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Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 8 November 2021.
The US Reopens
So today’s the day.
The US has reopened to passengers from the UK and Europe who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
To mark the occasion, BA and Virgin Atlantic will put aside their long standing rivalry and simultaneously depart from London Heathrow for New York JFK at around 08:30 this morning, with BA using its most prestigious flight number, BA1.
(Readers with long memories will recall it’s not the first time the two airlines have raced from London to New York JFK. Virgin tried to spoil BA’s social media campaign during its inaugural London City – JFK service back in 2009!)
Today, BA expects to carry around 8,000 passengers from London to the US. It’s no exaggeration to say this cannot come soon enough for either airline.
The results for the quarter to 30 September 2021 from BA’s parent company IAG illustrate starkly how important it is that transatlantic traffic recovers.
IAG reported an operating loss of €452 million. Vueling broke even and Iberia reported a profit of €21 million. Aer Lingus and BA lost €80 million and £386 million respectively. This compares unfavourably to Air France KLM and Lufthansa – Robert Boyle of Gridpoint Consulting has done a full analysis of their relative performance.
And BA is betting on a full recovery of transatlantic traffic. Next summer it plans to operate 96% of its 2019 capacity to the North Atlantic, including Bermuda and Canada, across 34 routes. This is as measured by Available Seat Kilometres, not flights.
In 2020 BA’s long haul fleet was cut by 20%, primarily due to the retirement of the Boeing 747. This implies its long haul network will remain substantially geared towards North America next year. It is also suggests a lot of heavy lifting by the Airbus A380.
A route network published by IAG last week also indicates that BA may relaunch Portland and reinstate Pittsburgh again next year:
Whilst it is expected that many routes to Asia Pacific will not reopen well into 2022 and BA points to the withdrawal of Norwegian from the transatlantic market, it remains to be seen whether there will be the demand to the US there was in 2019. This week, BA will typically operate 5 flights a day to New York. This compares to up to 12 flights a day before COVID-19.
Sean Doyle expressed a hope in The Sunday Telegraph that many more suspended routes across the network will return. Sean denies these have been permanently suspended but, to get into semantics, they are removed from timetables with no date set for a return. Any substantial growth in the route network will need more aircraft. IAG is not currently giving any guidance on future aircraft deliveries for 2022 and beyond – other than that it is not cancelling any existing orders.
BA Route Network Updates
In other BA route news, the Airbus A380 returns to service today operating flights to Frankfurt and Madrid for crew familiarisation purposes.
BA is also due to return to the Terminal 3 from tomorrow. Short haul flights operating from Terminal 3 this year include Algiers, Barcelona, Bologna, Budapest, Gibraltar, Hannover, Krakow, Marseille, Pisa, Prague, Seville, Sofia, Tirana, Vienna and Zagreb.
In case you missed it:
How this winter’s airport slot waiver will work. (London Air Travel)
A history of flying from London to New York since the days of Pan Am’s first passenger crossing in 1939. (London Air Travel)
Late post publication updates:
[Reserved for updates throughout the day]
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