantas has officially opened its new First Class lounge at Singapore Changi airport.

Designed by Australian designer David Caon and Akin Atelier the lounge has capacity for 240 passengers.

Facilities include a la carte dining, an open kitchen and a cocktail bar. There are also 10 private shower suites with lighting through a faux sky light.

The lounge menus are designed by Neil Perry with whom Qantas has a long-standing partnership, and a sample menu can be viewed here.

Qantas has in recent years opened joint business and First Class lounges outside of Australia. However, there has been a need for increased lounge capacity in Singapore after Qantas reinstated Airbus A380 services from Sydney to London via Singapore.

Whilst Qantas’ global lounge portfolio is relatively small, when it does operate a lounge it does do it extremely well. This lounge looks particularly impressive with effective use of different materials to break up the lounge.

The lounge can be accessed by all passengers of Oneworld airlines flying First Class and Emerald members of Oneworld frequent flyer programmes. This includes BA passengers flying First Class to London Heathrow and Sydney and BA Executive Club Gold cardholders flying on Oneworld airlines.

The lounge is open from 14:30 to 00:00 daily. Note the lounge is located away from the current Qantas business class lounge

Qantas First Lounge Singapore
Qantas First Lounge Singapore (Image Credit: Qantas)
Qantas First Lounge Singapore
Qantas First Lounge Singapore (Image Credit: Qantas)
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Monday Briefing – 2 December 2019

London Air Travel

South African Airways Airbus A340 Aircraft
South African Airways Airbus A340 Aircraft (Image Credit: South African Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 2 December 2019.

South African Airways

There has been considerable speculation about the long term health of South African Airways over the past week.

Last week the Financial Times reported that the airline was close to financial collapse. It had only paid 50% of staff salaries for the month having experienced a “sudden detoriation” in its finances following eight days of industrial action at the airline. Some insurers are also reported to have stopped providing insolvency protection for tickets issued by the airline due to fears over its future.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation has since reported that outstanding staff salaries have now been paid. However, negotiations are ongoing between South African Airways and the Government on securing state guarantees for further funding from commercial banks.

Virgin Trains Bows Out

After holding the West Coast Main Line railway franchise for 22 years, Virgin Trains bows out this coming Saturday.

It will be replaced by Avanti West Coast a joint-venture between First Group and Italian rail operator Trenitalia which will operate what will become known as the West Coast Partnership.

This is of course not strictly air travel related, but the upgrade to the West Coast Main Line from London Euston has had a significant impact on passenger volumes between London airports to Manchester. Whilst Virgin likes to take credit for the significant infrastructure upgrade, this should really go to UK taxpayers.

Today, in the air, just BA serves the route from Heathrow with occasional weekly summer flight from London City. Previously bmi British Midland, Virgin Atlantic Little Red and VLM have operated between London and Manchester.

With Virgin Trains’ East Coast Main Line franchise having been terminated early, this does significantly reduce the brand presence of Virgin in the UK. One consequence of the new franchise is that BA may introduce an interline agreement Avanti West Coast, as it has with London North Eastern Railway.

Clive James

The renowned author, critic and poet Clive James passed away last week.

Clive James’ long and distinguished career included the 1991 “Postcard From” series for BBC Television. The edition below is from his beloved home city of Sydney.

Clive was also a contributor to BBC Radio 4’s “A Point Of View”. This is one edition from April 2008, in which Clive revelled in the chaotic opening of London Heathrow Terminal 5.

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Travel To London's Airports At Christmas & New Year 2019

London Air Travel

Embankment Gardens, London
Embankment Gardens, London (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

As thoughts turn to planning for Christmas, here’s our guide to travelling to and from London’s airports over the Christmas and New Year period for 2019

This is based on known information at the time of publication, which may be subject to change at short notice.

General Guidance

For the benefit of visitors to London, Christmas Day is the biggest annual public holiday in the UK.

Public transport in the UK on Christmas Day is extremely limited. Taxis and coaches will be your only option.

Tube, suburban and long-distance rail services also close down much earlier on Christmas Eve – most by around 20:00. Retail outlets at stations will close even earlier.

Most London Underground / Tube lines in London operate on Boxing Day, as will the Docklands Light Railway. For the first time this year, some London Overground services will also operate on Boxing Day. Suburban and long distance rail services do not operate on Boxing Day.

The Christmas and New Year period is also used for extensive engineering work on the UK’s rail network. Engineering work can overrun and encounter unforeseen problems, so there is risk of additional closures at short notice. The latest and most accurate rail timetable information can be found on National Rail Enquiries.

The big unknown over the Christmas period is of course UK weather. London airports have markedly improved their winter weather resilience planning in recent years. However, due to capacity issues, it is inevitable that any severe weather will cause delays and cancellations.

Gatwick Airport

The Gatwick Express and Southern Railway services are due to operate between London Victoria and Gatwick airport on all days throughout Christmas and New Year, apart from on Christmas Day.

Thameslink services between Gatwick and London stations will operate throughout Christmas and New Year, apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

However, revised timetables for all rail operators will operate on some days.

Heathrow Airport

There will be significant disruption to overland rail services to London Heathrow over Christmas.

Due to engineering work closing lines between London Paddington and Slough, there will be significant to disruption to rail services between Paddington and Heathrow. No train services will run at all into and out of London Paddington from Tuesday 24 December 2019 to Friday 27 December 2019.

The Heathrow Express non-stop service from London Paddington to Heathrow Terminal 5 will not run from Tuesday 24 December 2019 to Friday 27 December 2019.

Trains will run at 30 minute intervals from Saturday 28 December 2019 Monday 30 December 2019. Trains will leave London Paddington at 25 and 55 minutes past the hour and London Heathrow from 12 and 42 minutes past the hour. Trains will also run every 30 minutes at these times before 14:00 on Tuesday 31 December 2019.

TfL Rail’s stopping service (formerly Heathrow Connect) will not run from London Paddington to Heathrow Terminal 4 from Tuesday 24 December 2019 to Friday 27 December 2019. Services will be reduced from Saturday 28 December 2019 until 13:00 on Tuesday 31 December 2019.

As is standard practice, there are no Piccadilly Line services to Heathrow on Christmas Day due to the closure of the Tube. It resumes on Boxing Day.

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The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 27 November 2019

London Air Travel

Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta
Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM and Delta

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 GMT.

Air France-KLM, Delta & Virgin Atlantic Joint-Venture Approval

The US Department of Transportation has finally given approval for Delta to combine its two transatlantic joint-ventures with Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic into one.

In spite of fierce lobbying by JetBlue no regulatory concessions have been demanded as condition of the new joint-venture.

No timescale has been given by the airlines for the formal launch of the combined joint-venture but a logical date would be the start of the summer 2020 season at the end of March 2020.

This is likely to presage further co-operation between Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic. This is particularly in the areas of frequent flyer programmes and other long-haul routes outside of North America, where Air France-KLM has significantly greater coverage than Virgin Atlantic.

Also in a largely symbolic, but still historically significant, Virgin Group will give up control of Virgin Atlantic (something Sir Richard Branson once said he would never do) by selling a 31% stake to Virgin Atlantic.

On a related matter, Aer Lingus is still awaiting approval to join the AA/BA joint-venture.

Staying with Aer Lingus, the Canadian Transportation Agency has granted approval for ASL Airlines to operate a scheduled service on behalf of Aer Lingus between 1 and 30 January 2020. This is somewhat curious as Aer Lingus does not currently fly to Canada.

American Airlines Summer Schedule

American Airlines has announced a number of new domestic routes for the summer 2020 season.

Particularly of note for Oneworld transatlantic flyers are new Saturday seasonal services from Philadelphia to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and from Charlotte to Martha’s Vineyard. Full details are available at aa.com

“WORLD WAY: The City of LAX”

Film maker Chris Pritchard has made an exceptionally well produced and edited four minute time lapse video of Los Angeles International airport, which can be both immensely frustrating but still captivating.

The film was produced over three years with the assistance of the airport and you can read more about the film on Chris Pritchard’s blog.

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