Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 29 November 2021.
One Step Forward…
This week was due to be a cause for celebration.
On Friday, BA is due to restart Airbus A380 long haul operations with daily flights to Dubai (BA107 & BA106). Miami (BA209 & BA208) follows on Sunday.
This was meant to further signal a return to normal and the release of pent up passenger demand. Events have now decided otherwise.
From 04:00 tomorrow morning all passengers arriving in the UK will have to take a PCR test by day 2 and self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. Full guidance is available on gov.uk
Whilst this is a temporary measure and scientific advisors would say it’s better to move hard and fast early than wait until you are certain you are right, the uncertainty, the one thing that irritates passengers more than anything else, is hugely damaging to the travel industry.
easyJet and IAG shares fell sharply on Friday and are likely to fall further when markets open this morning.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 22 November 2021.
Virgin Atlantic Seeks To Raise £400 Million
Virgin Atlantic is reported to be seeking new funds of up to £400 million to see the airline through the winter.
On Saturday Mark Kleinman of Sky News broke the story that Virgin Atlantic was seeking new funds from its shareholders Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines, as well as other creditors.
This was expected. When Virgin Atlantic undertook a solvent recapitalisation last year it was said that continued travel restrictions into 2021 would require further fund raising by the airline.
Last week, Virgin Group sold a further stake in Virgin Galactic of $300 million to support Virgin businesses. Last year, Virgin Atlantic’s 49% shareholder Delta Air Lines said it could not provide any direct financial support due to the state support it had received from the US government under the The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Delta did, however, agree to defer certain payments owed to it.
In August of this year Sky News also reported that Virgin was seeking an Initial Public Offering to raise funds. For anyone who has followed Virgin Atlantic over the years, a public listing for the airline is hard to visualise. This is postponed indefinitely.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 15 November 2021.
Eastern Airways Secures Newquay PSO Route
Eastern Airways is reported to have won a contract to operate the Public Service Obligation route from London to Newquay according to Cornwall Reports.
London – Newquay is designated a Public Service Obligation (“PSO”) route. These are subsidised by central and local government to preserve links between London and the regions of the UK.
Other PSO routes include Derry, operated by Loganair from Stansted, and Dundee, operated by Loganair from London City.
Flybe operated the Newquay PSO route from London Heathrow before its collapse in 2020.
Eastern Airways is expected to launch the route from Gatwick in December. It will initially operate daily, and increase up to three times daily in the peak summer season.
As the route operates from Gatwick there will be relatively limited opportunities for codesharing and onward connections. BA’s summer seasonal service to Newquay from Heathrow is due to resume from Sunday 26 June 2022.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 8 November 2021.
The US Reopens
So today’s the day.
The US has reopened to passengers from the UK and Europe who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
To mark the occasion, BA and Virgin Atlantic will put aside their long standing rivalry and simultaneously depart from London Heathrow for New York JFK at around 08:30 this morning, with BA using its most prestigious flight number, BA1.
(Readers with long memories will recall it’s not the first time the two airlines have raced from London to New York JFK. Virgin tried to spoil BA’s social media campaign during its inaugural London City – JFK service back in 2009!)
Today, BA expects to carry around 8,000 passengers from London to the US. It’s no exaggeration to say this cannot come soon enough for either airline.
The results for the quarter to 30 September 2021 from BA’s parent company IAG illustrate starkly how important it is that transatlantic traffic recovers.
IAG reported an operating loss of €452 million. Vueling broke even and Iberia reported a profit of €21 million. Aer Lingus and BA lost €80 million and £386 million respectively. This compares unfavourably to Air France KLM and Lufthansa – Robert Boyle of Gridpoint Consulting has done a full analysis of their relative performance.
And BA is betting on a full recovery of transatlantic traffic. Next summer it plans to operate 96% of its 2019 capacity to the North Atlantic, including Bermuda and Canada, across 34 routes. This is as measured by Available Seat Kilometres, not flights.
In 2020 BA’s long haul fleet was cut by 20%, primarily due to the retirement of the Boeing 747. This implies its long haul network will remain substantially geared towards North America next year. It is also suggests a lot of heavy lifting by the Airbus A380.
A route network published by IAG last week also indicates that BA may relaunch Portland and reinstate Pittsburgh again next year:
Whilst it is expected that many routes to Asia Pacific will not reopen well into 2022 and BA points to the withdrawal of Norwegian from the transatlantic market, it remains to be seen whether there will be the demand to the US there was in 2019. This week, BA will typically operate 5 flights a day to New York. This compares to up to 12 flights a day before COVID-19.
Sean Doyle expressed a hope in The Sunday Telegraph that many more suspended routes across the network will return. Sean denies these have been permanently suspended but, to get into semantics, they are removed from timetables with no date set for a return. Any substantial growth in the route network will need more aircraft. IAG is not currently giving any guidance on future aircraft deliveries for 2022 and beyond – other than that it is not cancelling any existing orders.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 1 November 2021.
Australia Reopens To International Travel
Today marks the resumption of many scheduled international passenger flights to Australia. Sydney and Melbourne have reopened their borders to international travel without mandatory quarantine.
The first international flight to land in Sydney this morning was Singapore Airlines flight SQ211 arriving early at 05:21 AEDT. This beat the first scheduled arrival, Qantas flight QF12 from Los Angeles at 06:04 AEDT.
Qantas’ first scheduled flight to London in more than 18 months, QF1, departs Sydney at 18:30 AEDT today. After a refuelling stop in Darwin, it will arrive at London Heathrow Terminal 3 at 06:50 GMT tomorrow.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 25 October 2021.
Air Passenger Duty Rise?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is due to announce his budget this coming Wednesday.
As is par the course, selected tidbits are leaked to newspapers in advance. On Friday night The Guardian reported that the Chancellor is due to announce an increase in Air Passenger Duty.
This will be done by introducing a new higher band for longer range flights of more than 6,000 miles.
Currently, the reduced and standard rate of APD for flights longer than 2,000 miles is £82 and £180 respectively. This is due to increase to £84 and £185 from 1 April 2022.
Whilst the new band will not affect most destinations from London, further increases to the cost of flying will infuriate the airline industry.
Longer range flights can have relatively high volumes of Visiting Friends & Relatives traffic and are rarely taken on whim. This also comes on top of plans for substantial increases in passenger charges for airlines at London Heathrow.
Conversely, the Chancellor is reported to be considering reductions in APD for domestic flights to fit with the government’s “levelling up” agenda.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 18 October 2021.
BA & Virgin Rebuild Transatlantic Networks
Following last week’s news that the US will reopen to fully vaccinated visitors from the UK on Monday 8 November, both BA and Virgin Atlantic are rebuilding their transatlantic schedules.
BA will return to Newark from Monday 1 November. Las Vegas and Orlando follow at Heathrow on Monday 15 November. As does Tampa at Gatwick. BA also reinstates Orlando at Gatwick from Friday 19 November.
BA is also expected to reinstate Baltimore, Nashville and New Orleans from Thursday 9 December. San Jose, California, is currently suspended until Sunday 27 March 2022. There are currently no plans to relaunch Charleston, Pittsburgh or Portland.
Virgin Atlantic will restart flights to Las Vegas and Orlando on 8 November. Seattle and Washington Dulles will restart on 1 March 2022. Virgin’s transatlantic partner Delta also restarts Detroit today.
United, which last week announced a number of new transatlantic routes for next summer, is yet confirm whether it will go ahead and launch Boston from Heathrow.
Outside of the North Atlantic, BA has pushed back plans to restart Bangkok until 10 January 2022 even though Thailand is reopening to visitors. Qantas confirmed last week it will restart scheduled flights from London Heathrow to Sydney via Darwin from 2 November 2021.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 11 October 2021.
Singapore Airlines Adds “Vaccinated Travel Lanes” Flight At Heathrow
Singapore Airlineshas added a dedicated “Vaccinated Travel Lanes” flight (SQ317) from London Heathrow with effect from Tuesday 19 October.
This means that fully vaccinated passengers, subject to pre-departure application & testing requirements, do not need to quarantine on arrival in Singapore.
They were first introduced in September for travel on designated flights from Brunei and Germany to Singapore.
On Saturday 9 October the Singapore government announced VTLs would be extended to the UK with effect from Tuesday 19 October. Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States were also added to the VTL programme.
The principal prerequisite is that vaccinated passengers must fly to Singapore on a designated VTL flight.
Passengers must still take a PCR test within 48 hours before departure to Singapore and another PCR test on arrival. No further PCR tests will be required in Singapore. Passengers must also have not visited a non-VTL country within 14 days of their flight to Singapore.
It is likely that BA will follow suit an introduce dedicated VTL flights. It should be added that BA does not have permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to accept passengers flying on from Singapore to third countries, except for those connecting onto JetStar.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 4 October 2021.
International Air Transport Association AGM
The International Air Transport Association (“IATA”) is holding its Annual General Meeting this week.
IATA, naturally keen to point to a return of in person meetings and the value of face to face communication, is holding the event in Boston in conjunction with the World Air Transport Summit.
JetBlue, pictured above at London Gatwick last week, is the host airline.
IATA has cautiously welcomed moves by Australia and the United States to reopen their borders to international travel. IATA is likely to press that this is not enough. Existing government measures such as mandatory quarantine should be time limited. They should not stay in place any longer than is necessary. Whilst some countries and airlines only accept fully vaccinated passengers, alternative measures should be introduced to allow non-vaccinated passengers to fly.
On the subject of mandatory quarantine, yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph splashed with a claim that the UK government could cut the red list to just 9 countries. The list is due to be updated this Thursday. Such claims have not come true in the past. Very often these are leaked by factions in government to try and bounce others into action.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 27 September 2021.
The Hub Without The Hubbub
So that’s it.
After decades of short haul operations at Gatwick and periodic reinventions to compete against low cost airlines, BA has finally pulled the plug.
Or has it?
There is a curious lack of detail on what BA and IAG have planned next for Gatwick. Last week the airline advised it will not pursue plans to set up a new subsidiary company to operate short haul flights after talks with the pilots union BALPA broke down. “Alternative uses” for the slots will be pursued.
Although short haul flights from Sunday 27 March 2022 at Gatwick are off sale, they are still loaded in online timetables. There’s also been no published guidance for the travel trade, nor any official updates to the stock exchange from IAG.
This was the first industrial relations test for Luis Gallego and Sean Doyle – both of whom have tried to emphasise a more emollient approach than their predecessors.
Anyone who has paid any attention to BA industrial relations over the years has come to expect a fair amount of sabre rattling and rough and tumble. The airline has also shown it can be very patient – even when this is tested to the limit – and will also sit out negative publicity to get what it wants. So it seems slightly odd the airline has appeared to have walked away from this so easily. BA and BALPA have certainly had much greater differences in the past.