London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 22 February 2021

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International Airlines Group Tailfins
International Airlines Group Tailfins

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 22 February 2021.

IAG’s Annual Results

12 months ago former IAG CEO Willie Walsh confidently asserted “To be honest we’ve gone through all of this before. We’ve all seen it before.” “We know what to do in a time like this. We know how to respond.”

Six months later, the group embarked on a €2.7 billion rights issue and the immediate retirement of Airbus A340 and Boeing 747 aircraft. A plan to be cash flow neutral by the end of last year is now a distant memory.

On Friday it will fall to Luis Gallego to announce a walloping annual loss and the group’s plans to recover from COVID-19.

Investors are likely to focus on debt and cash flow and whether IAG’s airlines will need further state support.

Other points to watch out for include changes to new aircraft delivery plans and how IAG plans to rationalise its brands in Spain after the acquisition of Air Europa.

Update: IAG has confirmed this morning that BA has agreed terms of a £2 billion loan partially guaranteed by UK Export Finance. This will be drawn down before the end of this month. BA has also agreed with the trustees of the New Airways Pension Scheme to defer £450 million of pension deficit contributions.

Restarting Aviation

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson today announces widely trailed plans to progressively move the UK out of lockdown, The Sunday Times speaks to cabin crew, management and pilots of Tui and Virgin Atlantic on the complexities of restarting aviation.

On a similar theme, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss has penned an editorial for The Telegraph calling on Boris Johnson to set out a timetable for the restart of aviation.

Shai Weiss cites the fact that airlines need two to three months notice to stand up pilots and cabin crew, reappoint ground handling agents at airports and prepare aircraft for return to service.

LBC Correspondent Ben Kentish reported yesterday that former Prime Minister Tony Blair is leading lobbying efforts on behalf of airlines for the UK government to introduce vaccine passports.

V&A Online Collections

Whilst the doors of the Victoria & Albert Museum remain closed to the public, it has introduced a new online catalogue of its collections.

This is currently in beta format but there’s plenty of aviation material to see including:

The original “Speedbird” logo by Theyre Lee-Elliott.

Imperial Airways “Move With The Times” Poster from 1926.

“As The Crow Flies. Only Faster!” poster for the original British Airways, circa 1937.

“It’s time you flew KLM” poster from 1948.

American Airlines Boeing 747 poster produced in 1969.

“Veni. Vidi. Venice. Come to Gatwick. See Venice” poster for British Airways 1985.

“Virgin Atlantic To And From Los Angeles” poster circa 1990.

Also of note this week:

Cathay Pacific crews will have 21 day shifts as the airline adapts to the requirement for crews to quarantine for 14 days on their return to Hong Kong. (Bloomberg)

The Economist Money Talks podcast asks “What will it take to get the world travelling again? Featuring Michael O’Leary, James Liang, Chairman of, Gloria Guevara, President of the World Travel and Tourism Council, and Brian Pearce, Chief Economist of IATA. 

Preparing a Boeing 787 for its biennial weigh-in. (Virgin Atlantic)

The US has never been known for its love affair with the rails. Talk of catching up with Asia and Europe in high speed rail has never come to fruition and many new projects have to rely on private sector funding. North Atlantic Rail plans a new publicly funded high speed rail line that will connect Boston and New York City in 100 minutes. (Bloomberg CityLab)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

The Competition & Markets Authority has confirmed it has awarded a daily slot pair at London Heathrow to United Airlines to fly to Boston, as announced by the airline last week, for six IATA seasons from this summer.

This is an interim measure to address competition concerns in connection with the AA & BA transatlantic joint business pending a full review by the CMA once the impact of COVID-19 on transatlantic travel is known.

The Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has announced that following an uncontained engine failure on a United Airlines flight, Boeing 777 aircraft with Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines are banned from entering UK airspace.

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