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.
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.
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.
In case you missed it:
Travel to London’s airports at Christmas. (London Air Travel)
Also of note this week:
La Tribune reports that Air France-KLM may not acquire a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic as was originally planned. There is a logic to this. Virgin Atlantic has already achieved many synergies with its 49% shareholder Delta and it’s hard to see what can be gained financially by Air France-KLM acquiring a stake in the airline. The article’s author Fabrice Glizczynski is a well-informed commentator on Air France-KLM so it’s a safe assumption there is credence to this story. (La Tribune)
The Sunday Times interviews easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren. (Sunday Times)
The Sunday Times also reports that the Civil Aviation Authority has ordered Heathrow airport to rein in the costs of a third runway. (Sunday Times)
KLM releases new 360 degree virtual reality tours of its aircraft interiors. (KLM)
NATS releases a visualisation “Plane Taking” of a single BA flight from London to Manchester. (NATS)
As has widely been reported, Transport for London has found that Uber is not “fit and proper” to hold a private hire licence in London. Uber does have the right to appeal, and continues to operate for now in the city. However, this is just one of many problems. In the UK, it is facing a challenge from the tax authorities and the company is some considerable distance from profitability. (London Reconnections)
Virgin Atlantic on what it takes to withdraw an aircraft from its fleet following the retirement of one of its Boeing 747s “Tinker Belle”. (Virgin Atlantic)
Late post publication updates:
[Reserved for updates throughout the day]
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