London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 13 September 2021

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Manhattan at Sunrise
Manhattan at Sunrise (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 13 September 2021.

easyJet Looks To Raise Funds As Wizz Air Circles

Last week the Commons Transport Select Committee, without any hint of irony, pondered the question what can be done to help the UK’s once buoyant aviation sector recover from COVID-19.

It is not the first time the Select Committee has looked at aviation during COVID-19. Its report last year, with carefully placed soundbites, earned itself plenty of headlines for kicking BA over what was largely a hypothetical legal scenario.

It had complete blindspots cover the imminent collapse of Norwegian’s long haul operations and Virgin Atlantic’s precarious financial position. It also had no practically useful content for anybody, whether they be passengers, employees or airline management. It is hard to see what influence this latest exercise this will have on anything.

One bright spot is yesterday’s Mail On Sunday splashed with a claim that the government is planning to end the requirement for a PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers before returning to England. A lateral flow test also need only be required two days’ after arrival.

This has been followed up by today’s Telegraph which reports that the traffic light system will be scrapped. Whilst a “red list” of countries that require hotel quarantine on arrival will remain, this will be shrunk.

Meanwhile airlines are making their own manoeuvres. Last week easyJet revealed it had received an unsolicited takeover bid from Wizz Air. It also plans a £1.2 billion rights issue.

Wizz Air is known for relentless cost control. Before COVID-19, easyJet was largely concerned with growing business traffic and selling packaged holidays, as well as defending itself from brickbats thrown in its direction by its own founder. Though, a promised frequent flyer currency never came to fruition.

easyJet was keen to emphasise its positioning at major airports in Europe and the fact that legacy network airlines are vulnerable to the slow recovery of long haul routes.

Michael O’Leary, never one to allow anyone else to have the last word, told the Financial Times, a merger between easyJet and Wizz Air is inevitable. In its favour are a common Airbus fleet and complimentary coverage of Western & Eastern Europe. Not in favour are relative differences in the cost base and culture between the two airlines. Michael O’Leary also reveals he tried to buy Wizz Air in 2015 before it listed on the stock exchange, but could not agree a price.

“City sources” also told yesterday’s Mail On Sunday that IAG may hold a second rights issue to bring down its debt levels, possibly to coincide with the reopening of the US border.

As borders remain closed, JetBlue has cut its planned service from London Gatwick to New York JFK to four times weekly from launch on 30 September until at least November. Delta has also postponed plans to restart Detroit and Seattle, as well as an increase frequencies to New York JFK.

BA Route Network Changes

A few more BA short haul network changes for this week:

At Heathrow, BA returns to Bari and Catania on Friday 17 September. Palermo follows on Saturday 18 September. As does Basel on Monday 20 September.

Summer seasonal services from London City to Faro, Gibraltar and Mahon have now ended for the year. Currently, there is no planned date for a return to Gibraltar from London City in 2022.

Seasonal services to Split end on 17 September. Rotterdam is due to restart on Monday 20 September. BA’s franchise partner SUN-AIR has pushed back the restart of London City – Billund until 10 January 2022.

Also of note this week:

Cathay Pacific is to close its London pilot base. The airline has already closed pilot bases in Australia, Canada, Germany and New Zealand. Its remaining overseas bases in the US are under review. Pilots will be offered redundancy or the option to relocate to Hong Kong. (Reuters)

Comair, BA’s franchise partner in South Africa, has sold its SLOW lounge network to FirstRand Bank Ltd for R250 million. (Comair)

Finnair: How we recycled 99.2% of the contents of an Airbus A319 aircraft. (Finnair)

Gatwick Airport has officially opened its consultation on bringing the Northern Runway into regular use for scheduled departing flights. It closes on 1 December 2021. (Gatwick)

In case you missed it:

BA CityFlyer adds a winter seasonal service to Salzburg from London City & Southampton. (London Air Travel)

Remembering the day the changed the world: September 11, 2001. (London Air Travel)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has rejected a proposed joint business between Japan Airlines & Qantas Airways on flights between Australia & Japan.

The ACCC claims the high combined market share of the two airlines would discourage competitors from entering the market. They would also have a monopoly on the Melbourne – Tokyo route. The ACCC was also not persuaded by a promise by Qantas to launch a new route from Cairns to Tokyo.

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