London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 18 October 2021

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Provincetown, Cape Cod
Provincetown, Cape Cod (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 18 October 2021.

BA & Virgin Rebuild Transatlantic Networks

Following last week’s news that the US will reopen to fully vaccinated visitors from the UK on Monday 8 November, both BA and Virgin Atlantic are rebuilding their transatlantic schedules.

BA will return to Newark from Monday 1 November. Las Vegas and Orlando follow at Heathrow on Monday 15 November. As does Tampa at Gatwick. BA also reinstates Orlando at Gatwick from Friday 19 November.

BA is also expected to reinstate Baltimore, Nashville and New Orleans from Thursday 9 December. San Jose, California, is currently suspended until Sunday 27 March 2022. There are currently no plans to relaunch Charleston, Pittsburgh or Portland.

Virgin Atlantic will restart flights to Las Vegas and Orlando on 8 November. Seattle and Washington Dulles will restart on 1 March 2022. Virgin’s transatlantic partner Delta also restarts Detroit today.

United, which last week announced a number of new transatlantic routes for next summer, is yet confirm whether it will go ahead and launch Boston from Heathrow.

Outside of the North Atlantic, BA has pushed back plans to restart Bangkok until 10 January 2022 even though Thailand is reopening to visitors. Qantas confirmed last week it will restart scheduled flights from London Heathrow to Sydney via Darwin from 2 November 2021.

Alitalia

So farewell then Alitalia.

Alitalia officially ceased operations last Thursday with its final flight from Rome Fiumicino to Sardinia. Italia Trasporto Aereo (“ITA”) took over many of its routes from Friday morning.

Founded in 1946, Alitalia’s first London route was from Northolt to Rome Ciampino airport. In the 1960s Alitalia boasted of being the 6th largest airline in the world with a route network of 82 cities in 47 countries. Its international reach stretched from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg, Tokyo and Sydney.

Profitability has proven very elusive for Alitalia. It has received countless bailouts and injections of new capital from sources as varied as the Italian Post Office and Etihad.

As part of Etihad’s truly disastrous “Equity Alliance” strategy – described by former IAG CEO Willie Walsh as “You think you have control, they take your money, they spend it and then they tell you to get lost.” – it bought a 49% stake in Alitalia for €387.5 million.

If that wasn’t enough Etihad spent a further €112.5 million to buy a stake in Alitalia’s frequent flyer programme. Many millions spent on new cabins, lounges and staff uniforms did little to turnaround the airline’s fortunes. Etihad bailed out in 2017 and Alitalia was placed into administration.

Alitalia has also raised tens of millions of dollars by selling off its Heathrow slots – a move that has never helped any airline solve its problems.

The new airline will be substantially smaller with a fleet of 52 aircraft and 2,800 employees, compared to 110 aircraft and 10,000 employees for Alitalia.

ITA Chair Alfredo Altavilla told the Financial Times last week that the airline will seek a transaction with a larger airline partner in 2022.

In case you missed it:

BA introduces Vaccinated Travel Lane flights from London Heathrow to Singapore. (London Air Travel)

BA adds Airbus A380 short haul flights to Frankfurt and Madrid from 8 November. (London Air Travel)

BA has reopened most of its US airport lounges. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

IAG announced on Friday afternoon that its CFO Steve Gunning is to leave the group after it releases its 2021 results. Steve will be replaced by Nicolas Cadbury who joins from Whitbread. A key priority will be reducing IAG’s substantial debt burden.

IATA has launched legal action in the Netherlands against a decision to award slots at Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Rotterdam airports for the summer 2022 season on the basis of a priority destination list developed by Royal Schiphol Group. IATA argues it is for airlines to decide which destinations are best served. Airports should not be able to interfere in slot allocation decisions which should be carried out by impartial regulators. (IATA)

Virgin Atlantic launches its inaugural flight to St Vincent and the Grenadines. (Virgin Atlantic)

A look at zero carbon flights. (BBC Radio 4)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

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