Monday Briefing – 27 May 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

Islamabad, Pakistan
Islamabad, Pakistan (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 27 May 2019.

BA Returns To Islamabad

BA returns to Islamabad this Sunday after a more than ten year absence.

BA had suspended all flights to Pakistan in September 2008 following the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

In recent years BA has relied on codeshares with Qatar Airways to serve a number of destinations in Pakistan including Karachi and Lahore.

This is a relatively tentative return with three Boeing 787-8 flights a week. The route used to operate six times weekly with a Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

It was clear from the route announcement last year that there had been discussions between the governments of the UK and Pakistan on restarting the route. It is going to be watched very closely, both in terms of commercial performance and any potential security issues.

Air New Zealand Aircraft Order

Air New Zealand has this morning announced a new aircraft order.

It has ordered 8 Boeing 787-10 aircraft, with options for a further 12 aircraft. These will be delivered from 2022 to 2027 and will replace 8 Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Air New Zealand also has 13 Boeing 787-9 aircraft and 7 Boeing 777-300 aircraft in its fleet.

Joint-Venture Struggles

There are more signs that regulators are taking a tougher stance against airline co-operation and joint-ventures.

More than three years ago BA, Iberia and LATAM announced plans for a joint-business on routes between Europe and Latin America. Regulatory approval, which was initially expected to take 18 months, has been granted by Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia.

Approval was also granted by Chilean Free Competition Defence Court late last year but was subject to an appeal by a consumer group to the Chilean Supreme Court. Last week, the court has denied approval for the joint-venture.

Meanwhile in Australia, the International Air Services Commission has issued a draft decision denying approval for Cathay Pacific to codeshare on certain Qantas flights from Australia to Hong Kong.

Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 27 May 2019”

British Airways Launches Online Centenary Archive

British Airways has launched a new online archive of photos and videos to mark its centenary year.

London Air Travel

Her Majesty The Queen, Concorde, 1977
Her Majesty The Queen, Concorde, 1977 (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways has long maintained a “heritage collection” of archive materials and photographs from its near 100 year history.

This is based at its Head Office near Heathrow. It has also been online, though much of the photographs were scanned for uploading in an era when websites had to accommodate much slower internet connections.

As part of its centenary BA has launched a new dedicated archive microsite with many newly released images, videos and features on its history.

It covers many aspects of BA’s history, including staff uniforms and deliveries of new aircraft. There are also many videos including the launch of the turn-up-and-go domestic Shuttle Service from London to Glasgow in 1975 and the groundbreaking “World’s Biggest Offer”marketing campaign in 1991.

On the subject of advertising, please see here for our own history of BA advertising over four decades.

BA has also issued newly released photos of Her Majesty The Queen, who visited BA’s Head Office earlier this week, with British Airways aircraft.

Her Majesty The Queen, Malta
Her Majesty The Queen, Malta (Image Credit: British Airways)

The Queen has a long history with BA and its predecessor airlines.

On 31 January 1952, The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, bid farewell to King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at London airport before departing on a BOAC aircraft with Prince Philip for a world tour of Africa, Australia and New Zealand. This was cut short following the death of King George VI and Princess Elizabeth returned a week later from Kenya on a BOAC Argonaut as Queen Elizabeth II.

BEA, BOAC and BA have flown The Queen on many state visits and tours. These include the 1953 Commonwealth tour, Canada and the US in 1957 (on a BOAC DC-7C aircraft), Bermuda and Jamaica 1963 (on a BOAC Stratocruiser), New Zealand in 1974, the Commonwealth Silver Jubilee tour 1977 (on Concorde), the Middle East in 1979 (on Concorde), and Australia 2011 (non-stop from London to Perth on a Boeing 777). The Queen also officially opened London Heathrow Terminals 1 and 5 and Gatwick’s North Terminal.

Back to the archive itself, the history of BA obviously depends on who is telling it.

Understandably, there are some events not touched on, such as aircraft incidents and BOAC and BA being caught up in major geopolitical events such as the 1970 Dawson’s Field hijackings and 1990 Gulf War. Nor are corporate controversies. However, there are subjects barely mentioned, such as the Newell and Sorrell redesign of BA’s corporate identity of 1997, controversial at the time, but now worthy of reappraisal.

BA Club World Seat Selection Charge Changes

British Airways has changed its pricing structure for selecting seats in Club World.

London Air Travel

British Airways Refurbished 52 Club World Seat Aircraft, November 2018
British Airways Refurbished 52 Club World Seat Aircraft, November 2018 (Image Credit: British Airways)

For the past ten years or so BA has required passengers other than Silver and Gold members of the Executive Club to pay a fee to select a seat at the time of booking.

This applies to all cabins except First Class, even Club World. Please see here for a full guide to BA’s seating policy.

Even though BA is one of the only, if not the only, airlines in the world to charge business class passengers to select a seat, and it is seen as somewhat egregious, this policy has survived.

As BA has learned of passenger preferences it has applied dynamic pricing to different parts of the same cabin with differential charges by row and proximity to aisles and windows.

In Club World, this has meant higher charges for the much loved upper deck of the Boeing 747. On the main deck of the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 and in all other Club World cabins, there were three tiers of prices, Front, Middle, and Rear. There were higher charges for forward rows and lower charges for rear rows.

Changes from 14 May 2019

Since Tuesday 14 May 2019, BA has split the pricing of seats on the main deck of Club World into no less than six tiers.

These are Front Side, Front Centre, Middle Side, Middle Centre, Rear Side, Rear Centre.

In the example of an 86 Club World seat Boeing 747 below, there are now higher prices to select a seat on the side of the aircraft, which are £87 per person at the front of the cabin, £80 in the middle of the cabin, and £67 at the rear of the cabin.

Centre seats are at reduced prices of £79, £72 and £59 per person. Charges will vary by aircraft, and are higher on other aircraft such as the Airbus A380.

Continue reading “BA Club World Seat Selection Charge Changes”

The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 22 May 2019

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

London Air Travel

Business Class, WestJet Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Business Class, WestJet Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (Image Credit: WestJet0

Hello and welcome to the The Atlantic Update for Wednesday 22 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.

WestJet to operate Boeing 787 on Gatwick – Toronto

WestJet has confirmed that it will operate its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner from London Gatwick to Toronto Pearson daily from Thursday 24 October 2019.

This will replace a Boeing 767 and will offer a significant upgrade in comfort in all classes, with WestJet’s first international business class, and new premium economy and economy cabins.

This, with BA also operating the Airbus A350 to Toronto from Tuesday 1 October 2019 will make the route extremely competitive.

WestJet will also extend Boeing 787 Dreamliner on London Gatwick to Calgary year-round, with flights operating four times weekly from Monday 28 October 2019.

As reported last week, WestJet is to be acquired by Onex Corporation. Air Canada has also announced it has entered into exclusive talks to acquire the parent company of Air Transat which would give Air Canada a significantly stronger position in Eastern Canada (and prevent it from being acquired by Onex). This phase of consolidation does leave one major independent Canadian airline, Porter Airlines, which operates from Toronto City airport.

Salt Hotels Opens Asbury Beach Club

Over the past few years Salt Hotels has been building up a small, but perfectly formed, portfolio of properties in North East of the USA.

It has two properties in Cape Cod, Salt House Inn and Eben House and The Chequit on Shelter Island, New York.

It is also opening a second property in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Asbury Ocean Club Hotel on 1 July 2019.

The group does have further expansion plans and it is certainly one to watch.

US Government Withdraws Support for California High Speed Rail

The US is a land of extremes and contradictions.

A case in point is how such an economically powerful nation has such a poor track record on infrastructure investment, which gets caught up in federal, state, and city politics as well as powerful vested interests.

The US federal government has withdrawn $1billion in funding for High Speed Rail in California which has prompted the rail authority to sue the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, Brightline (soon to be Virgin Trains) has appointed contractors for a privately funded expansion to Orlando. Governing has a “state of the nation” report on the development of rail in North America.

Continue reading “The Atlantic Update – Wednesday 22 May 2019”

BA Phoenix & San Diego Heathrow Terminal Swap

BA flights from London Heathrow to Phoenix and San Diego will swap terminals from Sunday 27 October 2019.

London Air Travel

British Airways Boeing 747, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
British Airways Boeing 747, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways flights from London Heathrow to Phoenix and San Diego will swap terminals with effect from Sunday 27 October 2019.

BA flights from Heathrow to Phoenix (BA289 & BA288) will move from Terminal 3 to 5. Meanwhile, BA flights from Heathrow to San Diego (BA273 & BA272) will move from Terminal 5 to 3.

Both routes will also change aircraft. Flights to Phoenix will be operated with the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner until Sunday 29 March 2020, when it switches to a Boeing 777-300 aircraft. This brings to an end a very long run of Boeing 747 operations to Phoenix. However, as this route has been operated with a 52 Club World seat Boeing 747, passengers will benefit from more modern cabin interiors and a guarantee of better of in-flight entertainment.

Flights to San Diego will be operated with a Boeing 747 year-round, having previously operated with a Boeing 747 in the winter and a Boeing 777-300 in the summer.

For passengers who are connecting at London Heathrow, there are different minimum connection times of 90 minutes for Terminal 3-Terminal 5 connections, and 60 minutes for Terminal 5-Terminal 5 & Terminal 3-Terminal 3 connections. Passengers with existing bookings should check carefully that their itineraries comply with minimum connection times and contact BA or their travel agent accordingly.

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

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”