London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 30 November 2020

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Willie Walsh, Chief Executive International Airlines Group
Willie Walsh, Chief Executive International Airlines Group (Image Credit: International Airlines Group)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 30 November 2020.

Willie Walsh Appointed IATA Director General

When Willie Walsh retired from IAG just under three months ago it seemed implausible that he could retire from aviation for a quiet life.

And so last week it was confirmed, after an official denial, that Willie will become Director General of IATA from April 2021.

Those who have followed Willie over the years know that whilst he has respected his peers at rival airlines – with one notable exception – he has a very low opinion of government intervention in the industry. He is also not afraid to publicly call out institutions, whether they be airports or government bodies, that hold back airlines.

Commentators will be guaranteed a rich source of quotes when Willie takes up the role.

On accepting his appointment last week, Willie wasted little time in criticising governments for their disjointed approach to keeping borders open during COVID-19:

My style will be different to what has gone before me. I too am a businessman. I too understand how Governments operate but I am even more unhappy and more critical of how they get things done or more importantly, in many cases how they have failed to get things done.

This year has been the most challenging ever but let us not forget that the Coronavirus did not stop us flying. We have continued to provide vital services and in many cases we were the key link in getting critical safety equipment to health services.

The virus did not stop our customers boarding our aircraft because we have demonstrated our ability to adapt and to ensure the safety of our customers and our people and we know they want to fly with us.

They have been denied the freedom we provide, not by a virus but by a disjointed political response and the restrictions put in place by certain Governments who have failed to adapt and to adopt the sensible measures that would have allowed almost normal air services to continue.

Willie will have to navigate competing agendas. IATA was quick to distance itself from widely reported comments by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce that positive evidence of having received a COVID-19 vaccine may be prerequisite to international travel.

Qantas of course has a large, and profitable, domestic network. Many of its rivals are wholly dependent on international travel.

Summer 2021 Airport Slot Waiver

Another issue where views of airlines diverge is the extension of airport slot waivers to the summer 2021 season.

Last week the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) which comprises Airports Council International, IATA and the Worldwide Airport Coordinators Group issued a joint recommendation for slot waivers to be extended, with some changes to usage rules, to the summer 2021 season. 

Rather than simply waive the 80 / 20 rule it is proposed that airlines either have to temporarily hand back slots or, for slots they retain, they have to use them for more than 50% of the season.

This is resisted by some airlines and airports, including London Gatwick.

On the subject of slot usage, last week Airport Coordination Ltd, which oversees slot allocations at London airports, estimates Air Transport Movements (ATMs) will fall by 60% year-on-year over the three weeks covering Christmas and New Year.

That said, ATMs will increase by 50% week-on-week for the week beginning 14 December. BA probably accounts for a fair proportion of this and is subject to the airline not cancelling flights at the last minute.

The busiest days are expected to be 18 and 27 December and 3 January 2021.

Comair Returns To The Skies

British Airways’ franchise partner in South Africa, Comair, returns to the skies this week.

Flights under the Kulula brand are due to resume tomorrow, Tuesday 1 December.

Flights operated by Comair as a BA franchise will resume, with connections to / from BA flights between London Heathrow and South Africa, on Wednesday 9 December.

Pilots Together Charity Raffle

Pilots Together is a charity established to provide support to pilots who have been impacted by COVID-19.

This week it running an online Christmas Charity Raffle. Prizes on offer include limited edition prints, aircraft simulator experiences, and the chance to visit the Air Traffic Control tower at London Heathrow.

Ticket sales close at various times on Sunday 6 December.

Also of note this week:

Aer Lingus permanently ends publication of its in-flight magazine Cara. (The Sunday Times)

BA apologies for its England rugby tweet. Proof that airlines are only ever one tweet away from a media storm. A lot of people riled by this have clearly missed the “London Airways” debate of the past ten+ years. (BBC News)

easyJet calls in AlixPartners to advise on its £1.4 billion debt pile. (Telegraph)

BBC Radio 4 airs the podcast “Passenger List”, based on the fictional events of the disappearance of Atlantic Airlines Flight 702. (BBC Radio 4)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

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