London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 6 April 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

Virgin Atlantic Cargo Arriving At London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic Cargo Arriving At London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 6 April 2020.

As scheduled air travel all but grinds to halt, the UK Government is now enlisting airlines to operate charter flights to bring British nations back home.

The first charter flights from India were announced yesterday and registration for these flights is now open. Special charter flights will operate from Goa, Mumbai and New Delhi this week. More details are available from the British High Commission India.

Repatriation flights will also operate from Cape Town and Johannesburg this week.

In terms of scheduled airline operations:

Heathrow confirmed last week that it intends to temporarily close Terminals 3 and 4, with flights consolidated in Terminals 2 and 5. However, the airport is yet to confirm which airlines are moving where. Heathrow will also begin single runway operations from today.

International Airlines Group also confirmed that its airlines will continue to reduce capacity by 90% up until the end of May. Though, BA has not yet processed any substantial cancellations from 1 May 2020.

American Airlines has set out tentative plans to reinstate its network from London Heathrow, which is currently limited to Dallas / Fort Worth. American plans to resume flights to London Heathrow from Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Philadelphia and Raleigh-Durham on 4 June 2020. Charlotte will resume on 7 July. Phoenix will resume on 7 October. American’s inaugural flight from Boston to London Heathrow is delayed until 25 October.

Virgin Atlantic & Virgin Australia Seek State Support

Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, the last two Virgin branded airlines in existence, are both actively seeking state support.

Virgin Australia has formally asked the Australian Federal Government for support of AU$1.4 billion.

Virgin Atlantic is reported to be in talks for UK Government support of £500m which would include loans to cover operating expenses and credit guarantees to prevent credit card companies.

There are parallels in both requests in that there is a history of corporate and personal animosity between both Virgin airlines and their main incumbent competitors.

Virgin Australia’s request prompted a response from Qantas that should Virgin’s request be authorised (there are no signs yet that it will), Qantas should receive a proportionally larger bail out to “level the playing field”. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has also given warning against state support for businesses that have been “badly managed”.

According to ABC Australia Credit Suisse has estimated that Virgin Australia could burn through its remaining cash reserves by the end of June.

The Sunday Times estimates that Virgin Atlantic is burning approximately £20 million of cash a week. IAG’s reported cash balance fell from €7.35 billion to €7.2 billion between 12 and 27 March.

There are appears to be no prospect of any of Virgin Australia’s shareholders which include Etihad and Singapore Airlines, contributing to a recapitalisation of the airline. In the UK there is an expectation that Virgin Atlantic’s shareholders, Delta and Virgin Group, should foot the bill.

At a UK Government press conference yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock declined to answer a question from Jim Pickard of the Financial Times as to whether Virgin Atlantic should receive a bailout because its majority shareholder is not tax resident in the UK and has previously sued the National Health Service.

Whatever the economic and competitive merits of state support for Virgin Atlantic, “optics” and politics are unavoidable. The Treasury will, as it always does in Government, call the shots. Virgin Group will have to be seen to pay a price.

Continue reading “London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 6 April 2020”

Heathrow Airport To Close Terminals Three & Four

Heathrow Airport is to temporarily consolidate all remaining flights in Terminals 2 and 5.

London Air Travel

London Heathrow Terminal 5
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Heathrow airport has confirmed that Terminals 3 and 4 will close temporarily in “the coming weeks”.

Airlines operating from these terminals will transfer their flights to Terminals 2 and 5.

This follows a fall in passenger flights of 75%. No date has been given for the change. Nor has it been confirmed which airlines which move into which terminals.

The logical move is for Oneworld alliance member airlines such as American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines and Qantas to move to Terminal 5.

SkyTeam member airlines such as Air France, Delta and KLM and non-aligned airlines such as Virgin Atlantic could move to Terminal 2.

There is a lot of complexity behind the scenes before these moves can be agreed.

For example, Terminal 5 was originally designed around BA’s own systems and processes. When Iberia moved into the terminal many years ago, it took a long time for Iberia flights could operate from the terminal under their own flight numbers.

There are also industrial relations issues with airlines having their own employees and handling agents at Heathrow.

Given the upheaval required behind the scenes to facilitate these moves, this does suggest that flights at Heathrow will be reduced substantially for some time.

The latest guidance on Coronavirus from Heathrow can be viewed here.

Heathrow will also move to a single runway operation from Monday 6 April 2020. Flights will alternative between the Northern and Southern runway each week as per this schedule.

British Airways Flight Plan – April & May 2020

British Airways is to continue to operate an extremely limited schedule until June 2020 at the earliest.

London Air Travel

British Airways Coat Of Arms
British Airways Coat Of Arms (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways is to continue to operate an extremely limited schedule until June 2020 at the earliest.

BA’s parent company International Airlines Group has confirmed today, Thursday 2 April 2020, that its airlines will reduce capacity by 90% in April and May compared to 2019.

Here are the main changes to date:

London City

All flights at London City airport are suspended until the end of April at the earliest.

This is due to the closure of the airport. BA has also suspended London City – New York JFK until 1 September 2020.

London Gatwick

No BA flights will operate at London Gatwick airport until the end of April at the earliest.

Runway operations for scheduled flights are also limited to eight hours a day, between 14:00 and 22:00.

London Heathrow

At London Heathrow, all flights are operating from Terminal 5.

BA is operating a very limited schedule at London Heathrow. Long-haul routes still operating, but with significantly reduced frequencies, include Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Seattle, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo Haneda and Washington Dulles.

Flights are being operated with Airbus A350-1000, Boeing 787, Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 777-300 aircraft.

Short-haul flights are limited to a very small number of flights to major UK & European cities.

Note this does not include any cargo only flights or flights chartered by the UK Government to bring Britons back home.

At the time of publication, BA has not processed schedule changes for May. However, a very large number of cancellations should be processed in the next two weeks.

Passengers can check the status of their bookings using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com

Other Airport Changes

All BA lounges worldwide are closed.

At Manchester, flights are operating at Terminal 1 due to the consolidation of flights at the airport.

At New York JFK, flights have temporarily transferred from Terminal 7 to Terminal 8.

Alliance & Codeshare Partners

BA’s main alliance and codeshare partners continue to operate skeleton schedules at London Heathrow.

American Airlines is currently flying once a day from London Heathrow to Dallas / Fort Worth and Miami.

AA plans to resume flights to London Heathrow from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Raleigh-Durham on 4 June. Charlotte will resume on 7 July. Phoenix will resume on 7 October. The inaugural flight from Boston is delayed until 25 October.

Finnair is flying from London Heathrow to Helsinki twice daily.

Iberia continues to fly from London Heathrow and Madrid.

Japan Airlines continues to fly from London Heathrow and Tokyo Haneda.

Qatar Airways continues to fly from London Heathrow to Doha.

Continue reading “British Airways Flight Plan – April & May 2020”

British Airways Suspends Flights At London Gatwick

BA has temporarily suspended all flights at London Gatwick airport until Friday 1 May 2020.

London Air Travel

British Airways, London Gatwick
British Airways, London Gatwick

British Airways has temporarily suspended all flights at London Gatwick airport.

All BA flights at Gatwick are suspended until Friday 1 May 2020 at the earliest.

At the time of publication, there are no indications from online timetables that any BA routes at Gatwick have been temporarily transferred to Heathrow.

Flight operations at Gatwick have already reduced significantly. Norwegian has temporarily suspended all flights. Virgin Atlantic has temporarily transferred its Gatwick flights to Heathrow. Both of these moves could become permanent.

easyJet has also grounded its entire fleet. Gatwick airport will also close the North Terminal and reduce runway operations to eight hours a day from 14:00 to 22:00

Given there is huge uncertainty as to the medium to long-term impact of COVID-19 on air travel and the economy, it is plausible that BA may also look to consolidate operations at London Heathrow.

BA passengers can check the status of their bookings using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com and should contact BA or their travel agent to secure a refund or a rebooking.

London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 30 March 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel

Air Bridge Cargo Freighters
Air Bridge Cargo Freighters (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 30 March 2020.

Cash Is King

With airlines now facing a minimum of six months’ disruption, their overwhelming priority is the preservation and raising of additional cash.

Some airlines have already taken steps to raise additional capital:

Norwegian has completed the first step to meet the criteria to obtain a loan guarantee of NOK300 million (~£23 million) from the Norwegian Government by securing a contribution of 10% from financial institutions. Up to NOK3 billion (~£230 million) is available to Norwegian in loan guarantees. However, the criterion for these is considerably more stringent.

Qantas has raised AU$1.05 billion (~£507 million) in additional liquidity, secured against 7 Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

Qatar Airways has warned that it only has enough cash to sustain operations for a “very short period” and “We will surely go to our government eventually.” (Reuters)

Singapore Airlines plans to raise S$5.3 billion (~£3 billion) in new equity from its shareholders and up to S$9.7 billion (~£9.7 billion) through Mandatory Convertible Bonds, which will be progressively raised in the coming months.

Tui has secured an €1.8 billion loan from the German Government.

Virgin Atlantic is reported to be close to formally asking the UK Government for a package of loans and guarantees in the sum of hundreds of millions pounds.

Last week in a letter to airlines, no doubt written in the knowledge it would enter the public domain, the Government said it would not introduce sector specific measures to support the aviation industry. This does not preclude Government support. However, airlines are expected to pursue all available means from lenders and shareholders first.

In the case of Virgin Atlantic, this inevitably places focus on Sir Richard Branson. Additional support from Delta, a 49% shareholder is unlikely, given it has reached its maximum shareholding and it and other US airlines are receiving direct financial support from the US Government.

Operational Updates

Airport Coordination Ltd, which oversees the allocation of slots at London airports, has granted an extended waiver of “use it lose it” rules until the end of October 2020. It had, just two weeks ago, granted a waiver until 30 June 2020. This was originally due to be reviewed in May.

The Civil Aviation Authority has published traffic data for domestic and international routes for February 2020. Unsurprisingly, traffic on routes between Heathrow and mainland China fell by 70-100%. Traffic between Heathrow and Hong Kong fell by 40%.

Gatwick Airport is to close the North Terminal from Wednesday 1 April 2020. All remaining flights will operate from the South Terminal. The airport’s sole runway will also only be operational for scheduled flights between 14:00 and 22:00. Virgin Atlantic has already transferred what few flights remain operating to London Heathrow.

London City Airport has closed for scheduled flights until the end of April earliest. BA has temporarily transferred its route to the Isle of Man (operated by Loganair) to London Heathrow.

Finnair has confirmed it will continue to operate a skeleton schedule until 30 June at the earliest. This will include two flights a day between London Heathrow and Helsinki, operated with an Airbus 319 aircraft. Finnair’s sole intercontinental route will be Tokyo Haneda. Full details are available from Finnair.

KLM will, until 3 May, serve 25 intercontinental destinations and 32 destinations in Europe with 69 return flights a week. This represents a capacity cut of around 90%. Most intercontinental destinations will have 2-3 flights a week, with only New York JFK being served with a daily flight.

Continue reading “London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 30 March 2020”

London Gatwick North Terminal Closure

London Gatwick airport is to temporarily close the North Terminal from 1 April 2020.

London Air Travel

Gatwick Airport Runways
Gatwick Airport Runways (Image Credit: Gatwick Airport)

London Gatwick is to temporarily close its North Terminal from Wednesday 1 April 2020.

All existing airport operations will be consolidated in the South Terminal.

The airport’s single runway will also only be used for scheduled flights between 14:00 and 22:00 each day.

The runway will remain available for emergency landings and diversions outside of these hours.

The North Terminal is currently used by airlines such as easyJet, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Tui and Virgin Atlantic. easyJet is currently operating a skeleton schedule. Virgin Atlantic has temporarily transferred all operations to London Heathrow.

The few flights remain operating by these airlines will transfer to the South Terminal. This is currently used by airlines such as Aer Lingus, British Airways, Ryanair and Vueling.

This arrangement will continue for at least one month. London City airport has also closed until the end of April at the earliest. London Heathrow airport is expected to shortly announce terminal closures.

Given airlines have today, Friday 27 March, been given a slot alleviation until October 2020, schedules are likely to remain substantially reduced until the autumn.

“Use It Or Lose It” Slot Rules Relaxed Until October 2020

Airlines operating at London City, Gatwick and Heathrow airports have the flexibility to cancel flights up to 24 October 2020 without risk of forfeiting slots.

London Air Travel

London Heathrow Terminal 5A
London Heathrow Terminal 5A (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Airlines operating at London City, Gatwick, Heathrow and many other UK & EU airports have been granted further flexibility to cancel flights without forfeiting slots.

Under EU “use it or lose it” rules airlines must use their slots for at least 80% of each travel season. Otherwise, the slots are forfeited and will become available to other airlines.

Following a ruling by the European Commission, ACL, which is responsible for overseeing slot allocations at London City, Gatwick and Heathrow, had allowed an alleviation until Tuesday 30 June 2020.

This was granted just two weeks ago and was due to be reviewed again in May. However, this alleviation has now been extended to the entirety of the summer season, until Saturday 24 October 2020.

Continue reading ““Use It Or Lose It” Slot Rules Relaxed Until October 2020″

Coronavirus: British Airways Catering Changes

BA has reduced the quantity of food & beverage offered on short and long-haul flights in response to Coronavirus.

London Air Travel

British Airways Airbus A350-1000 Club World Service
British Airways Airbus A350-1000 Club World Service (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways has made changes to in-flight catering on short and long-haul flights in response to Coronavirus.

Some of the changes are quite vague in their description, but part of the aim seems to be to avoid the need to prepare food on board aircraft.

This will mean substantially less, and ambient only, food will be available on flights. These changes will be particularly noticeable in Club World and First Class.

All Flights

BA will no longer cater for any special dietary requirements or allergies.

So passengers who would ordinarily order special meals will have to make their own provisions.

Short-Haul Flights

In short-haul economy, M&S Buy On Board has been withdrawn.

Buy On Board will be replaced with a light refreshment, water and, on request, hot drinks.

Long-Haul Flights

Hot and soft drinks will continue to be offered as well as a light refreshment.

Meals will be prepared and packaged before each flight. So dishes will not be plated on board the aircraft as they usually are in First Class and Club World.

Pre-paid meals will not be offered in World Traveller.

Passengers can bring their own food on their flights, provided it does not need to be chilled or heated on board the aircraft.

The overall message seems to be expect less food and make your own provisions if possible.

As airlines are now operating an extremely limited schedule and are only carrying passengers who are returning to home, this arrangement is likely to continue until the situation with Coronavirus returns to normal.

Pre-Flight Dining

In terms of pre-flight dining options, it should be borne in mind that a large number of lounges operated by BA and its partner airlines are closed.

This includes the Concorde Room at London Heathrow and New York JFK, and BA lounges at UK regional airports.

Lounges at US airports where pre-flight dining is ordinarily offered to passengers, such as Boston, Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington Dulles, are also closed.

For the latest information on lounges check the Oneworld alliance website before your flight.

Virgin Atlantic Transfers Flights From Gatwick To Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic is to temporarily transfer all remaining flights from London Gatwick to London Heathrow airport.

London Air Travel

Virgin Atlantic Logo
Virgin Atlantic Logo (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic is to temporarily transfer what few remaining flights operate from London Gatwick to London Heathrow airport.

This will take effect for outbound flights from Tuesday 24 March 2020.

The last outbound flights from London Gatwick operated today, Monday 23 March.

On Tuesday 24 March, the last inbound flights will arrive at London Gatwick. These are VS90 from Grenada and St Lucia and VS34 from Antigua.

On Tuesday 24 March, flight VS147 to Havana (formerly VS63 when operated at Gatwick) and VS133 to Antigua (formerly VS33 when operated at Gatwick) will operate from London Heathrow.

A number of destinations Virgin Atlantic ordinarily serves from Gatwick, such as Orlando, are suspended due to travel restrictions.

As Virgin is currently operating a severely limited schedule until the end of April, this arrangement is likely to continue for some weeks at least.

There has been a recent trend for Virgin to transfer routes from Gatwick to Heathrow. Havana was due to transfer Heathrow in June 2020 and Las Vegas was transferred last year. Other routes such as Cancun and St Lucia have been suspended.

If the medium to long term impact of Coronavirus does lead to a significant fall in demand for air travel, the transfer from Gatwick to Heathrow could well become permanent. Should Norwegian permanently withdraw from Gatwick and BA follow Virgin, this would be very damaging to the airport.

London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 23 March 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel

Arrivals, London Heathrow Airport
Arrivals, London Heathrow Airport (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 23 March 2020.

“We have no incoming bookings any more, hardly any.”

Carsten Sphor, Chief Executive, Lufthansa

At the time of a global crisis, it’s easy to catastrophise. Many in the immediate aftermath of 11 September 2001 thought aviation would never recover. However, the situation with Coronavirus is moving so quickly that the plans of airlines just seven days ago now seem hopelessly optimistic.

On both sides of the Atlantic, Governments are contemplating state support for airlines.

In the US, airlines have acted in concert and issued a plea for support of up to $60 billion. This includes payroll grants and loan guarantees. At the time of “going to press” a bill is unsurprisingly caught up in political wrangling between Democrat & Republican politicians.

In the UK, there is no consensus amongst the industry on what the Government should do.

The Government has appointed Rothschild to look at measures to support the industry. Some measures reportedly include a moratorium on EC261 compensation, waiving Air Traffic Control charges and temporarily suspending Air Passenger Duty.

Some reports have suggested that measures such as loan guarantees will not be enough and the Government will have to take an equity stake in UK airlines.

Last week, Virgin Atlantic issued an outright request for Government credit facilities of up to £7.5 billion for the industry. Virgin is clearly nervous that credit card providers will hold back funds as they have done to Flybe and Norwegian.

Yesterday, Sir Richard Branson also committed $250m of funds to his Virgin businesses which have all been impacted by Coronavirus (Virgin).

IAG has been keen to emphasise its resilience with cash of €7.35 billion and undrawn facilities of €1.9 billion. This may sound like a lot of money but UBS estimated last week that IAG could burn through €1.15 billion of cash a month.

A “senior IAG source” also briefed BBC News last week that there are better uses of taxpayer funds than a bailout for Virgin Atlantic.

(It’s also worth recalling there is a lot of history between Sir Richard Branson and Willie Walsh from the last financial crisis. When BA was reeling from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, in very public fashion due its status as a listed company, Sir Richard raised the question of the need for state support of BA. This triggered a fall in BA’s share price, and Sir Richard said of BA that “we should wait for its demise.”)

There are of course inherent conflicts in the Government taking equity stakes in different UK airlines where it would effectively have competing financial investments.

IAG has long been against Government investment in airlines and is likely to only accept an equity stake as an absolute last resort. The UK Government would only have interest in investing in BA. Ditto for the Spanish Government and Iberia. IAG has always wanted full control of all its airlines and is unlikely to be willing to cede minority interests in any of its subsidiaries, not least when there’s the potential for political interference.

Continue reading “London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 23 March 2020”