London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 20 July 2020

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British Airways Boeing 747, London Heathrow
British Airways Boeing 747, London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 20 July 2020.

BA Retires The 747

So it’s time to say adieu to the Boeing 747 at BA.

BA is far from alone in retiring the Queen of the Skies. Qantas will despatch its last Boeing 747 to Mojave on Wednesday. However, never has an airline retired so many of such a significant aircraft in its fleet so suddenly and so unceremoniously.

New York JFK, which used to host up to 8 BA Boeing 747s a day, will probably never see the aircraft again.

Ordinarily, you would expect some special goodbye flights and a hangar event for employees, enthusiasts and journalists. However, with BA contemplating thousands of redundancies and doing everything it can to conserve cash, this is unlikely. In spite of significant media interest, BA did not even offer any executives or staff for broadcast interviews on Friday.

Officially, the planned the retirement is subject to consultation. Assuming a minimum 45 day consultation with trade unions, its “official” retirement should be in early September.

For BA, the retirement of the 747 is more than just a substantial reduction of long-haul aircraft at a stroke. It is also represents a more significant reduction in premium seat capacity.

All Boeing 747 aircraft featured 14 First Class seats. Those aircraft earmarked to replace the 747, Airbus A350-1000, Boeing 787-10, Boeing 777-300 and Boeing 777-9, will have at most 8 First Class seats.

The 86 Club World seat Boeing 747s were second only to the Airbus A380 in terms of the number of Club World seats per aircraft. The 52 Club World seat Boeing 747s also featured more Club World seats than most Boeing 777 and 787 family aircraft at BA, many of which don’t have First Class.

The retirement of the Boeing 747 is not the only fleet decision BA will need to make in the coming months.

According to Bloomberg, the Airbus A380 will be spared an early retirement. Deliveries of Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787-10 aircraft will continue as planned. However, BA will need to look at the seating configuration for new aircraft. The planned delivery of the Boeing 777-9 from 2022 may also change.

New and refurbished Boeing 777-300 and new Boeing 777-9 aircraft were both expected to “premium heavy” configurations. That said, whilst long-haul premium traffic is likely to be soft for some time, it did rebound strongly after a precipitous fall during the 2008 financial crisis.

IAG is due to announce its half-year results on Friday 31 July and will no doubt provide an update on group fleet plans then.

Staying with BA, it has restarted long-haul flights at London Gatwick. Flights are now operating to Barbados and Bermuda. Kingston restarts today. St Lucia follows on Saturday 25 July.

BA also resumes short-haul flights from London City to Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow today.

At London Heathrow, BA returns to Naples today, Bilbao on Thursday 23 July and Seattle on Friday 24 July . BA will also launch Newquay this Friday.

Virgin Atlantic Restarts Passenger Flights

Virgin Atlantic restarts scheduled passenger flights today.

From this evening, Virgin will fly to Hong Kong. Flights will operate three times weekly until the end of August. Los Angeles and New York JFK follow tomorrow. These will operate three times weekly until the end of July. Los Angeles and New York will operate five times weekly and daily respectively during August.

Barbados and Shanghai will resume on Saturday 1 and Tuesday 4 August respectively. Lagos and Miami are currently due to resume in late August. The relaunch of some routes such as Atlanta, San Francisco and Tel Aviv has been pushed back to September.

Whilst Virgin has now secured additional funding, it is evidently going to face many more months of very difficult trading conditions.

In case you missed it:

Creditors approve a restructuring of South African Airways. However, the Democratic Alliance remains opposed to further state support for the airline. (London Air Travel)

American Airlines and JetBlue are to pursue a codeshare partnership in the North East region of the US. (London Air Travel)

At look back at the history of the Qantas Boeing 747 in London. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

Norman Foster on the Boeing 747: “The Boeing 747 is a monumental achievement. Awe-inspiring in flight, beautiful closer up, and exquisitely detailed.” (Sunday Times)

The Financial Times looks at the history and future of in-flight magazines which have been temporarily suspended for hygiene reasons during COVID-19. (Financial Times)

Monocle on Design looks at the design of aircraft interiors with FactoryDesign and the Helsinki based exhibition “Travel as a tool”. (Monocle)

Behind the scenes of SWISS cargo-only flight from Zurich to Shanghai. (SWISS)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

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