London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 19 October 2020

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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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 19 October 2020.

Sean Doyle Replaces Alex Cruz

When Keith Williams was promoted from Chief Financial Officer to become BA’s first CEO after the formation of IAG in 2011, Willie Walsh left BA with a not particularly subtle message about who was really in charge.

He was reported to have quipped to reporters that Keith had been promoted from the 2nd most important job in BA to the 2nd most important job in BA.

Last week, Sean Doyle was promoted to the 2nd most important job in BA after Alex Cruz departed the airline. This was the first major management reshuffle by IAG CEO Luis Gallego. For a group that likes to make much of the fact that it can move executives around the group, no alternative role in IAG was found for Alex.

Although Sean has a relatively low profile, his appointment has been welcomed. Colleagues praise his attention to detail and knowledge of the industry. This is clearly not seen as the time to bring in an outsider. One former colleague told the Financial Times:

“He will make the decisions that will need to be made, but will be able to bring people with him. There really are not that many people with the depth and breadth of experience of the company,”

Before becoming CEO of Aer Lingus, Sean was responsible for fleet and network planning at BA, as well as its joint-business with American Airlines. All of these will be a focus in the coming years.

As for Alex Cruz, there’s been no shortage of comment on his departure. The most balanced comes from John Strickland for Forbes who rightly points out that some of things BA has been criticised for during Alex’s leadership were not of his making.

It was, after all, Willie Walsh’s insistence a few years ago that BA did not need to change the layout of its Club World cabin. Decisions on aircraft density, as well as many other matters like new aircraft orders and capital expenditure, sit with IAG not BA.

That said, a lot of unnecessary negative publicity could have been avoided with a little foresight. Saying BA might withdraw free meals in long-haul economy when there was nothing close to a plan to do so, caused a lot of unnecessary negative headlines. Many negative headlines about the introduction of buy-on-board in short-haul economy could have been avoided if it was properly tested on a smaller scale at Gatwick first, before being rolled out at Heathrow.

Few who have followed BA’s approach to industrial relations over decades would have believed it would have ever gone ahead with a threat, no doubt the work of lawyers, to “fire and rehire” staff. But it was clearly wrong-footed by how this was seized upon by staff and trade unions. Hence what felt like an overly rehearsed performance by Alex before the Transport Select Committee last month.

Back to Sean Doyle, he is due to speak at the Airlines 2050 virtual conference at 10:15 BST today. Luis Gallego will also present his first IAG quarterly results next Friday, 30 October.

Winter Timetable

The clocks go back one hour in the UK on Sunday 25 October. This also marks the start of the winter timetable.

Ordinarily, we should be able to present a long list of schedule changes for the winter season. Not this year.

At London Heathrow, BA will resume short-haul flights to Basel, Billund, Gran Canaria, Malta, Vienna and Zagreb. Flights also resume to Amman which, along with Moscow Domodedovo, switches to short-haul configured aircraft.

Next month, BA will also resume scheduled long-haul flights from London Heathrow to Bangkok, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Santiago and Seoul. Many other routes benefit from frequency increases, including Boston which switches to twice daily. BA will also return to Orlando and Mauritius at Gatwick.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 12 October 2020

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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Coolum Beach, Queensland, Australia, Qantas Sightseeing Flight Saturday 10 October 2020
Coolum Beach, Queensland, Australia, Qantas Sightseeing Flight Saturday 10 October 2020 (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

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

The Qantas Flight To Nowhere

When it comes to inventive ways to raise cash during COVID-19, Qantas has been leading the pack.

Having sold off amenity kits and fully stocked storage carts to frequent flyers, on Saturday Qantas operated a “flight to nowhere” from Sydney to Sydney. Passengers on board the Boeing 787-9 aircraft for the 8 hour plus time were afforded views of New South Wales, Queensland and Uluru in the Northern Territory.

Qantas has released B-Roll footage of Saturday’s flight, a clip of which you watch here.

Whatever the interest may be for similar flights in Europe, airlines will have to resist pressure over environmental concerns. There would have been huge demand for final BA Boeing 747 flights from Heathrow before their withdrawal from the airport, which the airline did not offer.

Australia: Come Fly With Me

Staying with Qantas, next month the airline will celebrate its centenary which also marks the birth of civil aviation in Australia.

A new three part series “Australia Come Fly With Me” begins this week on SBS Australia charting the course of civil aviation in Australia and how it has reflected cultural and societal change. Judging by the trailer above, there’s no shortage of archive footage. Sadly, there’s no sign yet of this series being shown in the UK.

BA Long Haul Route Updates

A familiar pattern of some steps forward and some steps backward, as far as BA’s long-haul route network is concerned.

At Heathrow, BA restarted flights to The Seychelles on Saturday. BA launches a new route to Lahore today. BA will also transfer its route to Male from Gatwick to Heathrow on Friday. The restart of Riyadh, originally planned for early October, is postponed again.

Meanwhile at Gatwick, BA returns to Grenada, via St Lucia, on Wednesday. The return of a number of other routes including Cancun and Mauritius is postponed again.

BA has also postponed the planned launch of its new route from Gatwick to Montego Bay from 13 October to provisionally 12 December.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 5 October 2020

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 Long-Haul Network, London Gatwick & Heathrow, October 2020 (1 October 2020 version)
British Airways Long-Haul Network, London Gatwick & Heathrow, October 2020 (1 October 2020 version) (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 5 October 2020.

COVID-19 Airport Testing

There was a course for optimism for last week as Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye indicated that a trial of government supported, but privately funded, COVID-19 airport testing could begin “within weeks”.

According to a report in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, Stephen Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said a decision would be made “in the coming days” and an announcement is expected from Grant Shapps and Matt Hancock.

The article goes on to say ministers are considering forming a “taskforce” to examine options for international travel. If so, this should have been established months ago and does not instil confidence. Not least given the UK government’s track record on over-promising and under-delivering.

Stephen Barclay appears to favour the approach of Germany where arriving passengers can receive a test result within hours to avoid quarantine. The government’s scientific advisory panel, SAGE, appears to favour “dual testing” where arriving passengers must test negative twice within five days to leave quarantine.

Last week American Airlines announced the start of pre-flight COVID-19 testing on select routes in the Americas. There is no doubt it wants to extend this to transatlantic flights with some urgency.

Dutch newspaper de Volksrant reports a trial has been underway at Helsinki airport where four sniffer dogs were trained to detect COVID-19. Whilst apparently successful in Finland, trials elsewhere have yielded less positive results.

Back to Heathrow, the airport will appear before the Supreme Court this Wednesday to appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal that the decision by the UK government to approve a third runway was unlawful.

BA October Schedule

A little over a week ago, we published BA’s planned route network for October.

This has been updated since publication as BA issued a revised route map, pictured above. The restart of flights from London Heathrow to Riyadh has been pushed back to 15 October.

Interestingly, BA has removed Cancun and Mauritius from its October route map even though they are currently showing as operating from 17 and 15 October. BA’s new route to Montego Bay, which is due to launch on 13 October is also absent.

Although some airlines are reported to have cancelled flights to South Africa, BA’s flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg appear to be operating as planned.

Alex Cruz To Speak At FlightGlobal Event

BA CEO Alex Cruz will speak as part of a virtual FlightGlobal event “Airlines 2050” next Monday, 12 October.

The event starts at 09:30 BST. A full agenda which includes a wide range of speaks from airlines and government is available at FlightGlobal and registration is free here.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 28 September 2020

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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British Airways Long-Haul Network, London Gatwick & Heathrow, October 2020
British Airways Long-Haul Network, London Gatwick & Heathrow, October 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 28 September 2020.

Aviation Hopes For An October Surprise

As the US election approaches, journalists and pundits are waiting for what is known as the “October Surprise” – this being an event, planned or unplanned, that may change the course of the election.

Airlines must be hoping for something, anything, next month to break the current impasse on travel restrictions.

In the US, airlines are likely to begin very significant redundancies as federal support under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act comes to an end.

According to a report by York Aviation commissioned by Airlines UK, Heathrow, IAG and Collinson Group, the UK economy is losing £32m a day due to the lack of a transatlantic air bridge.

Sir Richard Branson has, according to The Telegraph, had what would be described in diplomatic circles as “a frank exchange of views” with Matt Hancock over the government’s failure to secure a transatlantic air bridge.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Air New Zealand CEO Greg Forum said that eliminating COVID-19, something New Zealand had aimed to do until it experienced a second wave, was no longer realistic. Taking into account the likely efficacy of a vaccine and the time it will take to distribute globally to those that are prepared to receive it, countries must learn to live with the virus.

IATA has called for a global standard of systematic testing before and after departure as in interim solution to eliminate the need for quarantine measures.

Airline industry bodies are adamant the airline travel is safe. According to a briefing by the EASA reported by Reuters only seven of three million passengers in recent weeks have displayed symptoms of COVID-19 on board aircraft. (Of course, many with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.)

BA Publishes October Route Network

BA has, for the first time in six months, published a definitive list of the destinations it will be flying to in the coming weeks.

You can read a full summary and list here.

At Heathrow, BA restarts daily flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg on 1 October. Three times weekly flights to Bahrain, Riyadh and Tokyo Haneda also start on the same day. Three times weekly flights to Montreal and four times weekly flights to Kuala Lumpur start on 2 October. On the same day, BA returns to Barbados at London Gatwick.

All UK domestic routes benefit from at least daily flights with Edinburgh having 45 return flights a week.

Short-haul routes which benefit from the equivalent of more than three daily flights include Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin Tegel, Dusseldorf, Faro, Istanbul, Larnaca, Lisbon, Malaga, Munich, and Rome Fiumicino.

Virgin Atlantic Appoints New CFO

Virgin Atlantic has, according to filings at Companies House, appointed a new Chief Financial Officer.

Oliver Byers, formerly Senior Vice President (that’s Delta’s influence for you) of Data & Customer Loyalty was appointed to the role last week. Oliver replaces Thomas Mackay who has held the role for the past three years.

On a related note, Virgin has yet to file its annual accounts for last year. It does benefit from an extension to the filing deadline to the end of the year. Observers will be interested to see what comments are made about its ability to continue as a going concern.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 21 September 2020

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 Terminal 5A, May 2020
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 21 September 2020.

How Did We Fly In August?

Every month the Civil Aviation Authority publishes a breakdown of passenger numbers by route.

Whilst not broken down by airline, where an airline is the sole operator of a route you can deduce how it is performing.

Here are the UK domestic and international numbers for August.

As far as domestic routes are concerned, Belfast City and Inverness are performing relatively well at Heathrow with year-on-year declines of “only” 60% and 67%. A respectable 4,510 passengers flew between Heathrow and Newquay, which indicates around 90 passengers per flight.

At London City, domestic routes have been very slow to recover with Edinburgh and Glasgow down 94% year-on-year.

A mere 100 passengers flew between London City and Teesside, indicating single digit passenger numbers per flight. The route has since transferred to London Heathrow and will clearly need codeshare partners to support it.

Turning to short-haul in Europe, some routes benefited from BA switching all Gatwick short-haul flights to Heathrow. Heathrow routes to Greece registering increases in scheduled passenger traffic included Chania (100%), Corfu (11%), Mykonos (15%) and Zakinthos (10%). Heathrow routes to Italy also performing well include Brindisi (81%) and Palermo (28%).

Many other routes from Heathrow to Spain also registered relatively softer decreases with Ibiza down only 15% and Malaga down only 13%.

More business heavy routes still registered substantial falls including Brussels down 93% and Frankfurt down 80%.

On transatlantic routes, unsurprisingly almost all routes actually operating registered falls in excess of 90%. Just 1,192 passengers flew across 13 return flights between Heathrow and Seattle in August.

Alex Cruz Appears Before Transport Select Committee

Alex Cruz appeared before the Transport Select Committee last week.

You can read the full transcript on the committee’s website, as well as our summary here.

In his evidence Alex advised BA has processed 2.1 million refunds and issued 1.6 million vouchers to passengers. BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” has picked up that some passengers have received vouchers thinking they were entitled to a refund. Given the complexity of the voucher scheme, this could run. The airline may have to settle claims from passengers who believe they were misled.

Comair Business Rescue Plan Approved

Comair’s business rescue plan was approved by creditors on Friday.

Whilst Comair still has some way to go yet – it still needs to secure new debt of R600 million – the airline expects to restart flights in December.

Subject to last minute changes, BA is due to resume scheduled passenger services from London Heathrow to Cape Town and Johannesburg on Thursday 1 October. Durban is suspended until late March 2021.

Virgin Atlantic has a provisional start date for Johannesburg on 18 October and Cape Town on 10 December.

Staying in South Africa, there are doubts as to whether the government will be able to secure funds to recapitalise South African Airways after a deadline of last Thursday was missed. The Department of Public Enterprises and National Treasury issued a statement on Friday seeking to assure trade unions that it will provide funding of R10.5 billion and that the airline will not be liquidated.

In case you missed it:

The European Commission grants a waiver of the “use it or lose it” slot rule for the winter season. (London Air Travel)

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 14 September 2020

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

Concorde Seat Arm Rest (Image Credit: Sir Terence Conran / Factorydesign for British Airways)
Concorde Seat Arm Rest (Image Credit: Sir Terence Conran / Factorydesign for British Airways)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 14 September 2020.

Hubert Horan: The Airline Industry Is In Denial

The consensus amongst airlines and industry bodies is that passenger demand will recover to 2019 levels of demand from 2023.

Government wage support schemes, accelerated aircraft retirements and delivery deferrals and new sources of debt will see at least most the industry’s major players through in the interim.

One analyst has struck a discordant note. Herbet Horan gave an interview to the Financial Times’ Alphaville Blog last week (it should be free to read if you register with FT.com).

Put simply airlines and their investors are in a complete state of denial as to the scale of crisis facing aviation. The industry has faced a near total collapse in revenue, without a commensurate fall in costs. Hopes of a ratcheting up of demand when travel restrictions are lifted is wishful thinking. The drivers of airline profits, corporate and long-haul travel, have been obliterated. No other industry would carry on this way when faced with such a collapse in demand.

Not only that measures that airlines thought would have insulated them against shocks have actively worked against the industry restructuring itself. Consolidation in the US market, which the industry would thought make airlines stronger, has prevented the necessary restructuring as these airlines are now simply too big to fail.

Hubert Horan proposes that, for the three major US carriers, bankruptcy should be the proper course of action with control taken away from management and existing investors wiped out.

We may soon find out whether these predictions are correct.

Alex Cruz To Appear Before Transport Select Committee

We’ve not heard much from Alex Cruz lately, partly because BA has been keeping its head down. Alex had also been overshadowed by Willie Walsh.

Alex will be appearing before the Transport Select Committee this coming Wednesday at 09:30. No doubt members of the Select Committee will want to discuss job cuts at the airline, whereas Alex will want to press the need for airport testing.

Willie Walsh appeared before the Select Committee in May. He later branded their views “completely irrelevant” to The Sunday Times. Alex Cruz also criticised their report as based on rumours and emotions and not fact.

Readers in the UK will be able to watch the session on BBC Parliament.

BA Long-Haul Additions

A couple of small additions to BA’s long-haul network at London Heathrow.

BA returns to Abuja this Wednesday. BA will also operate a one-off scheduled passenger flight to Grand Cayman on Thursday.

Sir Terence Conran

Sir Terence Conran passed away on Saturday. Although well known for founding Habitat, the Design Museum and many restaurants, he also worked with BA and Factorydesign in the late 1990s.

Sir Terence and Factorydesign were commissioned by BA to redesign the Concorde cabin interior with the aim of bring the outside of the aircraft as its status as a 20th century design icon to its interior.

Sir Terence also redesigned by the Concorde Rooms at London Heathrow Terminal 4 and New York JFK Terminal 7. These lounges featured many 20th century design classics such the Charles & Ray Eames lounge chair.

Sir Terence, who also flew on the last Concorde flight from New York JFK on 24 October 2003, said of Concorde in the foreword of “Supersonic – The Design And Lifestyle Of Concorde”:

Concorde is the most iconic aircraft of all time and I can honestly say it is the most beautiful and exhilarating man-made object I have ever seen. It is one of the few designs to take my breath away.

Do not think I exaggerate when I say Concorde is the single most important piece of design in my long lifetime. Will we see anything quite so elegant, beautiful and optimistic again? I’m sad to say perhaps not, but that may be the challenge for our great designers, engineers, innovators and artists. Can you work together to create something beautiful, powerful, and iconic it pushes the boundaries of our imagination. Can you make us dream like that again? Can you show us the future?

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 7 September 2020

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

Daily Mail Front Pages, Friday 4, Saturday 5, Monday 7 September 2020
Daily Mail Front Pages, Friday 4, Saturday 5, Monday 7 September 2020 (Image Credit: Associated Newspapers)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 7 September 2020.

Calls Grow For Rapid Airport Testing

It’s not often you see headlines sympathetic towards airlines on the front page of the Daily Mail – the master of the SEASONAL TRAVEL CHAOS front page headline – let alone three in the space of four days.

The Mail has joined the Telegraph in a growing campaign for the UK government to introduce rapid COVID-19 testing for arriving passengers at all ports and airports. This would replace the current whack-a-mole approach to mandatory 14 day quarantine restrictions. Tests would be paid for by passengers for a small charge.

In a letter obtained by the Telegraph a number of airports have warned the Prime Minister and Chancellor that a decision must be made on testing as soon as this week to avoid causing irreparable damage to the industry. MPs are due to debate the matter in the House of Commons on Thursday.

Virgin Atlantic went as far as it could last week to effectively say its survival depends on the reopening of transatlantic routes.

A cursory scan of BA’s September schedule where a number of business heavy short-haul routes have been suspended for the month suggests that business travel simply will not return without a radical change in approach. Willie Walsh pointed out in The Times last week that business travellers coming to the UK will not accept a mandatory 14 day quarantine when they typically stay for less than 7 days.

In a sign of how bad things are for the hotel industry the 474 room Hilton Times Square is closing – not a location many would choose in New York, but symbolic nonetheless. (CNBC)

Willie Walsh Departs IAG

IAG holds its Annual General Meeting tomorrow. What should be a pedestrian affair will be anything but.

Shareholders will be asked to vote in favour of a 2.7 billion rights issue. There are calls for shareholders to vote against IAG’s annual remuneration report which includes a £883,000 bonus for outgoing CEO Wille Walsh, based on IAG’s performance in 2019. The vote is non-binding, but a vote against will still cause embarrassment. Even fairly sympathetic voices towards IAG have suggested the bonus should be waived, as it has in the past.

Giles Agutter and Robin Phillips will also join IAG as non-Executive Directors, as requested by its single largest shareholder Qatar Airways.

Back to the rights issue, there is the question of will this be enough to see IAG into 2021 and whether it will need to seek state support. Speaking to Richard Quest on CNN International last week, Willie appears to have softened his views towards state support:

I have changed my views a little bit because as you know I’m strongly opposed to state aid, and I’ve always defined state aid or a bailout as something to help a company or in this case an airline that has failed or is failing. I think in this situation, many of the airlines that have received state aid were in good financial shape before this crisis and deserve to be helped.

The thing that we have to focus on Richard is a lot of this state aid has come in the form of debt. So the balance sheet of all of these airlines will be severely stressed as a result of this.

Now we’ve taken the view that before you can ask for help, you’ve got to help yourself, you’ve got to do everything you can. within your own power to as best you can address the challenges you face and that’s what we’ve been doing. So, I don’t believe we need state aid, I can’t rule it out so obviously I’m finishing up next Tuesday. My successor Luis Gallego will have to make these decisions going forward.

This probably isn’t the last you have heard from Willie Walsh. He has according to an interview with The Irish Times been offered a number of non-executive positions.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 31 August 2020

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

Comair Boeing 737 Aircraft
Comair Boeing 737 Aircraft (Image Credit: Comair)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 31 August 2020.

The September Issue

Today is of course a public holiday in the UK (except Scotland!) which ordinarily marks the end of the summer and what should be the restart of the business travel season.

Whilst summer certainly feels like it’s over, and even if government would like it so, few seem in the mood for a return to what was normality.

BA is due to at least add some long-haul routes at London Heathrow in September. Returning long-haul routes in September include:

Abuja (16 September)
Accra (4 September)
Bahrain (18 September)
Cairo (2 September)
Kuwait (2 September)
Lagos (5 September)
Riyadh (17 September)

These dates are approximate as there are some slight discrepancies between online timetable information and BA’s own booking engine.

BA will also fly from Chennai to Heathrow on a one-way only basis from 3 September.

Turning to BA’s fleet, the airline despatched one its early Boeing 777-200 aircraft, G-ZZZB, from London Heathrow to St Athan for retirement on Saturday. BA will also retire another Boeing 747 aircraft, G-CIVH, today.

Comair

This week we should, finally, learn of the fate of BA’s franchise partner Comair.

According to the Business Rescue Practitioners, they have now received a final binding offer for the airline from its preferred bidder.

The Business Rescue Practitioners are due to publish their business rescue plan this Wednesday.

Staying in South Africa, South African Airways is to due operate a one-off flight from Johannesburg to London Heathrow on 2 September on behalf of Guardian Assist. The return flight to Johannesburg will operate on 4 September. Passengers wishing to travel on these flights should e-mail info@flights.guardianassist.co.za

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 24 August 2020

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

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330neo Aircraft
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330neo Aircraft (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 24 August 2020.

Virgin Atlantic Crunch Vote

Virgin Atlantic’s will tomorrow (presumably virtually) convene its creditors for vote at the High Court on whether to accept its recapitalisation plan.

The Financial Times, possibly to inject some immediacy in to its reporting, suggested that talks with creditors were still underway over the weekend.

GridPoint Consulting has done an excellent breakdown of what the restructuring package actually involves. This includes no less than 170 creditors being asked to accept a 20% cut in amounts owed to them, with the balances paid in stages. Other aspects of the package appear less radical than first thought.

Creditors are expected to vote in favour of the plan which should be formally adopted in early September.

With Virgin reopening its route network at much slower pace than planned, there is no doubt it is going to face extremely difficult trading conditions over the next two years.

Qantas last week gave a relatively pessimistic view that it does not expect to restart long-haul flights until July 2021, with no US flights until the end of 2021. That said, unlike European network carriers, Qantas generates most of its profits from its short-haul domestic network. Qantas has a greater interest in unrestricted inter-state travel being opened up in Australia before international borders.

WestJet Returns To Gatwick

Some positive news for London Gatwick as WestJet has restarted flights to Calgary. These initially operate three times weekly.

WestJet tentatively plans to resume Toronto in early October. Vancouver is also scheduled to resume in early October, but as this is a summer seasonal route it is unlikely to operate until 2021. This is all of course subject to change.

STA Travel Closes Its Doors

One of the last vestiges of a bygone era closed its doors last week.

STA Travel (UK) announced late Friday evening that it had ceased trading. For a generation of student and young travellers, aided by a well thumbed copy of a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet guide book, their independent trips would be booked via STA Travel. As this was the pre-Tripadvisor era, only when you reached your accommodation did you really understand what the description “basic” and “lively” really meant.

In case you missed it:

BA CityFlyer delays the start of many year-round routes from London City to mainland Europe to October. (London Air Travel)

BA starts operating one-way “relief flights” from Johannesburg to London Heathrow. (London Air Travel)

Delta confirms its transatlantic route network from London Heathrow for the next 12 months. (London Air Travel)

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 17 August 2020

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

Iberia Airbus A340-600 Aircraft EC-LEV
Iberia Airbus A340-600 Aircraft EC-LEV (Image Credit: Iberia)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 17 August 2020.

Bondholders Seek To Stop Virgin Australia Sale

Virgin Australia’s bondholders will today seek to stop the sale of the bankrupt airline to Bain Capital.

Hedge fund owners Broad Peak Investment Advisors and Tor Investments have put forward alternative proposals whereby unsecured bondholders who are owed around AU$ 2 billion would exchange their debts for shares in the airline. They also promise to inject new capital and claim to have the support of many other bondholders

The administrators of Virgin Australia Deloitte have said that the deal agreed to sell the airline to Bain Capital in late June is binding and cannot be rescinded.

A hearing is due to take place today at a Federal Court in New South Wales whereby the bondholders will seek to force Deloitte to put their proposal to a creditors vote on 4 September.

Virgin Australia is expected to emerge from the administration process a significantly smaller airline. Whilst it will seek to remain competitive against Qantas in the short-haul business market, long-haul operations will remain suspended for several years. Its budget off-shoot Tigerair will also be shut down.

Update: The Federal Court has rejected the application. (Sydney Morning Herald)

South African Airways

Staying with another airline in trouble before the COVID-19 pandemic, there is doubt as to whether the government in South Africa will be able to secure private sector investment in a new state-backed airline.

According to a report from the South African Broadcasting Corporation, more than 3,000 of South African Airways’ 4,600 strong workforce have applied for voluntary redundancy. This is significantly more than is required. Rand Merchant Bank is reported to be working for the government to secure new private sector investment.

Also in South Africa, creditors are due to vote on a business rescue plan for BA’s franchise partner Comair next Friday, 28 August. This has been delayed many times and may be deferred again.

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