BA’s parent IAG orders 20 Airbus A320neo aircraft

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British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways is not normally an airline to announce aircraft orders at aviation shows.

However, to co-incide with the launch of Farnborough Air Show, BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group (“IAG”), announced that it has converted 20 of 100 options to buy Airbus A320neo aircraft into firm orders.

This follows a firm order for Airbus aircraft for BA’s IAG sibling, Vueling, in August of last year.

These aircraft will be delivered from 2018 and will, ostensibly, be used to replace existing BA short-haul aircraft.
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BA launches London City – Dublin from 26 October 2014

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Sunset in Dublin, Ireland (Image Credit: British Airways)
Sunset in Dublin, Ireland (Image Credit: British Airways)

The London City – Dublin route is going to become significantly more competitive from 26 October 2014 when British Airways launches a five daily service between the two airports.

This route has traditionally been a mainstay of CityJet which operates the route up to 7 times a day. BA will also be completing against Flybe, a new entrant to the airport, which also launches this route at the time as BA.

There are two points of note from this announcement:

1. It shows a significant commitment by BA to Dublin.

Until two years ago, BA did not serve the city at all as it relied on codeshares with Aer Lingus. BA returned to Dublin after it inherited the London Heathrow – Dublin route from BA. From 26 October 2014, BA will operate up to 13 flights a day combined from London Heathrow and London City. BA is also moving London Heathrow – Dublin flights from Terminal 1 to 5 on the same day.

2. This puts more competitive pressure on CityJet.

This is the second occasion in recent times BA has launched a route at London City that has been well served CityJet, which was recently sold by Air France-KLM. The other route being Rotterdam. CityJet has withdrawn routes such as London City – Edinburgh and diversified away from London City, launching routes from UK regional airports, such as Cardiff.

BA is cancelling the London City – Aberdeen and London City – Stockholm routes to make way for this service and flights are now on sale on ba.com

BA revamps short-haul aircraft

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British Airways Club Europe Cabin
British Airways Club Europe Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

In recent months, there has been a flurry of activity by Europe’s legacy airlines in respect of their short-haul operations.

Traditionally, these airlines (British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa etc) have operated a business model of broadly making all of their profits on long-haul flights whilst losing money on short-haul flights.

Losses on short-haul flights have historically been tolerated on the basis they provide connecting passengers to support long-haul operations.

However, the maturing of low cost carriers such as easyJet into credible rivals for lucrative business passengers has put pressure on short-haul revenues. Furthermore, the intensity of competition from Middle Eastern airlines has reduced the profits on long-haul against which losses on short-haul operations can be offset.

Lufthansa is in the process of transferring short-haul flights that do not serve is Frankfurt and Munich hubs to Germanwings. British Airways has undertaken a number of revenue-raising measures such as short notice day-tripper and weekender flights and seasonal flights during quiet business travel periods.

The next phase of activity from BA is a complete reconfiguration of almost all of its Airbus short-haul aircraft.

For passengers travelling in the economy EuroTraveller cabin, the changes are broadly positive. For passengers travelling in the business class Club Euroe cabin the picture is more mixed.

British Airways Short Haul Economy Cabin (Credit: British Airways)

Here are the main changes:

1. New ergonomically designed, slimmer leather seats with moveable armrests and a 4-way moveable headrest.

2. New literature pockets that can also hold the sleeve of an iPad for passengers who want to bring their own in-flight entertainment.

3. In Club Europe, a new central table feature called the ‘Centre console’ will be positioned in the middle seat that is traditionally kept free.

4. The aircraft will also be fitted with new curtains, carpets and wall coverings and a LED lighting system and “refreshed” washrooms.

The big downside is that leg room in Club Europe will be reduced from 34 inches to 30 inches. However, BA claims that this will not impact significantly on “usable” space due to the design of the seats which allow for more knee room.

The effect of the reduction in leg room and other changes is that the overall number of seats will increase on each aircraft. On an Airbus 319 aircraft BA will provide 143 seats instead of 132 seats. On an Airbus 320 aircraft will provide 168 seats instead of 162 seats. On an Airbus 321 aircraft will provide 205 seats instead of 188 seats,

The first refurbished aircraft will enter into service on 4 July of this year and the rollout is expected to be completed by next year.

The Boeing 767s that operate in a short-haul configuration and the Boeing 737s that operate at Gatwick are not being reconfigured as they are both shortly being retired from the fleet.

BA to stop First Class on Cape Town, Las Vegas, Phoenix & Vancouver from 26 October 2014

London Air Travel » British Airways » Page 54

British Airways First Class Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways First Class Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)
Update December 2014: BA has announced that First Class will return to Vancouver from Sunday 29 March 2015 and Cape Town, Las Vegas and Phoenix from Sunday 25 October 2015. More details here

Many readers will know that, over the past five years, British Airways has been progressively updating its four class Boeing 777 and 747 aircraft with a new first class product.

The roll out on Boeing 777 aircraft has long been complete. Out of BA’s fleet of nearly fifty Boeing 747 aircraft, less than ten do not have the latest first class product. These aircraft are left with the Kelly Hoppen designed interior from the year 2000.

It is no exaggeration to say these cabins are showing their age and, in response, BA has by default offered 50,000 Avios to members of the Executive Club frequent flyer programme as compensation.

With number of 747s in BA’s fleet expected to fall to approximately thirty by 2018 and the last 747 due to retire after 2020, many of those aircraft that do not have the new first class cabin are likely to be retired over the coming year.

BA has now decided to stop selling first class on these aircraft and will instead offer a three class service, with business class passengers seated in the first class cabin (who will receive the standard “Club World” service) if there is the demand.

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“London Airways” reinstates European flights from UK regions

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British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

A few years ago, British Airways earned itself the moniker “London Airways” amongst some frequent flyers.

A long struggling regional operation, latterly known as “BA Connect”, offering flights from Birmingham, Manchester, Southampton and other regional airports was sold to Flybe in late 2006.

BA’s sole remaining international flight from a non-London UK airport, Manchester to New York JFK, was cancelled a couple of years later. This left BA, excluding franchise partners, operating international flights only from London airports.

Whether this was the right move strategically depends on your point of view. There is the argument that BA is right to focus on London which is one of the largest centres of premium business traffic in the world. There is also the argument that BA failed to make the necessary moves to adapt its cost base to changing market conditions and maintain its resonance in the UK market.

Yet tonight, Sunday 1 June, the very last departure of an any airline at Edinburgh airport is a BA Airbus A320 operating as flight BA8990 direct to Ibiza.

The flight will arrive on the white island shortly after 02:30. One hour later it will return to Edinburgh as BA8991 to land in Edinburgh at 05:40. Just in time for one of the first of 25 flights BA will operate from Edinburgh to London Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports on Monday.

So what’s going on?

For some clues, we can look at the Civil Aviation Authority statistics on aircraft utilisation by different airlines.

An easyJet Airbus A320 aircraft spends, on average, 10.9 hours a day in the air. The equivalent number for British Airways is 8.4.

The difference can in part be explained by Heathrow. Parking and slot restrictions and the need to offer business friendly timetables for “out and back in a day” business travellers mean that not all aircraft can return to Heathrow overnight.

Nonetheless the difference is significant as far as profitability is concerned. Legacy carriers have traditionally lost money on short-haul operations but have relied on more profitable long-haul operations to offset them. Rising fuel prices and intense competition from new entrants means this is no longer possible.

Some airlines, like Lufthansa, have transferred some short-haul operations to lower cost subsidiaries. In Lufthansa’s case this is Germanwings.

BA seems to be opting for a number of initiatives to improve short-haul profitability. And this is one of them. By flying from Edinburgh to Ibiza overnight the aircraft is working for six hours that would otherwise be spent idle on the ground in Edinburgh.

The one downside is of course that if the aircraft decides it doesn’t want to leave La Isla Blanca there will be a lot of disgruntled commuters in Edinburgh on Monday morning!

At the moment this is just a tentative step with two weekly return flights to Ibiza, increasing to three later in the peak of the Ibiza season. However, if this is considered a success then expect the initiative to be extended to other regional airports next summer.

Thailand Coup: Thai Airways & BA Heathrow flights scheduled to operate

As has been widely reported in the media, on 22 May, the Royal Thai Army imposed Martial Law in Thailand. The military authorities in Thailand have imposed a nationwide daily curfew between the hours of 10pm and 5am. Broadcasters such as the BBC and CNN have also been taken off air.

British Airways and Thai Airways fly daily and twice daily respectively from London Heathrow to Suvarnabhumi International airport Bangkok under the following flight numbers:

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BBC2 goes behind the scenes at BA in “A Very British Airline”

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BA Boeing 747 approaching the coast (Image Credit: British Airways)
BA Boeing 747 approaching the coast (Image Credit: British Airways)

After a long hiatus, the “behind the scenes” documentary of large public and private sector organisations has been back in fashion of late.

Over the past couple of years the BBC and others have gone behind the scenes at the London Underground, Claridges, First Great Western and East Coast Trains.

Now, it is British Airways’ turn to open itself to the cameras.

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BA suspends Heathrow – Agadir from 26 October 2014

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British Airways Tailfin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways)
British Airways Tailfin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways)

British Airways has announced it is to suspend its twice weekly service from London Heathrow to Agadir from 26 October 2014.

No specific reason has been given for the cancellation. However, we assume that poor commercial performance is a factor.

This was a route inherited by BA from its takeover of bmi in 2012 and is one of many subsequent route cancellations.

These include Damascus (29 May 2012), Addis Ababa (10 June 2012), Dammam (16 September 2012), Bishkek, Khartoum (1 October 2012), Tehran (12 October 2012), Yerevan (13 October 2012), Amristar, Casablanca, Marrakech (28 October 2012) and Tbilisi (31 March 2013).

Affected passengers have the option of a full refund or flying to Marrakech from London Gatwick or Casablanca via Madrid. No direct alternative route is available.

BA giving away free flights at London Victoria

London Air Travel » British Airways » Page 54

British Airways London Victoria
British Airways London Victoria

British Airways is giving away free tickets to destinations from its London Gatwick base in the Caribbean every 15 minutes at London Victoria railway station every day this week until Saturday 10 May 2014.

To be in for a chance to win you have to test your skills on an arcade-style game, with the highest scoring participants in 15 minute intervals winning tickets to the featured destination of the day.

The BA stand is located towards platforms 15-19.

From what we’ve seen the stand is popular, so do be prepared to queue for a short while if travelling to Victoria specifically for this.

Today’s (Friday) destination is Barbados. Wednesday’s destination was Saint Lucia and Thursday’s destination was St Kitts.

Full details of BA’s network at London Gatwick are available here.

“Taste Of London” returns on 18 – 22 June 2014 but without BA?

London Air Travel » British Airways » Page 54

British Airways Tailfin, Airbus 318 G-EUNA (Image Credit Nick Morrish/British Airways)
British Airways Tailfin, Airbus 318 G-EUNA (Image Credit Nick Morrish/British Airways)

We’ve been prompted to write this in response to a large number of search enquiries for the annual Taste Of London festival which returns to its home in Regents Park from Wednesday 18 June to Sunday 22 June 2014.

For many years, British Airways has been a sponsor of this event and many members of its Executive Club frequent flyer programme have taken enjoyed BA’s hospitality in a dedicated tent for BA frequent flyers.

Unfortunately, it seems that BA’s relationship with the Taste festival has come to an end and BA does not appear to be sponsoring this year’s festival so as things stand at the moment there are no opportunities for discounted tickets or complimentary hospitality for BA frequent flyers at this year’s event.