Monday Briefing – 19 November 2018

Welcome to our weekly briefing on air travel in London and around the world, published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Flybe Bombardier Dash 8 Aircraft
Flybe Bombardier Dash 8 Aircraft (Image Credit: Heathrow Airport)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 19 November 2018.

Flybe’s Dash For Cash

Flybe released its half-year results last week.

Its profit before tax fell 54% to £7.4m. Revenue fell 2.4% to £409.2m following cuts in capacity and net debt increased 40% to £82.1m.

The all important number however is cash. As at 30 September 2018, the airline has £70.6m of cash compared to £101.3m in the previous year. £16.4m of this is deemed “restricted cash”. Flybe has had to provide partial collateral to two companies that handle its credit and debit card transactions. This may rise and fall in line with seasonal sales patterns.

Flybe has given warning that its ability to trade as a going concern is dependent on card handling companies not demanding additional collateral and it carrying out certain asset sales to raise cash. One of these is the sale and leaseback of its aircraft hangar at Exeter airport for £5m. This was subsequently announced last week. The airline is also being advised on cash flow by the professional services firm KPMG.

The airline has also officially confirmed that it has put itself up for sale. It is unlikely that any buyer would be another airline group. BA sold its former “BA Connect” regional business to Flybe more than 10 years ago. It has since divested of a 15% stake in Flybe. Air France-KLM sold CityJet five years ago. And Lufthansa would not want to repeat its experience with bmi. It can be said with confidence that these groups will have already been approached privately.

That said, there are a lot of parties with a vested interest in the future of Flybe. Of 19 scheduled departures from Exeter airport today, just 1 is not operated by Flybe. Flybe also has dominant positions at Cardiff, Norwich and Southampton airports.

All airlines ultimately depend on cash flow from forward bookings and credit from suppliers. Speculation in itself is not helpful. It would be remiss not to also acknowledge the human impact of any airline failure. The sensible measures that apply to any airline ticket purchase, namely using a credit card and having adequate travel insurance, should not deter anyone from booking with any airline.

On a related note, easyJet announces its annual results tomorrow and should provide an update on recent initiatives in the areas of easyJet Holidays and its loyalty programme.

Black Friday

Of all the American imports into the UK, Black Friday makes the least sense.

The story behind Black Friday is well known. This Thursday is the Thanksgiving Holiday in the US. Black Friday is the equivalent of the UK’s Boxing Day sales and, legend has it, the day that US retailers go into the black. This Friday is of course not Boxing Day in the UK. It’s an ordinary working day. Most people haven’t neither the time nor inclination to plow through scores of e-mails from online retailers and airlines which are more of an irritation than anything else. The vast majority of efforts are also pretty half-hearted.
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Monday Briefing – 12 November 2018

Welcome to our weekly briefing on air travel in London and around the world, published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Edward Bair, Home For Christmas
Edward Bair, Home For Christmas (Image Credit: The Mill for Heathrow)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 12 November 2018.

Christmas Films

And so it begins. Heathrow has released its third annual Christmas film, once again featuring Doris and Edward Bair.

You may well be thinking these ads are being released earlier this year. And that’s because they are. Two weeks in fact. With so many concurrent campaigns from consumer brands and retailers it is harder to cut through and easier for viewers to gloss over them all. There are of course only so many variations of the theme of Coming Home For Christmas that can even the brightest minds at the best ad agencies can come up with.

That said, Heathrow has to be given credit for how much it has improved its image that it can even run such a campaign. Consider this news clip from December 2010, which is akin to something from The Day Today. Demonstrating a complete lack of preparedness for winter weather and dysfunctional relationships with airlines, Heathrow was claiming the airport was operating normally after BA cancelled its entire flying programme, just as the airport was on the cusp of closure for days due to snow.

Finnair Celebrates 95 Years

Finnair celebrates its 95th anniversary this month.

The airline was founded as Aero O/Y on 1 November 1923. It has been known as Finnair since 1968. In recent years it has gained a niche as gateway to Asia with nearly 100 flights a week to the region. Taking advantage of its geographical location to offer fast connections between Europe and Asia, it has extensive coverage of China and Japan. It is also known for its close partnerships with Finnish design house Marimekko. Finnair also considers itself the official airline of Santa Claus.

Whilst Finnair has done better than most small European airlines to carve out a niche and remain financially strong, it has indicated a desire to play a part in European consolidation. However, there are no indications that the Finnish Government is willing to sell down its stake which would certainly be a condition of any bid from the likes of IAG.

Finnair’s in-flight magazine “Blue Wings” takes a look back at the airline’s history in the first of a five part series. (Finnair Blue Wings)

On a Christmas theme, Finnair is also offering special direct flights from Gatwick to Ivalo on Thursday and Sunday from Thursday 13 December 2018 until Thursday 28 March 2019 and Kittilä on Tuesday and Sunday from Sunday 16 December 2018 until Tuesday 26 March 2019.
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Monday Briefing – 5 November 2018

Welcome to our weekly briefing on air travel in London and around the world, published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Emirates "Fly Better" Advertisement
Emirates “Fly Better” Advertisement (Image Credit: Emirates)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 5 November 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

IAG’s Capital Markets Day

IAG held its annual Capital Markets Day last Friday. We covered the major BA announcements and group wide initiatives on the day.

Whilst there were no surprises at the individual airline announcements, looking back a couple of days on there were a couple of interesting changes.

These presentations are usually dense on hard financial information and IAG’s uncompromising mantra of rational, disciplined, investment by a “brand agnostic” parent.

This year, it was noteworthy that IAG spent a lot of time discussing the relative brand positioning of its airlines.

IAG was quite candid that there were some areas its brands, such as BA, fall behind others in terms of perception. In the eyes of passengers, perception is of course reality.

Two of these airlines were easyJet and Emirates. To illustrate the the point, the day afterwards Emirates debuted the first of two new TV ad spots on UK television under the brand promise “Fly Better”. The first ad shows a passenger boarding an Emirates aircraft and being taken on a fantastical journey as cabin crew morph into different style dancers to demonstrate the breadth of its in-flight entertainment.

What Emirates does extremely well is hammering home its points of differentiation, such as its advanced in-flight entertainment systems. And selling a positive vision of the future “Hello Tomorrow”. The huge amount of attention given to Qantas’ launch of direct flights from London to Perth shows the power of the perception of progress. The suggestion is also that being that by flying Emirates you are part of something. As does easyJet with “Generation easyJet”.

It has been more than five years since BA ran a major brand-led marketing campaign. The last being “To Fly. To Serve. Today. Tomorrow”.

With BA’s centenary next year, there is clearly going to be a huge marketing push. Irrespective of budget and technical prowess, for any marketing campaign to be successful there has to be an underlying truth that customers can buy in to.

It has be said that BA’s preparation for its centenary feels a bit like the 2012 London Olympics. Until it happens you’ve no idea whether it will be an absolute triumph or beset by unforeseen problems.

IAG can claim to have delivered on the promises of its initial formation, namely cost and revenue synergies. Many legacy structural issues such as BA’s pension deficit have also been addressed. Whilst IAG does monitor customer Net Promoter Scores across all its airlines, there is no central group marketing / brand development function. Arguably, this should be the next stage of IAG’s evolution.
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Monday Briefing – 29 October 2018

Welcome to our weekly briefing on air travel in London and around the world, published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

International Airlines Group Airlines & Businesses
International Airlines Group Airlines & Businesses

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 29 October 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

IAG Capital Markets Day

International Airlines Group will be holding its annual Capital Markets Day this coming Friday 2 November 2018.

The event is primarily aimed at institutional investors with industrial quantities of Powerpoint and talk of Earnings Per Share and Return On Invested Capital. However, there should be presentations by individual IAG member airlines. There are also often some fairly “candid” views, particularly post-lunch, from IAG CEO Willie Walsh.

In previous years, it’s at these events we have first learned of BA’s plans to “densify” its Gatwick based Boeing 777s and to revamp Club World.

Developments we will be looking out for this year from IAG and BA may include:

– BA’s plans for its centenary year in 2019

– At least some outline plans for introducing a new Club World seat with the Airbus A350-1000 in 2019

– Possible improvements to in-flight catering amenities in First Class and World Traveller Plus

– Lounge investment plans for 2019, most likely Geneva, Johannesburg, Manchester and San Francisco and at least a timescale for revamping the London Heathrow lounge complex

– BA’s plans for expansion at Gatwick in 2019

– Possible plans to redevelop some facilities at London Heathrow Terminal 3 in conjunction with American Airlines

– Timescales for a revamp of the Avios frequent flyer currency

If there is anything of note, we will share on Friday morning from 08:00 GMT.

Why Virgin Atlantic will not be flying to Perth

Interest was piqued this week when Sir Richard Branson told Brooke Corte of the Australian digital channel “Your Money” that Virgin Atlantic wants to launch non-stop flights to Perth “as soon as possible”.

This was widely repeated online. However, nobody seemed to check with the Virgin Atlantic press office to confirm whether it was true or not.

Sir Richard Branson is President of Virgin Atlantic. However, by his own words, he has little involvement in the day-to-day running of the airline. Virgin Group is a majority shareholder for now, but is expected to sell part of its stake to Air France-KLM in the next 12 months. This will leave Delta as the single largest shareholder in the airline.

With Virgin Atlantic seeking to return to profitability and the imminent merger of Delta’s transatlantic joint-venture with Virgin into its longer standing joint-venture with Air France-KLM, it seems implausible that Virgin would return to Australia.

Virgin Atlantic stopped flying to Australia in May 2014 when it suspended its London Heathrow – Hong Kong – Sydney route. Also bear in mind what Virgin said when it launched the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner:

“It will also be instrumental in introducing new routes like Bangkok, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver. Due to the long range of the aircraft, both Perth and Hawaii are currently under consideration.”

Virgin currently only flies to one of these: Seattle.

Whilst this sort of behaviour has diminished, Virgin has form in announcing things that don’t ultimately happen.

When Virgin Atlantic placed its now cancelled order for six Airbus A380s it expressed a desire to fit the aircraft with gyms, beauty salons, and casinos.

Some ten years or so ago, it also announced its intention to launch all business class flights from London and European airports to the US.

Market conditions may have played a part in these plans not being realised, but a public company would never have the luxury of such ambiguity.

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Monday Briefing – 22 October 2018

Welcome to our weekly Monday Briefing on the main developments in air travel in London and around the world, as published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Cobalt Air (Image Credit Cobalt Air)
Cobalt Air (Image Credit Cobalt Air)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 22 October 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

Winter Is Coming (Part 1)

October is a cruel month for the airline industry.

The peak summer season is over. It is some months before most passengers think about booking their next holiday.

Three weeks in, it has already claimed Primera Air and Cobalt Air.

Flybe also issued a profit warning last week. The airline expects to make a loss of £12m this year, compared to market expectations of £3.5m.

City investors do not take kindly to surprises. Flybe was duly rewarded with a more than 50% fall in its share price to 14.30p. This compares to a price of 341p when it first floated on the stock exchange in 2010.

Small regional airlines have struggled this year. CityJet has abandoned all scheduled flights. Fly VLM entered liquidation.

Consistent financial profitability has proved elusive for Flybe. It has banked its financial turnaround on downsizing its fleet. It is shedding larger Embraer E195 aircraft, a hangover from an over-ambitious aircraft order. This will make the Bombardier Q400 the backbone of its fleet.

It has also focused on providing connections to long-haul airlines at Heathrow and Manchester. It has taken up remedy slots for Aberdeen and Edinburgh at Heathrow and codeshares with many long-haul airlines. It has be said this is something that did not serve bmi well. The proportion of ticket revenue is small. There are significant operational issues in handling connecting passengers, such as dealing with mishandled baggage. Flybe also has ambitions to add many more regional routes at Heathrow if there is a third runway.

There is not a chance of IAG being Flybe’s saviour. When BA sold most of its former regional operation to Flybe in 2007, it acquired a 15% stake in the airline. It has since disposed of this. What had remained at BA became BA CityFlyer which has flourished at London City. Nor would IAG be interested in franchising the BA brand. BA cancelled its remaining UK franchise agreements with Loganair after bmi and easyJet acquired former franchisees BMed and GB Airways respectively in 2007.

International Airlines Group will also publish its 3rd quarter results this coming Friday. Whilst major announcements are likely to be reserved for the Capital Markets Day in November, IAG will inevitably be asked by analysts about the recent BA data breach.
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Monday Briefing – 15 October 2018

Welcome to our weekly Monday Briefing on the main developments in air travel in London and around the world, as published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Dreamflight, London Heathrow, Sunday 14 October 2018
Dreamflight, London Heathrow, Sunday 14 October 2018 (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 15 October 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

New Gatwick Airport Masterplan

Gatwick is to unveil a new airport masterplan this coming Thursday.

Part of it has been selectively leaked to the press in advance – possibly to take the sting out of one of the more controversial aspects.

Gatwick proposes to bring its standby runway into permanent use for short-haul flights when a legal agreement preventing Gatwick from operating a second runway expires next year.

Gatwick Airport Runways
Gatwick Airport Runways (Image Credit: Gatwick Airport)

Gatwick has long campaigned for a second runway in the hope of attracting more long-haul airlines, particularly to Asia. It has had mixed success in this regard. Cathay Pacific has launched Hong Kong. Air China has launched Chengdu. China Eastern will launch Shanghai in December of this year. Gardua Indonesia however moved its service to Jakarta from Gatwick to Heathrow. Heathrow has also managed to secure new routes to Changsha operated by Hainan Airlines and X’ian operated by Tianjin Airlines.

The airport currently has a rolling five year investment plan, details of which are available from here.

New Aer Lingus CEO

Last week International Airlines Group announced that Stephen Kavanagh will step down as CEO of Aer Lingus on 1 January 2019.

Stephen will be succeeded by Sean Doyle, currently Director of Network, Fleet and Alliances at BA.

Aer Lingus has expanded its long-haul network significantly over the past three years under IAG. However, progress in other areas has been slow. It has still not yet joined the transatlantic joint-venture with American Airlines and BA. Nor is there any immediate prospect of it rejoining the Oneworld alliance. There has also been no growth in short-haul, which will not happen until Aer Lingus can satisfy IAG it can make a sufficient rate of return.

This is not the first time IAG has moved executives between airlines. Alex Cruz was of course CEO of Vueling before his appointment at BA. Carolina Martinoli, BA’s Director of Brand and Customer Experience, was formerly Marketing Director at Iberia.

Alex has certainly not had an easy time in his first two years at BA, However, Carolina Martinoli has certainly had much more success than her two predecessors Frank van Der Post and Troy Warfield, who both joined from outside the airline industry, at instituting change. Sean should bring a lot of experience from BA and an understanding of the inner workings of IAG.

Dreamflight

For more than 30 years, the charity Dreamflight has raised funds to charter a BA aircraft to fly hundreds of disabled and seriously ill children to Orlando for a ten day holiday of a lifetime.

Yesterday, fresh from a four week refurbishment, a BA Boeing 747 departed a very wet Heathrow for Orlando under flight BAW1DF.

The children enjoy entertainment with special guests – this year Una Healy – in a BA hangar at Heathrow before boarding their flight. They are accompanied on their trip by representatives from Dreamflight, BA staff and a fully trained medical team.

There’s more on the charity’s work at Dreamflight.

In case you missed it:

No1 Lounges takes over Etihad’s London Heathrow lounge. (London Air Travel)

WestJet to fly its Boeing 787-9 from London Gatwick to Calgary in 2019. (London Air Travel)

The first of BA’s refurbished 52 Club World Boeing 747s enters service. (London Air Travel)

Our survey of the progress of roll-out of WiFi on BA’s fleet. (London Air Travel)

Late Post Publication Updates:

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

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Monday Briefing – 8 October 2018

Welcome to our weekly Monday Briefing on the main developments in air travel in London and around the world, as published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Qantas Boeing 747 SP VH-EAA
Qantas Boeing 747 SP VH-EAA (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 8 October 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

Primera Air and Etihad

Two events occurred last week. One was reported very widely. Another much less so outside of the travel press.

Low cost airline Primera Air suddenly suspended operations on Monday 1 October. Thousands of passengers were stranded as were many of its now redundant employees.

The other was a relatively trivial detail that Etihad has transferred it lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 4 to No1 Lounges. The airline expects to transfer all of its lounges outside of Abu Dhabi to third party operators. The significance of this nothing is off the table as Etihad seeks to shore up its finances. That’s if it remains an independent airline.

What could the two stories possibly have in common?

It was clear that to anyone with a casual knowledge of the airline industry that both were pursuing unsustainable strategies.

Anyone who had read the briefest of histories about Swissair (see below) could see that Etihad buying minority investments in troubled European airlines, all with different alliance allegiances and management teams, was doomed to fail.

Alitalia had been recapitalised numerous times before Etihad bought a stake in the airline. It is notorious for its recalcitrant workforce. It can be said with confidence that other European airline groups would have looked at buying Air Berlin. None had chosen to open the cheque book.

Yet Etihad was widely hailed as transformational airline that was “reimagining travel”. Events such as the launch of the Residence on its Airbus A380s generated huge amounts of PR, with few wondering who would actually be prepared to pay for it.

Primera Air’s launch of transatlantic operations had got off to a very troubled start. Delays in the delivery of new aircraft meant that all long-haul flights from Birmingham were cancelled. It also had to lease aircraft to cover some flights from Stansted.

However, that did not deter Primera Air in pursuing a plainly implausible expansion with new transatlantic bases in 2019 planned in Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt and Madrid. Consider that when Sir Richard Branson launched Virgin Atlantic with a single route from Gatwick to Newark, it took six years to get to the four scheduled routes that Primera Air launched in one year.

Some airlines, not accustomed to the transparency that comes with public ownership, do not appreciate scrutiny of their affairs. The survival of all airlines ultimately hinges on the confidence of their customers and suppliers. They depend on the cashflow benefit of revenue from forward bookings and the credit terms of their suppliers. If either one is lost, it is game over.

There would obviously consequences for publications that make unsubstantiated claims. However, when stunts like low lead in fares from Norwegian’s now withdrawn transatlantic routes from Edinburgh are given extensive free coverage, the press at large is not serving the travelling public by challenging the sustainability of airline strategies.
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Monday Briefing – 1 October 2018

Welcome to our weekly Monday Briefing on the main developments in air travel in London and around the world, as published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

A BOAC operated Canadair Argonaut aircraft Hong King airport, circa 1950.
A BOAC operated Canadair Argonaut aircraft Hong King airport, circa 1950 (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 1 October 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

London – Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a destination that BA has, through its predecessor airlines Imperial Airways and BOAC, served for more than 80 years.

The first flight from London to Hong Kong, on 14 March 1936, took ten days, required seven aircraft, and stopped at 24 cities en route.

Today, the two cities with significant economic and historic links, are served direct by three airlines using some of the most advanced commercial aircraft.

It’s a prestigious route for BA. When BA launched fully flat beds in Club World nearly 20 years ago, Hong Kong was the second route to fly with the new cabin after New York JFK. It was the second route after Los Angeles to be operated with the Airbus A380 in 2013.

BA has long faced a formidable competitor in the form its Oneworld alliance partner Cathay Pacific. It’s an airline hailed for its attentive service and vast lounge complex in Hong Kong. In recent years, Cathay has gained a number of competitive advantages. After its initially unpopular business class bed, criticised for being too narrow, it has a seat with direct aisle access. It has also added premium economy and widely acclaimed business and First Class lounges at Heathrow Terminal 3.

It dwarfs BA on frequency at Heathrow, flying five times a day, in addition to daily flights from Gatwick. Aided by the Airbus A350, Cathay Pacific has also added many destinations in Europe including Barcelona (seasonal), Brussels, Dublin, Madrid and Zurich.

There are signs this is hitting BA hard. A cursory scan of flights shows substantial differences between business class fares between BA and Cathay Pacific. Last week, BA also announced that it is closing its cabin crew base in Hong Kong with the loss of more than 80 jobs.

Hong Kong is a route BA has no option but to make work. An equivalent of its joint-business with Japan Airlines which enables easier access to local corporate clients and distribution networks, even if Cathay Pacific were so minded, would not be allowed by competition authorities.

Some measures such as new lounges at Heathrow Terminal 5 and a new Club World seat will come, but don’t be surprised to see more activity to improve the financial performance of this route.
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Monday Briefing – 24 September 2018

Welcome to our weekly Monday Briefing on the main developments in air travel in London and around the world, as published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Emirates Airbus A380 Heathrow
Emirates Airbus A380 Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 24 September 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

Emirates and Etihad

For a time it seemed that the future of air travel have pivoted permanently towards the Middle East.

With favourable Government support, geographic advantages, relatively unrestricted operating conditions and seemingly unlimited budgets, all the Big Three Middle Eastern airlines had to do was announce blockbuster aircraft orders at air shows, launch ever more capacious First and business class cabins, run celebrity endorsed ad campaigns and the traffic would just come its way. European and US airlines seemed positively pedestrian and spartan by comparison.

However, reality did not quite work out like that.

Etihad pursued a disastrous strategy of acquiring minority stakes in troubled European airlines such as Air Berlin and Alitalia that haemorrhaged cash. It has been heavily loss making, having reported a loss before exceptional items of USD$ 1.52 billion for 2017. The airline has also suspended routes, significantly curtailed its growth plans, and put aircraft orders under review.

Bloomberg, a traditionally cautious and reliable news outlet, reported last week that Emirates is in talks to acquire Etihad. Leaving aisle the regional politics of such a merger, in which we are not well versed, this deal will not escape the attention of regulators in both Europe and Australia.

Etihad codeshares with Air France and KLM on flights between Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi and from their respective hubs. Etihad has similar agreements with Lufthansa from its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich. Surprisingly, there’s no such relationship with Virgin Atlantic.

It owns just over 20% of Virgin Australia and has an extensive codeshare relationship. Qantas and Emirates also have their own joint-venture covering Australia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

It is implausible that the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (or indeed Qantas or Virgin Australia) would allow both joint-ventures to continue under single ownership. Given Virgin Australia’s complex shareholding structure shared between rival airlines with conflicting priorities, it is likely that a combined Emirates and Etihad would let this fall by the wayside.

Closer to home, Etihad currently operates three departures a day from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. It also owns Alitalia’s Heathrow slots, which currently operates six daily departures to Italy. As such, a deal could more than double Emirates’ capacity at Heathrow of six daily flights.
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Monday Briefing – 17 September 2018

Welcome to our weekly Monday Briefing on the main developments in air travel in London and around the world, as published every Monday morning at 06:00 BST.

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

CNN Hurricane Florence Typhoon Mangkhut Coverage
CNN Hurricane Florence Typhoon Mangkhut Coverage (Image Credit: CNN International)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 17 September 2018, summarising the main developments in air travel over the past week.

Hurricane Florence and Super Typhoon Mangkhut

Hurricane Florence and Super Typhoon Mangkhut have dominated the news over the weekend. Both have caused considerable disruption at a substantial human and environmental cost.

In terms of disruption to flights, Hurricane Florence has now been downgraded to a Tropical Depression. There is still disruption to some coastal airports in the Carolinas due to flooding and infrastructure damage. Transatlantic flights from London seem to have largely escaped disruption.

For US domestic flights, American Airlines has largely resumed operations at its hub in Charlotte. However, some cancellations remain. Delta and United have been progressively resuming flights throughout the region.

BA, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic resumed flights from London Heathrow to Hong Kong on Sunday after widespread cancellations on Saturday. Cathay Pacific is now progressively resuming flight operations at Hong Kong. However, there are widespread cancellations today.

BA Catering

BA and catering have long had a troubled relationship.

In December 1997, the airline outsourced its catering operation to Gate Gourmet. Matters flared up in a quite spectacular fashion in the summer of 2005 when an industrial dispute at the company resulted in no catering on BA flights at Heathrow. To make matters worse, some BA ground staff at London Heathrow took wildcat industrial action in support of the workers resulting in days of disruption in the height of summer at a cost to the airline of £40m and negative publicity worldwide.

Given how much the UK’s reputation for food has improved over the past 20 years, for an airline keen to emphasis its Britishness, it has been a source of mystery why BA hasn’t made this more of a point of differentiation.

One answer is that as the catering budget is one of the airline’s few controllable costs, it is an easy target for a repeated cycle of investment and cutbacks.

However, with new Club Europe catering being, by all accounts, well received and Do&Co securing a new contract for the entire Heathrow operation there does seem a genuine desire to improve matters.

If we had one criticism there is still a little too much emphasis on serving what people think Britons eat (eg Full English breakfasts, Afternoon Tea) instead of what Britons actually eat.

Given BA is due to refurbish its London Heathrow lounges in the coming years, a logical progression would be to review catering and service provision in the lounges.

BaxterStorey has been responsible for catering provision in BA’s UK lounges since May 2013. Unlike Qantas, for example, where Sofitel run its international lounges, BA not opted to appoint a premium hospitality brand to run the food and beverage service in its lounges. I would not be surprised to see this reviewed.
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