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Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 20 April 2020.
With the UK’s lockdown set to continue for at least another three weeks and there being absolutely no sign of international air travel restrictions being lifted, this is little for airports and airlines to do than simply wait.
Here’s a précis of the latest operational news for airlines in the UK:
Today, Beijing Capital Airlines, Finnair, Qantas and Qatar Airways will transfer operations to London Heathrow Terminal 2. They follow Cathay Pacific, Emirates Iran Air, Japan Airlines and Pakistan International Airlines who have also moved to Terminal 2.
British Airways has extended the cancellation of all flights at London City and London Gatwick until Friday 22 May 2020 at the earliest. In all likelihood, this will be extended further.
easyJet has no firm plans to resume scheduled flights and is likely to give at least two weeks’ notice before doing so.
As if the airline didn’t have enough to contend with, its implacable founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is now seeking to oust the airline’s Chairman John Barton and Chief Executive Johan Lundgren. This is due to the ongoing dispute over an order for Airbus aircraft.
Loganair has confirmed that it is in discussions with the Department for Transport on a state support package. In contrast to Virgin Atlantic, the Treasury does not appear to be leading negotiations.
On Friday evening, comments were “leaked” to the Financial Times that the Treasury was “unimpressed” with Virgin Atlantic’s initial bid for £500m of state support.
Specifically, the Treasury had concerns that Virgin had not done enough to secure additional funding from the private sector. It had not also considered in its 2-5 year business plan reduced demand for air travel.
As anyone who has seen the Treasury at work will know, it is not surprising to seek details of discussions leak and for the Treasury to be seen to calling the shots.
One question Virgin will have to answer is what competitive role it will play in the marketplace over the next few years. Its plan to be a “Second Flag Carrier” is increasingly implausible – Virgin has already suspended London Heathrow – Sao Paulo before launch.
Norwegian has reportedly not paid the April salaries of UK crews who operate for Norwegian Air UK. This is due to the fact that they agency responsible for their employment has not received sufficient funds from Norwegian.
This week the UK Government will operate 31 charter flights from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan to enable British nationals to return home. Full details of these are available from the Foreign Office.
Outside of the UK, the Australian Federal Government has agreed to spend AU$160 million to subsidise a minimum domestic network by Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia.
Shares in Virgin Australia remain suspended until Wednesday 22 April at the earliest as it seeks to obtain new funding, which none of its shareholders seem willing to provide. The state of Queensland is reported to be offering AU$200 million of support if Virgin retains its headquarters in Brisbane. However, this is conditional on federal government support, which does not appear to be forthcoming.
Supporters of state support for Virgin Australia point to the fact that its failure would leave Qantas Group with a monopoly on domestic air travel in Australia. It would take many years for a new airline to emerge and reach the scale where it could rival Qantas. Potential investors in a new airline such as Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines clearly have other priorities at the moment.
From 17:00 BST today, the Canadian government will require all air passengers to wear face masks at certain points in Canadian airports such as security screening stations and where they cannot physically distance from other passengers, or are asked to do so by airlines. Full details of how this has been implemented by Air Canada are available here.
Late post publication updates:
[Reserved for updates throughout the day]
Sir Richard Branson has written an open letter to Virgin employees urging the UK Government to support Virgin Atlantic. The letter also rebuts certain claims about other Virgin businesses and his tax affairs. (Virgin)
It is being widely reported in the Australian media that Virgin Australia is to enter into voluntary administration on Tuesday morning. (ABC News) (Sydney Morning Herald)
Norwegian has placed four subsidiary companies which employ pilots and cabin crew in Denmark and Sweden into bankruptcy proceedings. These are Norwegian Pilot Services Sweden AB, Norwegian Pilot Services Denmark ApS, Norwegian Cabin Services Denmark ApS and Norwegian Air Resources Denmark LH ApS.
Norwegian has also terminated crew provision agreements with OSM Aviation who are responsible for employing crew in Spain, UK, Finland, Sweden and the US. (Though, at the time of publication, Norwegian is still selling flights at Gatwick from 1 June 2020.)
The affects a total 1,571 pilots and 3,134 cabin crew in these countries. About 700 pilots and 1,300 cabin crew based in Norway, France and Italy are not affected by these actions.
American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic will temporarily relocate from London Heathrow Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 from Tuesday 21 April 2020.
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