London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 13 September 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

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Manhattan at Sunrise
Manhattan at Sunrise (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 13 September 2021.

easyJet Looks To Raise Funds As Wizz Air Circles

Last week the Commons Transport Select Committee, without any hint of irony, pondered the question what can be done to help the UK’s once buoyant aviation sector recover from COVID-19.

It is not the first time the Select Committee has looked at aviation during COVID-19. Its report last year, with carefully placed soundbites, earned itself plenty of headlines for kicking BA over what was largely a hypothetical legal scenario.

It had complete blindspots cover the imminent collapse of Norwegian’s long haul operations and Virgin Atlantic’s precarious financial position. It also had no practically useful content for anybody, whether they be passengers, employees or airline management. It is hard to see what influence this latest exercise this will have on anything.

One bright spot is yesterday’s Mail On Sunday splashed with a claim that the government is planning to end the requirement for a PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers before returning to England. A lateral flow test also need only be required two days’ after arrival.

This has been followed up by today’s Telegraph which reports that the traffic light system will be scrapped. Whilst a “red list” of countries that require hotel quarantine on arrival will remain, this will be shrunk.

Meanwhile airlines are making their own manoeuvres. Last week easyJet revealed it had received an unsolicited takeover bid from Wizz Air. It also plans a £1.2 billion rights issue.

Wizz Air is known for relentless cost control. Before COVID-19, easyJet was largely concerned with growing business traffic and selling packaged holidays, as well as defending itself from brickbats thrown in its direction by its own founder. Though, a promised frequent flyer currency never came to fruition.

easyJet was keen to emphasise its positioning at major airports in Europe and the fact that legacy network airlines are vulnerable to the slow recovery of long haul routes.

Michael O’Leary, never one to allow anyone else to have the last word, told the Financial Times, a merger between easyJet and Wizz Air is inevitable. In its favour are a common Airbus fleet and complimentary coverage of Western & Eastern Europe. Not in favour are relative differences in the cost base and culture between the two airlines. Michael O’Leary also reveals he tried to buy Wizz Air in 2015 before it listed on the stock exchange, but could not agree a price.

“City sources” also told yesterday’s Mail On Sunday that IAG may hold a second rights issue to bring down its debt levels, possibly to coincide with the reopening of the US border.

As borders remain closed, JetBlue has cut its planned service from London Gatwick to New York JFK to four times weekly from launch on 30 September until at least November. Delta has also postponed plans to restart Detroit and Seattle, as well as an increase frequencies to New York JFK.

BA Route Network Changes

A few more BA short haul network changes for this week:

At Heathrow, BA returns to Bari and Catania on Friday 17 September. Palermo follows on Saturday 18 September. As does Basel on Monday 20 September.

Summer seasonal services from London City to Faro, Gibraltar and Mahon have now ended for the year. Currently, there is no planned date for a return to Gibraltar from London City in 2022.

Seasonal services to Split end on 17 September. Rotterdam is due to restart on Monday 20 September. BA’s franchise partner SUN-AIR has pushed back the restart of London City – Billund until 10 January 2022.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 6 September 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

BA CityFlyer London – Amsterdam, Dublin, Zurich (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to return of London Air Travel’s weekly Monday Briefing after a summer break.

The September Issue

Today, Monday 6 September, is the end of the Parliamentary Recess in the UK.

It is also the Labor Day holiday in the US and Canada, effectively marking the end of summer and “back to work”.

It is traditionally at this time that airlines begin announcing their plans for the next summer season. There is much to do to get through the winter first.

Over the summer Mark Kleinman of Sky News broke the story that Virgin Atlantic is seeking a listing on the stock exchange to raise new funds. The Sunday Telegraph followed this up yesterday.

Talks are said to be underway with bondholders, creditors and lenders to secure their approval. There is said to be concern amongst some about Virgin Group ceding control of the airline and what may happen if it requires further financing.

It’s worth recalling that when Virgin Atlantic undertook a solvent recapitalisation last year, its worst case scenario was that travel restrictions would remain in place until August. It’s now expected that the US will not relax travel restrictions until at least late November this year.

BA Route Network Updates

In anticipation of the Canadian government relaxing travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers from Tuesday 7 September, BA returns to Vancouver on the same day.

Montreal follows five times weekly from Wednesday 8 September. Toronto also increases to three times daily on certain days from this week.

BA also returned to Nairobi on Saturday. Flights to Dubai increase to twice daily today.

Additional seasonal flights to Antigua and Saint Lucia at Heathrow ended on Saturday and will return on 18 December.

Short haul routes that resumed in the past week at Heathrow include Brussels, Hannover, Porto, Seville, Stuttgart and Vienna. Summer seasonal flights to Newquay ended for this year on Saturday.

At London City, BA CityFlyer restarted Amsterdam and Zurich yesterday. Dublin follows today. As does Geneva on Friday 10 September.

Please also see our dedicated BA short haul and long haul route networks which are continuously updated.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 19 July 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world.

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British Airways aircraft on the ground at London Heathrow Airport.
British Airways Aircraft At Sunset, London Heathrow

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 19 July 2021.

This will be our last weekly update before a break for the summer holidays. Our next planned edition will be published on Monday 6 September.

Some months ago there were widespread predictions that demand in the UK for summer holidays in Europe would be so great that BA would be despatching wide body aircraft from Heathrow to Palma de Mallorca.

Well on Saturday a wide body aircraft did land at Palma de Mallorca airport. But it was a Boeing 747-8 operated by Lufthansa from Frankfurt.

This was one of many predictions about this summer, along with the reopening of the US and new routes to Europe, that sadly did not come to pass. It is hoped that at least by September there will be more positive news.

Looking Ahead To August

Looking ahead to August, JetBlue should launch its inaugural flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK on 12 August.

Air Canada will also reinstate flights from Heathrow to Montreal on 4 August. Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave positive soundings about reopening Canada to vaccinated travellers later this summer.

IAG will announce its half year results on Friday 30 July. Management will no doubt be pressed again on their plans for Gatwick. This will no doubt be influenced in part by what slot waivers are announced in the coming weeks for the winter season.

BA Route Network Updates

With perfect timing, BA returns to Paris Charles de Gaulle at London Heathrow today.

Summer seasonal flights to Bastia are due to restart on Friday. Flights to Florence and Nice also restart at London City on Friday.

Twice weekly flights from Heathrow to Antigua on Wednesday & Saturday start this week. A weekly flight to St Lucia also launches on Saturday.

At Gatwick, BA returns to Providenciales and Grenada on Tuesday & Wednesday respectively, both from London Gatwick via Antigua. BA also returns to Montego Bay on Saturday.

You can keep to update with ongoing BA route network changes with our dedicated listings of short haul and long haul flights.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 12 July 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Qantas Boeing 787-9 Aircraft VH-OJA Pre Departure, London Heathrow Terminal 3, Thursday 14 November 2019
Qantas Boeing 787-9 Aircraft VH-OJA Pre Departure, London Heathrow Terminal 3, Thursday 14 November 2019 (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 12 July 2021.

Qantas International Pilots On Being Grounded

Whilst Qantas remains hopeful that it can resume flights outside of Australia and New Zealand later this year, in all likelihood the airline’s international route network will remain suspended well into 2022.

This has taken a significant toll on Qantas’ international pilots. The Sydney Morning Herald has obtained postings on an internal forum by Qantas pilots who have been stood down by the airline.

They detail not only the significant financial cost of not earning any income but also the impact on mental health of continued uncertainty:

The last time I operated in a Qantas uniform was the 1st of March 2020 and I am fast chasing in on 500 days stood down. I estimate that since March 2020 I have had 70-80 nights where I have slept through the night. The financial hit has been significant, but it pales in comparison to the mental hit. The worry that breeds from uncertainty is palpable. The uncertainty eats at you every day; it clouds your thinking, it affects your decisions and corrodes relationships.

The mental health of many stood down employees is at breaking point. Dealing with no income for a few months let alone more than 12 months and potentially more than two years is a significant challenge for people to deal with. Qantas Airways has a significant part to play in how their employees progress through this journey and how they come out the other side.

BA Route Network Updates

Here are a few more BA route network updates for the coming week:

BA returns to Gothenburg at London Heathrow this Friday. At London City, BA CityFlyer is due to restart summer seasonal flights Mykonos on Friday.

Turning to the Caribbean, next week BA should return to Providenciales and Grenada on Tuesday 20 & Wednesday 21 July respectively, both from London Gatwick via Antigua.

At Heathrow, twice weekly flights to Antigua on Wednesday & Saturday start at from 21 July 2021. A weekly flight St Lucia from Heathrow also launches on 24 July 2021.

Finnair Targets SAS In Stockholm

Attempts by European airlines to launch flights at rival airline hubs have rarely been successful.

There was Air France’s short lived service from London Heathrow to Los Angeles. And BA’s attempt to launch transatlantic flights from Amsterdam Schipol and Paris Orly airports.

This has not deterred Finnair which last week announced new winter seasonal flights from Stockholm Arlanda airport to Bangkok, Miami and Phuket.

This is no doubt driven, like recent route announcements from KLM, by the need to shore up as much leisure travel revenue as possible. In the case of Miami, Finnair will compete directly against SAS and, for Bangkok, SAS’s Star Alliance partner Thai Airways.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 5 July 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

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

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 5 July 2021.

“It’s Time For New York City”

It was a week of transatlantic anniversaries last week.

Virgin Atlantic marked 30 years of operations at London Heathrow where it became the 2nd UK airline allowed to operate transatlantic flights at the airport. BA marked 75 years since BOAC operated its first commercial flight to New York City, via Shannon and Gander.

Next month, JetBlue will operate its inaugural flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK. Or at least it plans to.

And New York is certainly keen to welcome back visitors. The official tourism agency NYC & Company is rolling out a new $30 million advertising campaign “It’s Time For New York City”.

"It's Time For New York City" Advertising Campaign Poster
“It’s Time For New York City” NYC & Company, Advertising Campaign, Summer 2021

It was hoped that yesterday’s 4th of July public holiday in the US would mark a lifting of international travel restrictions for passengers from Europe. No so. And it’s likely to be a similar story for the Labor Day holiday.

Progress on opening a travel bubble between the UK & the US is said to be slow. This is partly because of concern over the spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant in the UK; the number of organisations in the US government that have oversight of travel restrictions and that the AstraZeneca vaccine does not have regulatory approval in the US.

Calls for progress from both airlines and government are noticeably louder on this side of the Atlantic. Last week, Air France-KLM CEO Benjamin Smith joined BA and Virgin Atlantic in urging for restrictions to be lifted.

Here in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to hold a press briefing on the planned lifting of remaining restrictions in England from Monday 19 July. This was widely briefed to newspapers yesterday, with some suggesting that quarantine for passengers returning from “amber list” countries will not have quarantine on arrival.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 28 June 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)
London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 28 June 2021.

Gatwick Airport Confident BA Will Stay

Amid continued speculation about the future of BA at Gatwick, airport CEO Stewart Wingate is confident the airline will maintain a presence there.

This is at least as far as long haul flights are concerned. In yesterday’s Sunday Times, Stewart was quoted as saying:

It’s very clear to us that BA’s full intention is to continue flying long-haul routes from Gatwick, probably with a fleet of 14 or 15 aircraft

Many years ago BA did in fact look at transferring all Gatwick long haul flights to Heathrow, but the airport refused to entertain any possibility of negotiating a special deal on landing fees. This is likely to be a factor in BA retaining a presence at Gatwick.

As far as short haul flights for BA and its fellow IAG subsidiaries are concerned, much will depend on what slot alleviations are granted for the winter season.

Last week, Airport Coordination Ltd proposed a gradual lifting of existing slot waivers to allow for new entrants, particularly at airports where airlines have effectively withdrawn all flights.

ACL proposes that the current 80 / 20 “use it or lose it” rule is changed to 70 / 30 to allow for short notice cancellations.

Airlines that plan to hand back slots for the entire winter season should do so by no later than 31 August 2021. This should also be capped at 50% of their slot portfolio to prevent airlines temporarily handing back all slots for the season by default. Any remaining slots must be handed back no later than 4 weeks before their planned operation to benefit from alleviation.

The final decision on continued slot alleviations rests with the Secretary of State for Transport.

BA IT Outage

One benefit of a vastly reduced schedule for an airline is you can take your IT systems offline for maintenance.

Over the past few months BA has periodically taken ba.com down overnight for maintenance. Whatever work has been done didn’t prevent problems with BA’s reservations system yesterday evening. ba.com was also taken down entirely for just over an hour. Systems appeared to return to normal at around 22:00 BST.

BA Route Network Updates

BA continues to gradually reinstate a number of short haul routes. The airline should add the following routes at London Heathrow this week:

Monday 28 June: Amman, Paphos, Prague, Sofia

Wednesday 30 June: Zagreb

Friday 2 July: Lyon, Pristina and Valencia

Saturday 3 July: Bologna, Catania, Milan Malpensa

BA’s new codeshare with Loganair on London Heathrow to Teesside also comes into effect from Thursday 1 July.

At London City, BA CityFlyer returns to Ibiza and Menorca on Friday.

BA has also reinstated limited weekly flights from London Heathrow to Kuwait City and Johannesburg. Tokyo Haneda restarts on Friday 2 July.

As ever, this is all indicative and subject to change at very short notice.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 21 June 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Sean Doyle, Chief Executive, British Airways
Sean Doyle, Chief Executive, British Airways (Image Credit: Aer Lingus)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 21 June 2021.

Sunday Times Interview With Sean Doyle

Corporate PR is all about setting out a narrative and, where necessary, getting your side of the story out first before someone else.

Virgin Atlantic used to the master of this. When the airline was in the ascendancy everything was presented through the prism of “bringing much needed competition to British Airways”.

When a business loses control of the narrative, it is hard to regain it. A case in point was BA’s botched implementation of Buy On Board on short haul flights in 2017.

As soon as national newspapers picked up the story, relatively trivial details such as the removal of flowers in Club World washrooms suddenly became newsworthy. Alex Cruz became a lightning rod for criticism and BA had to fight a rearguard action to try and change the story about the airline.

It has to be said that Alex Cruz didn’t always help himself. Negative stories about a possible removal of free hot meals in long haul economy could easily have been avoided if he’d simply said “We have no plans to do that.” rather than “We might do it.” There’s a reason why company executives are not allowed anywhere near a microphone until they’ve had media training from a former journalist.

If you read the interview with current CEO Sean Doyle in yesterday’s Sunday Times Magazine you’d be forgiven for thinking the airline was on the cusp of entering a new era with a focus on excellence and a premium experience for all.

This is all perfectly laudable but almost every initiative mentioned (Club Suite, expanded premium economy cabins, new in flight entertainment systems, catering by Do& Co, resolution of customer queries on “first contact”) were already in train under Alex Cruz.

There is no escaping the fact that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the airline’s financial health. Decisions will have to be made in the coming years that will determine the airline’s course for the rest of the decade.

This is not to play down Sean’s strengths – he is clearly very articulate and knows the airline extremely well.

But it is one thing for Sean to put a Concorde nose cone on a Terminal 5 lounge terrace. It will be a considerably harder feat to persuade a heavily indebted IAG to commit tens of millions of pounds to refurbish the Heathrow lounges, which they do need. Or to order Airbus A321LR & XLR aircraft to rebuild the long haul network.

Another big strategic decision will be the airline’s presence at Gatwick. Interest was reignited this weekend following a Sunday Telegraph report that BA may pull out of Gatwick entirely. Some six weeks ago, IAG CEO Luis Gallego said that group was reviewing its presence there. Quite way the Telegraph has picked up on this now, citing “industry sources” isn’t clear – unless it has been leaked to try and bounce somebody into action.

BA Route Network Updates

Staying with BA, the airline is due to launch its new routes from London City airport to Guernsey and Jersey this Friday 25 June.

At Heathrow, BA returns to Warsaw on Wednesday 23 June, Riyadh on Saturday 26 June and Newquay on Sunday 27 June.

The planned launch of new summer seasonal routes to Cluj-Napoca, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Riga has been pushed back to mid July and may well move again.

Over at Gatwick, BA has also recently restarted limited flights to Punta Cana.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 14 June 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

British Airways aircraft on the ground at London Heathrow Airport.
British Airways Aircraft At Sunset, London Heathrow

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 14 June 2021.

A Second Lost Summer

Ahead of the G7 Summit in Cornwall last week, all airlines operating flights between the UK and the US issued a joint statement calling for transatlantic travel between the two to be reopened.

Curiously, it was only BA and Virgin Atlantic that really promoted the statement. The actions of their US counterparts were much more muted.

This is possibly because they have a buoyant and a substantially larger domestic market – typically five times the size of their international markets – to keep them in business. Or perhaps they knew it would fall on deaf ears. Which it did.

The government is expected to today confirm at a press conference that the planned lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions in England on 21 June 2021 will be delayed by up to four weeks. It is a safe assumption that the “green list” will not be extended during this time.

The UK travel industry appears to have few friends in government at present. There are growing calls for the furlough scheme to be extended to April next year, which would cover the entirety of the winter season.

British Airways has also called for the government to provide further sector specific support with subsidies to cover the cost of maintaining grounded aircraft.

Meanwhile in Europe, according to Politico, the European Council is expected to today formally adopt a streamlined set of travel rules for EU Member States.

In what won’t be the last airline casualty of COVID-19, last week Air Antwerp, which flew between London City and Antwerp, confirmed it will not resume flights in August as planned. Its website is still live but the airline has stopped taking bookings.

As has been widely reported Aer Lingus Regional franchise operator Stobart Air suspended operations last week after a deal to sell the airline fell through. Full details of replacement flights covering its former routes are available from Aer Lingus.

South African Airways

The South African government confirmed last week it has selected The Takatso Consortium as the preferred Strategic Equity Partner for South African Airways.

The consortium will own 51% of the airline and the state will retain 49% ownership. The intention is to eventually list the relaunched airline.

The consortium comprises Harith General Partners, which invests in African infrastructure and owns Lanseria International Airport, and South African based aviation group Global Aviation which launched the local airline LIFT last year.

A due diligence exercise is now underway and once this is complete the consortium will outline plans for the airline’s route network, fleet, brand and global partnerships.

Staying with South Africa, Virgin Atlantic confirmed last week it plans to reinstate passenger flights from London Heathrow to Johannesburg on 24 June.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 7 June 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 London Heathrow
Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 7 June 2021.

Travel Industry Reels From UK Government’s Volte Face

The UK travel industry is understandably reeling from the UK government’s decision last week to remove Portugal from the “green list” and not add any further countries.

Airline CEOs had made it clear months ago that they needed certainty and there are very substantial costs involved in preparing aircraft and crews for a return to service.

In terms of route network development this week, at London City BA CityFlyer is due to return to Palma de Mallorca and launch Gibraltar this Friday. At Heathrow, BA will return to Split this Friday.

Qantas Organised Crime Allegations

The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes (Nine Network Australia) have reported that an Australian federal intelligence operation code named “Project Brunello” has identified that up 150 staff at Qantas may have links to organised crime.

These employees are said to have used their “trusted insider” status at the airline to facilitate criminal activity. Qantas departments most vulnerable to infiltration are said to be its air freight division, and ground crew and baggage handling divisions.

One person who occupies a mid manager role at Qantas’ airport operations in Sydney is claimed to have links to criminal gangs and may have recruited criminals at the airline to facilitate the importation of narcotics into Australia.

Around 60 staff are said to have links to “serious drug offences” or “organised crime groups”.

Yesterday, Qantas issued a statement denying any knowledge of current investigations into organised crime at the airline.

Singapore Airlines Marks 50 Years’ Flying From London

Last week, Singapore Airlines marked 50 years of flying from London to Singapore.

It was on 3 June 1971 that Singapore Airlines’ predecessor Malaysia Singapore Airlines launched flights from London Heathrow to Singapore.

Flights initially operated three times weekly on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, departing at 13:10. These were operated with Boeing 707 aircraft, stopping en route at Rome, Bahrain and Mumbai. These were increased to daily from 1 April 1973, departing Heathrow at 14:10.

For a very brief period from December 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines operated a joint Concorde service from London Heathrow to Singapore via Bahrain. This cut the journey time from 15 hours and 25 minutes to 9 hours and 15 minutes.

Flights to Singapore had to use Indonesian airspace as Malaysia refused to allow the use of its airspace on environmental grounds. Flights were temporarily suspended after just seven days’ operation for over a year until Malaysia allowed use of its airspace in December 1978.

On 25 November 1983, Singapore Airlines upgraded its own route to a Boeing 747-300 aircraft four times a week. This aircraft featured an expanded Upper Deck, unique to Singapore Airlines and twice the size of other 747 aircraft, dubbed “BIG TOP”. This was used to accommodate the business class cabin with First Class and economy on the main deck. These flights were increased to daily from early 1984.

On 29 October 1984, Singapore operated the first non-stop flight from London to Singapore. Non-stop flights operated initially three times weekly, and increased to daily in 1985.

The 747 enabled Singapore to become a major hub for travel between Europe and Australia though it has faced increased competition from hubs in the Middle East.

Singapore Airlines has always prided itself on industry firsts and in March 2008 it was the first airline to operate scheduled passenger Airbus A380 flights from London Heathrow.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 31 May 2021

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

London Heathrow Collage
London Heathrow Collage (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 31 May 2021.

Heathrow Airport Marks 75 Years

Heathrow Airport marks 75 years of civil aviation operations today.

Although the airport, then known as London Airport, traces its history much further, it was on 31 May 1946 it officially started passenger flights.

Like many aviation anniversaries of late, there is little cause for celebration.

It’s no exaggeration to say Heathrow’s fortunes have changed dramatically in the past 12 months. Two of its four terminals remain closed to passenger flights. There are scores of destinations on its route network that have not been served for over a year, and many may not be touched for another 12 months. It will be some time before we see 7 Airbus A380s a day flying to Dubai, or nearly 30 flights a day to New York.

In its early years, Heathrow replaced Croydon and Northolt as hubs for BA’s predecessor airlines British European Airways and British Overseas Airways Corporation.

The experience of its first passengers was radically different to now. Passengers would be bussed from the Imperial Airways Terminal and West London Air Terminal. These were rendered redundant by the opening of the now demolished Terminal 1 in April 1969 and the extension of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow in December 1977.

The oldest terminal at the airport today is Terminal 3 which opened in November 1961 when it was then known as the Oceanic Terminal. This is eventually earmarked for demolition in favour of an expanded Terminal 2.

In its time Heathrow has witnessed many aviation milestones including the first passenger jet flight across the Atlantic, the arrival of Concorde and the Boeing 747, the launch of “Shuttle” services to UK regional airports, and Qantas operating non stop flights to Australia.

1991 saw significant change with the arrival of Virgin Atlantic. This was marked with Sir Richard Branson dressing as a pirate and covering a model BA Concorde with Virgin livery and declaring the airport “Virgin Territory”. It prompted a rapid deterioration in its relationship with BA.

American Airlines and United also replaced Pan American World Airways and Trans World Airlines as the two US airlines permitted to fly to the USA. The EU-US Open Skies treaty allowed what was then Continental, Delta, Northwest Airlines and US Airways transfer operations from Gatwick to Heathrow.

Some airlines have come and gone, notably the “friendly independent” bmi British Midland.

Whilst Heathrow remains highly sought after – every season new airlines seek to gain access – relations between the airport and airlines can be poor. The chaotic opening of Terminal 5 in 2008 exposed a dysfunctional relationship with BA. The airport has rightly criticised for its disastrous response to heavy snowfall in Christmas 2010, which prompted a radical overhaul of its image.

Whilst the airport and airlines are presenting a united front in campaigning for the lifting of travel restrictions, tensions will continue as Heathrow seeks to recover its financial losses due to COVID-19 and fund a third runway.

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