British Airways is the largest airline at London City and London Heathrow airports. It also has a substantial presence at London Gatwick.
It is a subsidiary of International Airlines Group which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling who all have a presence in London.
BA is also a member of the Oneworld alliance and many of its fellow members such as American Airlines and Cathay Pacific have a substantial presence in London. BA therefore features very heavily on this site.
British Airways’ franchise partner in Africa, Comair, will remain grounded until November 2020 at the earliest.
Comair is currently in a process known as “business rescue” whereby it seeks to restructure itself whilst protected from creditors.
In addition to operating a BA franchise in Africa, Comair also operates the Kulula airline brand and SLOW lounges in Africa.
Business rescue practitioners have been appointed to oversee the process. They have today, Tuesday 2 June 2020, published an outline plan for the company.
Comair’s airlines will remain grounded until November 2020 at the earliest as the company requires a substantial cash injection to resume trading.
The business rescue practitioners have approached 30 potential investors to secure new funding and 6 are in active discussions.
Whilst Comair intends to focus on its airline business, it is expected that Comair’s fleet will be substantially downsized from 27 aircraft to 13 Boeing 737-800 aircraft and three spare Boeing 737-400 aircraft.
With such a significant reduction in fleet it seems implausible that it will continue to operate under both the BA and Kulula names.
Neither BA nor its parent company IAG have made any official comment on the business rescue process. BA owns a 11.49% stake in Comair. If neither BA nor IAG participate in a recapitalisation of the airline, its shareholding will be wiped out.
It will be for Comair’s new shareholders to decide on its business model and whether the BA franchise should continue. Currently, BA is still selling flights on Comair from 1 November 2020.
The airline is clearly in the process of reviewing its route network, with nothing off the table, and further changes are likely in the coming weeks.
BA launched fights to Moscow Sheremetyevo in October 2018, to complement existing flights to Moscow Domodedovo airport.
Passengers whose flights have been cancelled can rebook on to alternative service to Moscow Domodedovo. Any consequential costs such as ground transportation will be at passengers’ expense. BA is currently due to resume flights to Moscow Domodedovo from Wednesday 1 July 2020. This is of course subject to change.
Passengers are also entitled to a full refund. Affected passengers can check the status of their booking using the Manage My Booking tool and should contact BA or their travel agent.
The US is well known for being a litigious society, which often takes the form of class action suits brought against businesses by consumers.
To give an example, I recently received an e-mail out of the blue from a law firm that had brought a class action suit against a restaurant I visited in Los Angeles years ago over the treatment of staff tips. Still waiting for the settlement of tens of dollars, after the deduction of the lawyers fees!
BA has itself faced class action suits. In 2018, BA settled a suit, in the form of Avios, brought by members of the Executive Club in respect of cash fuel surcharges which were added to reward flights. Members argued that the fuel surcharges were inflated and had no correlation to the cost of fuel.
Executive Club Class Action Waiver
BA has today, Thursday 28 May 2020, updated the terms and conditions of the Executive Club to include a class action waiver for residents of the US and Canada.
Of the 9 million active members of Avios frequent flyer programmes, there are about 1 million registered in the Americas. This includes members of other IAG frequent flyer programmes such as Iberia Plus.
Where a dispute arises between BA and a member of the Executive Club in the US and Canada, these changes effectively seek to prevent the member from joining a class action suit or taking the airline to court.
Instead, BA aims to resolve the issue on an individual basis only through binding arbitration.
There is also a time limit of two years on members based in the US bringing a claim from when they “knew or should have known” about the issue that caused the dispute. This alone could easily result in litigation. How do you prove what somebody “knew or should have known”!?
We’re not qualified to comment on how enforceable these changes are. It will no doubt be tested at some point in the future.
Full details of these new clauses are reproduced below.
British Airways has suspended its route from London Heathrow to Leeds-Bradford.
The route launched in December 2012 and was one of the first new short-haul routes BA started at London Heathrow after its acquisition of bmi British Midland.
The route is officially suspended from 1 July 2020. Though, it has not operated since the end of March due to COVID-19.
It has evidently not been one of BA’s strongest performing domestic routes. Frequencies had been cut to around 10 return flights a week, operated only with Airbus A319 aircraft. This, combined with the fact that aircraft do not “night-stop” at Leeds-Bradford, makes it difficult for business travellers to use it for day trips to London.
When there is a demand shock to aviation, it is inevitable that weaker routes are subject to suspension.
If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to a full refund. Though, you will need to call BA to secure a refund instead of a voucher. It is possible to change to a BA flight between London Heathrow and Manchester. Though, any consequential costs will be at your expense.
BA has an interline agreement with London North Eastern Railway so you should also be able to change your journey between London and Leeds-Bradford to the train.
Affected passengers can check the status of their booking using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com
To obtain these funds, BA has mortgaged 40 short-haul and 8 long-haul aircraft, with Citibank acting as a security trustee.
These are detailed in Schedule 1 of the document and include:
2 Airbus A318 aircraft (It was widely thought one of these had been sold to Titan Airways!)
4 Airbus A319 aircraft
24 Airbus A320 aircraft
10 Airbus A321 aircraft
5 Boeing 777-200ER aircraft
2 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
1 Boeing 787-9 aircraft
This represents around a third of BA’s short-haul fleet at Gatwick and Heathrow. The majority of the aircraft mortgaged were delivered to BA between 2000 and 2010, so some will be approaching retirement in the coming years. More recently delivered aircraft are likely to be subject to other financing arrangements.
Neither BA nor its parent company IAG appear to have made any official comment on this.
For the avoidance of doubt, BA will continue to own and operate these aircraft. In the event that BA defaulted on loan repayments, Citibank would be entitled to seize the aircraft.
British Airways has introduced a flexible rebooking policy for passengers due to return the UK after the introduction of a mandatory quarantine period on passengers arriving in the UK.
The UK government has announced a mandatory 14 quarantine period on all passengers arriving in the UK from Monday 8 June. Full details, including exemptions for transit passengers, are on the UK government website.
Any passenger who is mid-journey and due to return to the UK on a BA operated flight between 8 June and Sunday 28 June 2020 can rebook on to an alternative BA flight from Wednesday 27 May to Sunday 7 June 2020.
Of course, BA schedules are extremely limited at the moment. The airline is operating a small number of long-haul flights at London Heathrow Terminal 5 to key US destinations such as Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York JFK and Washington Dulles. If you are due to return from another airport in North America, you should be able to return via an airport where flights are operating. Short-haul schedules are also significantly reduced.
Passengers can check the status of their booking using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com and should contact BA if they need to change their booking. If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to a full refund.
Passengers whose flights have been cancelled are entitled to a full refund. You will need to call BA to secure this. You can check the status of your booking using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com. If you cancel your flight through ba.com you will be given a voucher which can be exchanged for travel up to and including 30 April 2022.
British Airways is currently offering vouchers to passengers whose flights have been cancelled, or who do not wish to travel, due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
In addition, passengers making new bookings up to Friday 31 July 2020 for travel up to Thursday 31 December 2020 also have the option to exchange the value of the ticket for a voucher.
These can be exchanged for travel on flights carrying a BA flight number up to and including 30 April 2022. Full details of these policies, which are regularly updated, are on ba.com
Initially, vouchers could not be used on either of BA’s franchise partners, Comair and Sun-Air. In the case of Comair this was particularly frustrating given its network in Africa.
Comair’s hub is based in Johannesburg and domestic destinations include Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth. Other destinations include Harare, Livingstone, Mauritius, Victoria Falls and Windhoek.
BA has today, Wednesday 20 May 2020, updated its guidance and Comair is no longer excluded.
Comair has suspended operations and does not expect to resume flights until the autumn. The airline is in a “business rescue” process whereby it will undergo a financial restructuring. A business rescue plan will be published for approval by its creditors in June. The underlying business is considered by the business rescue practitioners to be fundamentally sound, so the airline is expected to resume operations. It is not known whether this will have an impact on its franchise agreement with BA. Though BA continues to sell flights operated by Comair. It seems implausible that in the event of restructuring there won’t be some form of ongoing partnership between the two airlines.
British Airways has introduced a new flexible booking policy for its corporate customers and members of its “On Business” loyalty programme for small and medium-sized businesses.
The airline currently has a “book with confidence” policy. This applies to all new bookings made up to Friday 31 July 2020 for travel up to Thursday 31 December 2020, whereby any change fees will be waived.
BA is also allowing all passengers due to travel up to 31 July 2020 to exchange the value of their ticket for a voucher for travel up to 30 April 2022. Full details of these policies are available on ba.com
Free Name Change for Corporate and On Business Bookings
BA has added a new policy for corporate customers and members of its On Business loyalty programme for small and medium-sized businesses.
For the avoidance of doubt, a corporate customer is one travelling on behalf of an organisation which has a specifically negotiated deal with the airline, rather than business travellers in general. These bookings have a specific identifier for the corporate customer.
BA now allows one free change of name for all existing Corporate and On Business bookings (excluding codeshares) ticketed before Thursday 14 May 2020 for travel up to Wednesday 30 September 2020.
It also applies to new bookings made between 14 May 2020 and 31 July 2020 for travel to be completed by 31 December 2020.
British Airways has extended its “book with confidence” policy for new flight bookings.
Passengers who have made bookings since 3 March 2020 for travel up to Thursday 31 December 2020 have the flexibility to change their bookings without incurring a change fee, or to exchange the value of their ticket for future travel up to 30 April 2022.
This policy was due to end on Sunday 31 May 2020. It has now been extended to all new bookings made up to Friday 31 July 2020.
Separate to this, all passengers due to travel up to 31 July 2020 already have the option to exchange the value of their ticket for a voucher for future travel up to 30 April 2022. This applies regardless of when the booking was made.