London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 21 September 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

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London Heathrow Terminal 5A, May 2020
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 21 September 2020.

How Did We Fly In August?

Every month the Civil Aviation Authority publishes a breakdown of passenger numbers by route.

Whilst not broken down by airline, where an airline is the sole operator of a route you can deduce how it is performing.

Here are the UK domestic and international numbers for August.

As far as domestic routes are concerned, Belfast City and Inverness are performing relatively well at Heathrow with year-on-year declines of “only” 60% and 67%. A respectable 4,510 passengers flew between Heathrow and Newquay, which indicates around 90 passengers per flight.

At London City, domestic routes have been very slow to recover with Edinburgh and Glasgow down 94% year-on-year.

A mere 100 passengers flew between London City and Teesside, indicating single digit passenger numbers per flight. The route has since transferred to London Heathrow and will clearly need codeshare partners to support it.

Turning to short-haul in Europe, some routes benefited from BA switching all Gatwick short-haul flights to Heathrow. Heathrow routes to Greece registering increases in scheduled passenger traffic included Chania (100%), Corfu (11%), Mykonos (15%) and Zakinthos (10%). Heathrow routes to Italy also performing well include Brindisi (81%) and Palermo (28%).

Many other routes from Heathrow to Spain also registered relatively softer decreases with Ibiza down only 15% and Malaga down only 13%.

More business heavy routes still registered substantial falls including Brussels down 93% and Frankfurt down 80%.

On transatlantic routes, unsurprisingly almost all routes actually operating registered falls in excess of 90%. Just 1,192 passengers flew across 13 return flights between Heathrow and Seattle in August.

Alex Cruz Appears Before Transport Select Committee

Alex Cruz appeared before the Transport Select Committee last week.

You can read the full transcript on the committee’s website, as well as our summary here.

In his evidence Alex advised BA has processed 2.1 million refunds and issued 1.6 million vouchers to passengers. BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” has picked up that some passengers have received vouchers thinking they were entitled to a refund. Given the complexity of the voucher scheme, this could run. The airline may have to settle claims from passengers who believe they were misled.

Comair Business Rescue Plan Approved

Comair’s business rescue plan was approved by creditors on Friday.

Whilst Comair still has some way to go yet – it still needs to secure new debt of R600 million – the airline expects to restart flights in December.

Subject to last minute changes, BA is due to resume scheduled passenger services from London Heathrow to Cape Town and Johannesburg on Thursday 1 October. Durban is suspended until late March 2021.

Virgin Atlantic has a provisional start date for Johannesburg on 18 October and Cape Town on 10 December.

Staying in South Africa, there are doubts as to whether the government will be able to secure funds to recapitalise South African Airways after a deadline of last Thursday was missed. The Department of Public Enterprises and National Treasury issued a statement on Friday seeking to assure trade unions that it will provide funding of R10.5 billion and that the airline will not be liquidated.

In case you missed it:

The European Commission grants a waiver of the “use it or lose it” slot rule for the winter season. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

The Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal has published the findings of a study of how one symptomatic passenger on a Vietnam Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Hanoi on 2 March 2020 came to infect 15 other passengers and crew with COVID-19. It’s worth noting that the passenger was symptomatic with a cough and this flight was before a mask mandate was in place. (EID Journal)

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye, with an overt nod to the Telegraph’s Brexit supporting readership, urges the UK government to secure a trial travel corridor between the UK and New York. (Telegraph)

An extensively researched feature from The Sunday Times Magazine on how TUI was impacted by COVID-19. (The Sunday Times)

Rolls-Royce is reported to be in talks with sovereign wealth funds to raise cash. (Financial Times)

GridPoint Consulting has analysed the prospects for a recovery in business travel. (GridPoint Consulting)

One of our readers Mark A Izatt pays tribute to the Boeing 747. (Mark Izatt)

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott reminds everyone not to post pictures of their boarding passes online. (SBS Australia)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

The Financial Times looks at the dependency on BA and Virgin Atlantic on transatlantic markets and their, as yet, futile efforts to reopen them. (Financial Times)

The Competition & Markets Authority last week deferred the conclusion of its review of the American Airlines & BA transatlantic joint-Business until 2024 due to the uncertainty over COVID-19. An interim measures direction was issued requiring the two airlines to make available a daily slot pair to rival airlines wishing to operate flights from London to Boston. This has now been advertised and applications close on 24 September. (Mazars)

London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing is published every Monday at 06:00 BST. If you have any tips or stories please contact us. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news throughout the week.

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