London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 13 June 2022

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Picture of easyJet aircraft on the ground at London Gatwick airport.
easyJet aircraft at London Gatwick airport (Image Credit: London Gatwick)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 13 June 2022.

easyJet Under Scrutiny

Tomorrow, the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee holds a hearing on flight cancellations and compensation.

Representatives from airlines, airports, consumer bodies and ground handlers will give evidence. Airline CEOs have, so far, been spared a public dressing down in front of MPs.

As cancellations continue, attention has focused on easyJet. And specifically its Chief Operating Officer Peter Bellow and Chief Executive Johan Lundgren.

easyJet is not alone cancelling flights and maintains it is operating the vast majority of its schedule. But anecdotally it is cancelling more flights at short notice.

Unlike others, easyJet appears not to have pre-empted ongoing disruption and adopted a “hard and early” approach to cancellations.

In an internal message from Peter Bellow shared with The Guardian easyJet is now making cancellations for the coming weeks:

“Making these cancellations is not something we take lightly but what’s worse is to cancel our customers’ plans on the day that they are ready to fly,” Bellew said in the message shared with the Guardian. “We’re all aware of the impact the current situation is having on our customers, our people and our reputation.”

The airline was also working on a plan to remedy issues “within our own operations that are in our control”, he said, adding: “We also want to ensure that we have the correct mitigations in place for the issues affecting the industry.”

Bellew said: “We want to share the plan on this very soon however, we also need to deal with the immediate operation. We’re making some pre-emptive cancellations for the coming days and weeks in order to increase resilience across the network.”

Watching all of this is easyJet Chairman Stephen Hester, whose previous roles including running Royal Bank of Scotland after the financial crisis – not a job for someone who wanted an easy life, telling the Financial Times at the time “I hate not winning, I hate it,”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Profile at the weekend, Stephen defended Johan:

Johan knew what he was getting into [at easyJet] because he has a long and distinguished record in that and related industries. But all of that said, clearly he could not have known when he came into the job of the very particular challenges indeed, one could say the existential challenge that COVID represented.

We’ve struggled particularly in Gatwick but as you know something like 97% of EasyJet flights are running normally. The 3% that had not been running normally represent quite a lot of customers who we are upsetting and Johan feels that very acutely, and he feels emotionally impacted.

Like BA at Heathrow, easyJet has such a dominant position at Gatwick, it will recover from this.

But also watching are investors and rivals. With a falling share price, easyJet could become a takeover target again. Michael O’Leary, never one to allow others to have the last word, thinks easyJet’s days as an independent airline are numbered (again). Though, his suggestion it will merge with a BA spun out of IAG seems wide of the mark.

BA Route Network Updates

A few BA route network updates across both short and long haul at London airports in the coming week:

At Heathrow, BA returns to San Jose, California today for the first time since COVID-19. This is the last long haul route planned to return.

On Wednesday, Doha temporarily moves back to Heathrow for the rest of the summer season. BA has not yet cancelled all flights at Gatwick. The new Heathrow flight (BA123 / BA122) is on sale on a full fare basis only. This is presumably to keep seats free for passengers who need to be re-accommodated.

Islamabad is also suspended at Gatwick from Wednesday.

At London City, a number of routes return over the next week.

Mahon, Santorini and Split return this Friday, 17 June. Quimper follows on Saturday, 18 June.

BA CityFlyer also relaunches Barcelona this Sunday 19, June. Jersey, Guernsey and Skiathos return next Monday, 20 June.

Jersey also restarts at Gatwick this Sunday.

Also of interest this week:

“I loved my job, Comair was like a family” Jamain Doravaloo from Durban, one 1,200 employees whose jobs are now at risk as Comair enters liquidation. (TimesLIVE)

Sir Richard Branson, clearly still annoyed at the public response to the suggestion state support for Virgin Atlantic during COVID-19 takes a few pot shots at BA & IAG. “BA ‘played a blinder’ during the pandemic, Branson says. ‘Why were there never any articles about the [money] that British Airways got from the Spanish government [and from] the British government?'” (The Telegraph)

A profile of “aviation’s hard man” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. After nearly 14 years at the helm of the airline, much to the irritation of trade unions, potential successors and some customers, Alan shows no signs of stepping down. (Sydney Morning Herald)

BA’s official podcast interviews Jim Davies from its Heritage Centre about The Queen’s flights with BA and its predecessor airlines. (The Check In)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day]

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