London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 2 November 2020

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easyJet aircraft landing at Berlin Brandenburg Airport, Saturday 31 October 2020
easyJet aircraft landing at Berlin Brandenburg Airport, Saturday 31 October 2020 (Image Credit: Berlin Brandenburg Airport)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 2 November 2020.

No Visibility

When IAG published its third quarter results on Friday, it was telling that the airline group gave nothing away about its plans for 2021.

Whatever plans there were for BA, these probably now lay in tatters. On Saturday evening, the UK government effectively banned all outbound international leisure travel.

When the guidance was first published, the only exception was for “work”. Yesterday, this was extended to include “education and other legally permitted reasons.”

This officially applies until 2 December. Few expect the government, which has proven extremely reticent at managing expectations and giving bad news, to lift restrictions in four weeks.

There is the question of how this will be enforced. If the experience of existing rules on face masks is anything to go by, airlines will only enforce the rule if mandated to do by the government.

It has however clearly shaken confidence in the sector. Based on broadcast interviews given by Michael Gove yesterday, there are no indications that the government is contemplating sector specific support for aviation.

Virgin Atlantic yesterday alluded to the fact it is likely to cancel flights. easyJet and IAG may well release updates to the stock exchange today. Michael O’Leary will appear on Ian King Live on Sky News at 10.30 this morning, and will no doubt have plenty to say.

The summer 2021 season is not that far away. A lack of confidence in flying will put off many passengers from booking trips for next summer in the New Year, which provides a vital source of cash flow to airlines in the winter months.

BA Merges Heathrow Cabin Crew Fleets

BA’s combined Heathrow cabin crew fleet officially came into effect on Sunday.

The three fleets, Euro Fleet, Mixed Fleet and Worldwide have combined into one who work across BA’s Heathrow short-haul and long-haul networks.

BA first introduced “mixed” flying on a permanent basis at Gatwick, often a test bed for changes at the airline, in 2006.

The main aim is that due to the annual legal maximum of flight time hours (which long-haul cabin crew can easily reach) and duty hours (which short-haul cabin crew can easily reach), combined short-haul and long-haul flying is intended to smooth these limits. The annual savings for Gatwick were quoted as £16m per annum, so across Heathrow these will be substantial.

Euro Fleet and Worldwide previously operated exclusively short and long-haul routes respectively. Mixed Fleet, who operated both short and long-haul routes, was introduced as a separate fleet in 2010.

Mixed Fleet also had radically different working practices, particularly around rostering, disruption and the responsibilities of senior crew members.

Although BA frequent flyers are familiar with the different fleets, one of the much lesser commented aspects was that, unlike on Euro Fleet and Worldwide, the senior cabin crew grade on Mixed Fleet was a BA manager grade. This was intended to encourage senior crew members to move on to other roles in the airline. This was much less the case with Euro Fleet and Worldwide.

It was inevitable that the three Heathrow fleets would merge at some point and this has been accelerated by COVID-19. Whilst this is less so when the in-flight service is limited, it will take crews doing either short or long-haul flights for the first time to get used to working with different aircraft and service routines.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport Opens

Berlin Brandenburg Airport finally opened to scheduled passenger flights on Saturday.

This follows no less than nine years of delays and countless defects. easyJet positioned an aircraft from Berlin Tegel to Brandenburg on Saturday and operated its first flight to London Gatwick on Sunday morning.

Assuming BA is still flying to Berlin this weekend, it will transfer flights from Berlin Tegel to Brandenburg this Sunday, 8 November.

In case you missed it:

BA franchise partner SUN-AIR suspends scheduled flights until August 2021. (London Air Travel)

BA ends wide body short-haul flights in Europe, save for Madrid. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

Aer Lingus is reported to have held talks with the UK government on launching transatlantic flights from UK airports. This would probably require a UK Air Operator Certificate. (Independent Ireland)

The Competition Commission South Africa has approved the acquisition of BA’s franchise partner Comair by “SA Bidco”. (Competition Commission)

Stanfords Map and Travel Bookshop Covent Garden has launched a fundraising appeal. (Pay It Forward)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

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