Monday Briefing – 19 March 2018

Welcome to our weekly Monday Briefing on the main developments in air travel in London and around the world, as published every Monday morning at 06:00 GMT.

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Qantas Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Hello and welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 19 March 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week, and a look the week ahead.

Summer Schedule Changes

This coming Sunday, 25 March 2018, marks the beginning of the summer travel season (though the weather clearly thinks otherwise!).

The big headline is of course the launch of the first non-stop scheduled passenger service between London and Australia.

At 05:10 on Sunday 25 March, if all goes to plan, flight QF9 will arrive at London Heathrow Terminal 3 having completed a 17 hour and 20 minute journey from Perth. After eight hours rest, the aircraft will make its way back to Australia for a 16 hour and 45 minute flight back to Perth.

Qantas has made on secret of the fact it wants to launch more non-stop services to Australia and is actively inviting Airbus and Boeing to generate aircraft capable of doing so. As well as the technical capability of aircraft, the future of non-stop services to Australia will fundamentally depend on whether passengers are willing to pay a premium for a non-stop service when there are countless one-stop options.

At the same time, Qantas will also replace London – Dubai – Sydney with London – Singapore – Sydney. Qantas will continue to codeshare with Emirates on flights to Australia via Dubai, but will cease flying its own aircraft via Dubai.

Here are some other summer schedule changes in the coming week:

London Heathrow – Long Haul

BA returns to The Seychelles, twice weekly from Saturday 24 March 2018 to Saturday 27 October 2018.

United Airlines launches summer seasonal service to Denver from Sunday 25 March 2018 to Saturday 27 October 2018.

London Gatwick – Long Haul

Norwegian will launch Austin three times weekly from Tuesday 27 March 2018 and Chicago O’Hare four times weekly from Sunday 25 March 2018.

BA will reinstate Las Vegas three times a week from Tuesday 27 March 2018 until Friday 26 October 2018.

BA resumes its seasonal service to Lima from Sunday 25 March 2018 to Friday 26 October 2018.

London Heathrow – Short-Haul

BA begins one of three new summer seasonal routes: Almeria twice weekly from Tuesday 27 March 2018 to Saturday 27 October 2018.

BA’s regular portfolio of summer seasonal routes also starts to resume this week. Flights from London Heathrow to Ibiza restart on Thursday 29 March 2018, initially on Thursday and Saturday. Flights increase to daily from late May to early September. The route ends on Saturday 27 October 2018.

BA will resume Murcia twice weekly on Tuesday and Saturday from Tuesday 27 March 2018 to Saturday 27 October 2018.

Croatia Airlines will fly to Split once a week on Saturday from 31 March 2018 to 27 October 2018.

Please see here for our full guide to seasonal routes at London Heathrow.

Cobalt Air will fly from London Heathrow to Larnaca year-round from Tuesday 27 March 2018.

London Gatwick – Short-Haul

Air Baltic will launch a twice weekly flight to Tallin from Tuesday 27 March 2018.

London City – Short-Haul

TAP Portugal will fly six times a week to Porto from Sunday 25 March 2018.

BA will resume Granada three times weekly on Monday, Friday and Sunday from Sunday 25 March 2018 to Friday 26 October 2018.

BA will fly to Venice three times weekly on Monday, Friday and Saturday from Monday 26 March 2018 to Saturday 27 October 2018.

CityJet will resume Florence daily from Sunday 25 March 2018 to Saturday 27 October 2018.

Suspended Routes

Vueling will suspend London Gatwick- Santiago de Compostela from Friday 23 March 2018. easyJet will fly the route on Wednesday and Saturday from Wednesday 28 March 2018.

Iberia Express will suspend London Heathrow – Asturias from Saturday 24 March 2018.

BA’s new Club World catering and bedding

BA Club World Catering London Heathrow - Philadelphia
BA Club World Catering London Heathrow – Philadelphia (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Last week, we were fortunate to sample BA’s new Club World catering and bedding which is progressively being rolled out across the network.

The Club World meal service has undergone numerous tweaks over the years, but this is certainly a radical improvement. The presentation and quality of the food is signficantly better. The new bedding is also a real step change. You can read our full review here. If all goes to plan, we should publish a second review from New York JFK this week.

Now, will we experience a BA long-haul flight with WiFi this year?

Superbands Survey

Staying with BA, there were mixed fortunes for BA and Heathrow in the annual UK “Superbrands” survey.

Last year, BA was the Number 1 Business UK Superbrand for three years running and the Number 1 Consumer UK Superbrand for four years running.

BA slipped to 4th place in the business survey, with Emirates just behind it in 5th place. BA fell out of the Top 20 in the consumer survey, though it was the category winner for airlines. This is not the first time disruption at Heathrow and negative press have had an impact on BA’s placing in the survey. It will no doubt recover, but not overnight.

One surprise was that Heathrow was in 16th place in the consumer survey. This is the culmination of seven years work. Heathrow overhauled its communications team after it was heavily criticised for its handling of the winter snow disruption of December 2010. Proof that it takes years to build a brand, and moments to undermine it.

Virgin Atlantic reports a loss

Virgin Atlantic has reported a loss of £28.4m before exceptional items for 2017.

In the same period BA has reported an operating profit of £1,274m. It is hard to recall any time in history where the financial performance of the two airlines, both of which share the same two principal bases, has been so wildly divergent.

You can read our analysis of the competitive challenges facing Virgin and what to expect over the next year here.

SWISS introduces Buy On Board

SWISS has confirmed it is to introduce Buy On Board catering in economy on flights to Geneva (excluding Zurich and New York).

Full details here. Passengers will still be entitled to free water and a SWISS chocolate, and some passengers will receive a snack.

Is this purely a competitive response in Geneva? Or is this a tentative step to SWISS and other network airlines in the Lufthansa Group introducing Buy On Board on all short-haul flights? Either way, it is all becoming very inconsistent and convoluted. Simplicity and ease of understanding should be key.

Also of note this week:

What’s it like to fly on the world’s longest flight (that’s Doha – Auckland)? (Financial Times)

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