Monday Briefing – 20 May 2019

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Thomas Cook aircraft
Thomas Cook aircraft

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 20 May 2019.

Thomas Cook

There was more bad news for Thomas Cook over the weekend after it announced its half-year results with a loss of nearly £1.5bn on Thursday.

The bulk of the loss was a goodwill writedown in respect of its acquisition of MyTravel in 2007. However, the loss prompted Citigroup to claim Thomas Cook’s shares are worthless.

Sky News reported on Saturday that one credit card acquirer company that works with Thomas Cook in the Nordic region is reported to be seeking to hold on to customer payments for longer.

Key for Thomas Cook is the sale of its group airline. Whilst this has attracted interest, given it is known that Thomas Cook must complete the sale, and quickly, in the cold hard world of commercial negotiations, it is going to face demanding terms from potential purchasers.

Qantas Flight 72

More than ten years have passed since Qantas flight 72 was involved in an incident en route from Singapore to Perth on 7 October 2008.

The A330-300 aircraft, carrying 303 passengers and 12 crew, experienced two uncontrolled nosedives following a computer failure. It made an emergency landing at Learmonth Airport in Exmouth, Western Australia. A large number of passengers and crew were injured, and some experienced life changing physical and psychological injuries.

The Captain of the aircraft, Kevin Sullivan, has written a book “No Man’s Land: The Untold Story Of Automation On QF72” which will be published in the UK by HarperCollins on 27 June 2019.

In advance of publication, Kevin Sullivan has given an interview the Sydney Morning Herald.

Virgin Australia contemplates frequent flyer programme sale

Staying in Australia, Virgin Australia issued a profit warning last week, citing weaking demand.

The airline which has a complex history and ownership structure, with multiple shareholders with competing interests (Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, HNA Group, Nanshan Group and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group), expected profits to be AUD$100m lower than last years profit of AUD$64.4m.

Its entire strategy is under review by its recently appointed CEO Paul Scurrah, which may explain the desire to get bad news out early, and some route network changes have already been made.

It is also contemplating a sale of a stake in its Velocity frequent flyer programme, of which it currently owns 65%. Like an airline selling off Heathrow slots, this is an easy means to raise cash in the short-term, but is of little benefit in the long term.

Heathrow “Britain’s Busiest Airport” Returns

Heathrow “Britain’s Busiest Airport” returns for a fifth series at 20:30 on ITV (UK) tomorrow.

Across no less than 12 twelve parts, it uses the all too common production devices of familiar recurring characters, this series covers the fall out of the Gatwick drone closures last Christmas.

Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 20 May 2019”

Monday Briefing – 13 May 2019

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

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

A picture of a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 outside Terminal 2 at Manchester airport.
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747, Manchester Airport (Image Credit: Manchester Airport)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 13 May 2019.

There’s Trouble Ahead

It’s been more than ten years since the aviation industry experienced a major crisis, which was of course the collapse of Lehman Brothers and its impact on the global financial system.

Since then, in Europe there’s been a clear delineation between the three major airline groups (Air France-KLM, IAG, Lufthansa), low cost carriers (easyJet, Ryanair) and smaller airlines, many of whom such as Air Berlin and Monarch, have gone out of business.

The larger airlines and groups have certainly had individual challenges to deal with, but they have been aided by buoyant demand and the absence of a single major economic or geopolitical shock.

There are signs of trouble ahead. Last week, International Airlines Group reported a fall in profits for the first quarter of 2019. Whilst IAG can claim to be the only big three European group to be profitable in the quarter, that profit came only from BA. Other IAG airlines such as Vueling reported very sharp falls in profit. Demand in mainland Europe appears to be softening and there is industry-wide over-capacity. There are also tensions in the Middle East and the prospect of a growing trade war between China and the US bubbling under.

Not even Emirates is immune from challenges. It reported a sharp fall in annual profits last year and yesterday Reuters reported yesterday that its Chief Commercial Officer has resigned from the airline.

On Saturday, The Times reported that easyJet is expected to unveil its worst half-year losses on Friday in the region of £275m. The Sunday Times also reports that Thomas Cook will report half year pre-tax losses of around £227m this Thursday.

Virgin Atlantic has expressed an interest in buying Thomas Cook’s long-haul UK airline business. It’s far from unusual for Virgin to make its interest known when an airline is up for a sale. However, Virgin is in expansion mode and buying part of the airline would give it a much stronger position in Manchester. The one big the risk factor is the age of Thomas Cook’s Airbus A330 fleet which is around 20 years’ old.

BA Fleet News

A few items of BA fleet news in the past week:

As reported last week, Boeing 787 Dreamliner issues are not going away for BA. There are blanket cancellations over the coming months to Abu Dhabi, Doha and Mumbai and many more tactical cancellations up to the end of August. Full details are here.

BA is now around two-thirds of its way through its Gatwick Boeing 777 refurbishment programme. A ninth aircraft is currently in Singapore for refurbishment. Full details of the routes on which refurbished aircraft are operating are here.

BA has taken delivery of its fifth Airbus A321 Neo aircraft at London Heathrow. There are two ten Airbus A320 Neo and five Airbus A210 Neo aircraft at London Heathrow.

In case you missed it:

Cathay Pacific unveils a refreshed brand identity with the strapline “Move Beyond”. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but as a historically conservative with a small c airline, Cathay is clearly trying to shout a little louder. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

The Airline Insolvency Review, established following the collapse of Monarch in 2017, proposes a Flight Protection Fund, financed by a fee of up to 50p on passenger tickets issued in the UK, to pay for the repatriation of UK passengers when airlines fail. This has drawn short shrift from airlines. (Gov.UK)

Finnair, which has previously expressed a desire to play a part in European consolidation, foresees remaining an independent airline. (Financial Times)

A Boeing 787 pilot and train driver swap simulators and compare notes. (Virgin Atlantic)

Monocle magazine, through the prism of its editorial worldview, selects its annual Travel Top 50. (Monocle)

Late post publication updates:

Qantas launches “Points Plane” – – a one-off flight from Melbourne to Tokyo in October which will be available solely to frequent flyers redeeming frequent flyer miles. (Qantas)

Air France plans to cut domestic short-haul capacity by 15% by 2021 and will cut 500 jobs through voluntary redundancy. (Financial Times)

WestJet has announced it is to be acquired by private equity firm Onex Corporation. (WestJet)

Our Monday Briefing is published every Monday at 06:00 BST. If you have any comments, suggestions or tips then please drop us a line at mail [@]

Monday Briefing – 6 May 2019

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Eurowings Halloween Barb (Image Credit: Eurowings)
Eurowings Halloween Barb (Image Credit: Eurowings)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 6 May 2019.

18 months or so when Ryanair was on the receiving end of another periodic bout of public opprobrium, Eurowings posted the image above on social media as its Hallowee’n fancy dress outfit.

Ryanair is having the last laugh. In publishing its quarterly results last week, Lufthansa Group revealed an overall loss of €342m. Of its airlines, only SWISS was profitable and there were widening losses of €256m and €99m respectively at Eurowings and Austrian Airlines.

Eurowings has a complex history and operation with multiple air operating certificates. It has grown to become one of Europe’s biggest low cost airlines largely from the transfer to it of Lufthansa short-haul routes outside of Frankfurt and Munich (including routes to many cities in Germany at Heathrow), low cost long-haul flights initially from Cologne in 2015, and the acquisition of aircraft from Air Berlin in 2018.

Austrian Airlines is also feeling significant competitive pressure from the rapid expansion of Laudamotion, LEVEL and Wizz Air in Vienna.

To address this Lufthansa is focusing on improving productivity at Eurowings. It will also launch long-haul flights at Frankfurt later this year. Austrian Airlines is also to reshape its network and simplify its fleet, with a greater focus on Vienna.

There was a similarly downbeat outlook from Air France-KLM which reported a widening loss of €320m for the first quarter. International Airlines Group will report its quarterly results this coming Friday.

Heathrow Third Runway Judicial Review

As has been widely reported, the Mayor Of London, a number of London Borough Councils and Heathrow Hub Ltd have lost judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the Secretary of State For Transport concerning the decision to allow a third runway at Heathrow.

A judicial review concerns not so much the merits of the third runway at Heathrow but rather whether the Government acted lawfully in reaching its decision. It is a difficult test to meet and these cases are not easily won.

There are two judgments handed down by the High Court. One judgment is in the case brought by the Mayor Of London and London Borough Councils. A second judgment in the case brought by Heathrow Hub Ltd.

Few will probably be inclined to even begin reading either of the judgments, but a cursory scan of the cast of thousands involved, and their sheer length, illustrates just how complex airport policy and planning issues are.

Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 Engines Update

Airlines are continuing to suffer from the impact of the grounding of Boeing 787s and additional maintenance to Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. At present, around 35 aircraft are grounded worldwide.

Rolls-Royce provided an update to investors last week, confirming that it has now settled compensation claims with airlines. Rolls-Royce has previously advised that the cash cost of disruption, which includes compensation, is £1.5bn. Rolls-Royce also expects the number of grounded aircraft to be in the single digit range by the end of 2019. Should this not be the case, IAG has made it clear this will have a significant impact on its long-term relationship with Rolls-Royce.

We continue to implement the fixes to improve the health of the Trent 1000 fleet. Retrofits of the new design of the Intermediate Pressure Compressor (IPC) blade for the Package C variant are underway. Additionally, inspections of Trent 1000 TEN High Pressure Turbine Blades (HPTBs) are progressing and work continues on testing a redesigned HPTB for the Trent 1000 TEN ready for introduction into the fleet in early 2020. Based on our current understanding of the situation and fleet management plan, our guidance for in-service cash costs on the Trent 1000 in 2019 and 2020, as published with our 2018 Full Year Results on 28 February, remains unchanged.

In case you missed it:

BA has unveiled its new Club lounge at New York JFK. BA’s press photographer is flying to New York today to photograph the lounge so more photos should be available shortly. (London Air Travel)

BA introduces new M&S Buy On Board short-haul menus. (London Air Travel)

BA adds third party lounge access at more airports on its short-haul network. (London Air Travel)

BA launches worldwide flights and holidays sale. (London Air Travel)

Aer Lingus, four years later than planned, is to introduce its new “AerSpace” premium seating on select short-haul routes. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

A snippet on the BA vs Financial Times battle: This article by The Guardian’s media editor Jim Waterson suggests that the decision to remove the FT from BA aircraft and lounges actually came from Willie Walsh at IAG. BA’s parent company does not usually get involved in the minutiae of BA’s service offerings. (The Guardian)

A “blueprint” for direct high speed rail services from London to Bordeaux is presented to the Mayor of Bordeaux. (Railway Gazette)

The Connect Airways consortium is seeking to recover funds in the tens of millions withheld from Flybe by credit card processing companies. (Financial Times)

Monocle 24 continues its review of the “golden era” of civil aviation with a look at Braniff’s uniforms designed by Emilio Pucci and its advertising campaign “The End of the Plain Plane”. This edition also features interviews with former cabin crew from the 1960s from airlines such as Continental. (Monocle)

Qantas has appointed Tino La Spina, currently Qantas Group CFO, as CEO of Qantas International following the sudden departure of Alison Webster. The prospect of a management reshuffle has prompted speculation whether Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder is preparing to replace Alan Joyce as CEO. According to commentary in the Australian press, Alan Joyce is likely to stay on for another three years, most likely to see out Qantas’ centenary next year and the launch of non-stop flights from London to Melbourne and Sydney. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Virgin Atlantic marks the thirtieth anniversary of its in-house engineering team. (Virgin Atlantic)

Our Monday Briefing is published every Monday at 06:00 BST. If you have any comments, suggestions or tips then please drop us a line at mail [@]

Monday Briefing – 29 April 2019

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

easyJet - Inside The Cockpit
easyJet – Inside The Cockpit (Image Credit: ITV)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 29 April 2019.

Norwegian’s Credit Crunch?

Last week was not a good week for airlines in Northern Europe.

Danish, Norwegian and Swedish unions representing pilots at SAS have been on strike since Friday. Whilst some London flights are still operating, there have been cancellations to some flights on all routes from London Heathrow to Copenhagen, Oslo, Stavanger, and Stockholm. Disruption is expected to continue today and tomorrow.

Finnair reported an operating loss of €16.2m for the first quarter, compared to a profit of €14.8m for the previous year. Finnair has cited higher fuel prices and over-capacity in Europe (as Lufthansa has done) as well as relatively slow growth in China compared to its other main long-haul markets in Japan and North America.

However, this all pales into insignificance compared to Norwegian which reported a pre-tax loss of nearly NKr2bn (~£178m).

One figure that stands out on its balance sheet is sharp increase in receivables year on year from NKr7,677m to NKr10,703m. This suggests that credit card companies are holding back some funds as security. Such similar moves caused significant problems for Flybe, before it was acquired by the Connect Airways consortium.

Norwegian has reiterated that it is looking to moderate growth by deferring aircraft deliveries and is now focused on cost control. Whilst deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A321 Long Range aircraft have been deferred this year, it has yet to present a firm revised plan for the coming years.

“easyJet: Inside The Cockpit” Returns

In recent years, organisations have become extremely guarded about giving access to TV production crews.

Many, such as The Royal Opera House, learned to their cost the risks of allowing TV camera crews to roam free in their corridors. Access is now tightly controlled and scenes are largely stage managed for the cameras. TV production companies, also facing ever tighter budgets and production deadlines, have little choice but to oblige. This has been very evident in recent TV series featuring BA and Virgin.

One exception has been “easyJet: Inside The Cockpit”. This uses a style of filming known as “fixed rig”, also used in series such as “Educating Yorkshire” and “One Born Every Minute” on Channel 4. Cameras are fixed into place and no production crews are present when filming. This is not without risk – the last series did result in complaints to the UK communications regulator OFCOM over some comments by flight crew.

“easyJet: Inside The Cockpit” returns for a second three part series this coming Thursday 2 May, on ITV (UK). The first episode features easyJet flight crew dealing with ill passengers, aborted landings in Innsbruck, and easyJet’s inaugural flight to Aqaba in Jordan. 

Qantas looks back at the “Fiesta Route”

In a few months’ time we should learn whether Qantas will order long-range aircraft capable of flying from London to Melbourne and Sydney non-stop.

The first flights from London to Australia can be traced back to the 1930s when Imperial Airways operated joint-services between London and Australia. It involved multiple stops in Europe, the Middle East and Asia before reaching Australia. After the resumption of commercial aviation following the Second World War, BOAC and Qantas operated joint-services between London and Australia, on what became known as the “Kangaroo Route”.

When BOAC and Qantas took delivery of the Boeing 707 aircraft, they both operated transpacific services between London and Australia. BOAC flew from London to Australia via New York, San Francisco, Hawaii and Fiji as per this film from British Pathe. The inaugural flight was in 1967.

Qantas, however, took a slightly more exotic routing known as the “Fiesta Route” via Bermuda, The Bahamas, Mexico City, Acapulco, Tahiti and Fiji. The inaugural flight took place in 1964, but the route was to only last a decade as the more efficient and longer range Boeing 747 came into service. Qantas looks back at the route.

In case you missed it:

Air Canada extends London Heathrow – Halifax / St John’s Boeing 737 MAX cancellations to 31 July 2019. (London Air Travel)

BA continues to cancel its London Heathrow – Doha service in May 2019, with passengers rebooked on to Qatar Airways. (London Air Travel)

BA’s plan for new aircraft deliveries. (London Air Travel)

BA suspends London Gatwick – Fort Lauderdale. (London Air Travel)

BA completes the refurbishment of its Club lounge at New York JFK. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

Air New Zealand is voted Australia’s most respected company. Ouch Qantas & Virgin Australia. (NZ Herald)

Crossrail has updated on its plans to launch the Elizabeth Line, with the first central section not expected to open until late 2020 at the earliest. However, the new Crossrail station at Bond Street will be delayed further. (Crossrail)

The mini-tribes of frequent flyers. (Financial Times)

Obituary: Patricia St-Leon, former Qantas cabin crew. (Sydney Morning Herald)

From the archives of the Sydney Morning Herald, the first Australian air mail flight to London. (Sydney Morning Herald)

SWISS on its training of on board Sommeliers. (SWISS)

Virgin Atlantic’s London Marathon runners. (Virgin Atlantic)

Late post publication updates:

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

BA has published images of its new Club lounge at New York JFK. (London Air Travel)

BA plans to change the pricing of Avios reward flights on partner airlines from 30 May 2019. (BA)

Our Monday Briefing  is published every Monday at 06:00 BST. If you have any comments, suggestions or tips then please drop us a line at mail [@]

Monday Briefing – 22 April 2019

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

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 22 April 2019.

Sri Lanka

Following yesterday’s events in Sri Lanka, additional security measures have been put in place at Bandaranaike International Airport.

The airport has advised passengers to arrive four hours before scheduled departure. Sri Lankan Airlines is also providing additional assistance to its customers at its ticket offices and call centres.

Should a curfew imposed yesterday be extended further passengers will still be able to travel to the airport by presenting their passports and tickets to security officers.

A number airlines that serve Sri Lanka, including Cathay Pacific and Emirates have implemented flexible rebooking policies for all passengers.

Norwegian Financial Results

Norwegian publishes its first quarter financial results this coming Thursday 25 April.

These will be keenly awaited to see how Norwegian has survived what is traditionally the toughest quarter and whether measures such as switching some routes to seasonal have been effective.

Norwegian has already advised that it has reached an agreement with Airbus to defer planned deliveries of Airbus A320neo and Airbus A321 long range aircraft. This will reduce capital expenditure by $570m over the next two years.

BA Adds Mumbai Flights

Following the collapse of Jet Airways which, despite being claimed to be a temporary suspension, is unlikely to ever return to the skies, BA has scheduled additional flights between London Heathrow and Mumbai.

BA will add four weekly flights from Sunday 2 June 2019, which will take its flights from Heathrow to Mumbai up to three times daily. BA135 departs Heathrow at 17:50 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. BA134 departs Mumbai at 12:10 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

As part of tactical cancellations announced in March BA139 from Heathrow to Mumbai is cancelled from Friday 14 June to Sunday 30 June 2019. BA138 from Mumbai to Heathrow is cancelled from Saturday 15 June to Monday 1 July 2019.

Monocle on the “Golden Era” of aviation

Monocle continues its audio series on the “golden era” of aviation.

The third episode looks at the former TWA flight centre at New York JFK (soon to be subject of a documentary by filmmaker Peter Rosen), the archives of Cathay Pacific and former Australian airline Ansett. On a related note, The Urbanist looks at the city centre airport.

Also of note this week:

Why failure is the rocket fuel of aviation. (Financial Times)

Canary Wharf is working on a proposal to extend the Docklands Light Railway from Bank to Euston (Ian Visits)

Lufthansa reports a sharp fall in its preliminary first quarter results from a profit of €52m to a loss of €336m, citing fuel prices and over-capacity in Europe. (Lufthansa)

Qantas announces a new winter seasonal route from Sydney to Sapporo from 16 December 2019 to 28 March 2020. (Qantas)

Thomas Cook is reported to be in discussions about the sale of parts, or all, of its business. Any acquisition of its airline would be subject to EU ownership rules. (Sky News)

Our Monday Briefing  is published every Monday at 06:00 BST. If you have any comments, suggestions or tips then please drop us a line at mail [@]

Monday Briefing – 15 April 2019

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft
Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (Image Credit: Jet Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 15 April 2019.

Jet Airways

There is a book to be written about Etihad’s string of disastrous minority investments in airlines.

In near repeat of Swissair’s Qualiflyer alliance, almost every one has been an unmitigated failure: Air Berlin; Alitalia. And of course Jet Airways. It’s not as if there were no warning signs. Alitalia had been through numerous recapitalisations. Many European airlines that could have bought Air Berlin outright had declined to do so.

Jet Airways has long been insolvent and by any standard should have ceased trading some time ago, let alone continue to take forward bookings which after a brief pause over the weekend it is now continuing to do. Over the weekend, hundreds of Jet Airways employees have protested outside New Delhi and Mumbai airports against unpaid salaries – a reminder of the significant human cost of the airline’s troubles.

The one sensible thing Etihad did was take ownership Alitalia and Jet Airways’ Heathrow slots. Jet Airways’ three daily Heathrow slot pairs are to be returned to Etihad and its intentions should become clear in the next couple of weeks.

Virgin Atlantic wants to be loved

Virgin Atlantic launched its latest Upper Class cabin with typical fanfare last week.

There was less positive news when the airline revealed another financial loss. Worse still, the airline does not expect to return to profitability until 2021.

Virgin Atlantic’s ambition is now to be “the world’s most loved travel company”. It has a new three year business plan “Velocity” which runs until 2021. Green joins purple and red in its colour scheme to signify its commitment to sustainability. Virgin is also promising much greater integration between Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays.

As well as taking delivery of four Airbus A350-1000 aircraft this year, it will reduce the number of Airbus A340 aircraft from 7 to 3 this year. The remaining 3 have been taken under the airline’s ownership.

The Connect Airways consortium expects to secure regulatory approval for its purchase of Flybe in the third quarter of this year. It is at this point the consortium can exercise financial and operational control over Flybe. In the interim, the consortium has provided Flybe with £135m of funding to maintain the airline’s operations.

In case you missed it:

JetBlue publicly states its ambition to fly from London from 2021. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

Qantas’ CEO of Qantas International Alison Webster abruptly departs the airline. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Qantas looks at the work of its in-house meteorologists. (Qantas)

UK domestic flights fall 20% in a decade. (Financial Times)

Monday Briefing – 8 April 2019

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

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 aircraft
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 aircraft (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 8 April 2019.

Virgin Atlantic unveils new Upper Class Cabin today

Virgin Atlantic unveils its new Upper Class cabin today. The new seat will make its debut on the Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss has given a preview of the new cabin in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

The new cabin will feature all forward facing seats. The signature Upper Class bar will be replaced by an 8 seat lounge area, something Upper Class used to have in its early days.

From the supporting image the colour scheme looks very different, with a maroon seat coverings and fabrics. The use of a colour associated with control and being thoughtful, perhaps, reflects another step by Virgin to break from its “look at me” past.

Virgin is due to take delivery of 4 A350-1000 aircraft this year, with a further 8 aircraft to be delivered by 2021. These will operate at both Heathrow and Gatwick, with separate configurations for both airports.

Shai Weiss also indicates that Virgin is looking at further expansion, having already announced Sao Paulo and Tel Aviv. A return to Mumbai and Tokyo is under consideration, as is the launch of Beijing.

On a less positive note, Virgin is expected to report a financial loss for 2018. There will inevitably be comparisons between BA Club World and Virgin’s new Upper Class but, as Shai Weiss indicates, the real battle will be for corporate customers and frequent flyers through its expanded partnership with Air France-KLM. Given the stark difference in financial performance between BA and Virgin, this seems critical to turning around its fortunes.

Trouble at Jet Airways

Jet Airways has for many months been seeking new financing as it grapples with heavy losses and an indebted balance sheet.

It has defaulted on loan payments. Many creditors, as well as its pilots, have not been paid. This has resulted in many cancellations to domestic flights as aircraft have been grounded. Potential investors in the airline have been invited to make submissions of interest by tomorrow.

Whilst London Heathrow flights to Delhi and Mumbai have continued to operate as scheduled, it appears that these are now operating without any in-flight entertainment. This is presumably because licensors of content have not been paid.

The rules of airline PR (Part 1)

One of the many rules of airline PR is that airlines should only announce something, whether a new seat or route, when it is actually ready.

Partly this is out of expectations management, which is what any service provision is fundamentally about.

This is also so you don’t give your competitors too much advance notice. JetBlue’s planned launch of transatlantic flights to Europe which, if not announced on Wednesday will be the biggest damp squib in history, has been trailed for so long, Delta has already got a head start with planned flights from Gatwick to Boston and New York JFK next year.

The rules of airline PR (Part 2)

Another rule of airline PR is that when you mess up, you need to just say so and apologise.

Flybe produced a shopping list of excuses following a number of short notice cancellations last week. It has also confirmed that it will no longer base aircraft and crews at Cardiff and Doncaster from 1 October 2019. If the last weeks of BA Connect before it was absorbed into Flybe were anything to go by, matters may get worse before they get better. It is also likely to be some time before Virgin, which will be acutely aware of the early days of Virgin Trains, puts its brand name on Flybe aircraft.

New Istanbul Airport Opens

Istanbul’s new international airport has opened this weekend.

Turkish Airlines has successfully transferred its flights to the new airport, as has BA. The new international airport has acquired the code IST from Ataturk airport which will no longer be used for scheduled passenger traffic.

In case you missed it:

BA’s Geneva lounge is to close for refurbishment on Tuesday 28 May 2019. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

Air Traffic Control delays in Europe are expected to get worse this summer. (Financial Times)

Monocle 24 continues its radio series on the “golden age” of aviation with a visit to the Museum of Flight and Teague Seattle. (Monocle 24)

Late Post Publication Updates:

After falling out of the Top 20 last year, BA makes a return to the Top 10 in the UK’s “Superbrands” survey for 2019 as the No 5 Consumer Superbrand and No 4 Business Superbrand. (Superbrands)

Monday Briefing – 1 April 2019

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

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

Nigel Havers & Sally Lindsay with British Airways cabin crew
Nigel Havers & Sally Lindsay with British Airways cabin crew (Image Credit: Channel 5)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 1 April 2019, mercifully free of April Fools stunts.

A “Disruptor” Falls

Last week, WOW air joined eos, FlyGlobespan, Laker Airways, MaxJet, Primera Air, Silverjet and Zoom on the roll call of defunct transatlantic airlines.

WOW air was founded by a technology entrepreneur. Very often when a legacy carrier is being publicly harangued for a customer service failing, the air travel market is cited as being ripe for “disruption”. If only someone could do to air travel what Uber did to the taxi industry. The answer is that the two could not be more different. Uber is a capital light company that has relied on circumventing local laws. Air travel is, for good reasons, the exact opposite.

Aside from the merits of its business model, one significant cause of WOW air’s downfall was pursuing too much growth too quickly. The basic rules remain the same: pursue steady, disciplined growth, and only when it adds to profitability.

WOW air’s failure is unlikely to deter many more new entrants to the transatlantic market. Indeed, next week JetBlue is expected to announce the launch of transatlantic flights to Europe.

“First Class vs Economy”

Nigel Havers and Sally Lindsay compare First Class and economy on British Airways on Channel 5 (UK), at 21:15 Tuesday 2 April 2019.

They travel from London Heathrow to Washington Dulles in economy and First Class as both passengers and cabin crew. For the latter they undergo training at BA’s Global Learning Academy.

The programme is an extension of an “Upstairs Downstairs” format from last year where the two actors explored luxury hotels acting as both staff and guests.

On a related note, a production crew from Title Role productions who made “British Airways 100 Years In The Sky” for Channel 5 last year have been doing more filming for BA in recent weeks at a number of locations around the world, including Toulouse for the launch of the Airbus A350. A production crew is currently filming in Japan for the launch of BA’s inaugural flight to Osaka yesterday.

Asia Pacific Update

There’s been a lot happening in the Asia Pacific market over the past week or so:

Asiana Airlines’ co-CEO Park Sam-koo has resigned from the airline after it had to restate its financial results for 2018 as its auditors could not sign off its accounts. (Reuters)

Cathay Pacific has acquired Hong Kong Express from the heavily indebted conglomerate HNA Group which will remain as a standalone airline. It operates a fleet of Airbus A320 series aircraft to destinations around Asia. HNA Group continues to hold interests in other airlines such as Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines and Tianjin Airlines, who all serve London Heathrow. (Cathay Pacific)

Jet Airways has announced a financial restructuring which sees lenders exchange their debts for a majority stake in the airline. Its founder Naresh Goyal will also leave. Jet Airways has been forced to cancel flights as aircraft have been grounded. Pilots have also not been paid their salaries for some months. Jet Airways says it intends to repay outstanding salaries to pilots and return its schedules to normal. As part of changes to its network it has cut London Heathrow – Mumbai from three times to twice daily.

Paul Scurrah has taken up the position of CEO and Managing Director of Virgin Australia. Paul was appointed to the role last month and was previously CEO of DP World Australia. He replaces John Borghetti.

In case you missed it:

The evolution of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (London Air Travel)

Flybe launches London Heathrow – Isle Of Man (London Air Travel)

Late Post Publication Updates:

[Reserved for updates throughout the day.]

Monday Briefing – 25 March 2019

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing

British Airways Club World Suite
British Airways Club World Suite (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 25 March 2019.

Reflections On BA’s New Club Suite

A week has now passed since BA officially announced its much anticipated “Club Suite”. It has generated a huge amount of coverage, both online and in the “mainstream media”.

It will still be some months until anyone is able to fly on it – and you can only really assess an airline seat when spending several hours in it at 38,000 feet.  Reflecting on the announcement, a few thoughts spring to mind.

BA First Class still has a future

The announcement of current generation of long-haul business class seats has often coincided with a significant reduction in First Class, or its elimination altogether.  

United has eliminated international First Class with its Polaris business class.  Qantas does not operate First Class on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.  

Although First Class will not be installed in the first deliveries of the Airbus A350-1000, it will on future deliveries.  It should also feature on the Boeing 787-10 and Boeing 777-9 aircraft.   First Class will still operate on a very large number of routes, albeit with a smaller 8 seat cabin.  This is not necessarily a bad thing if a smaller First Class capacity allows for new ground services not previously feasible at Heathrow.

Why is the roll-out taking so long?

BA has previously said that it will take until 2023 to fit the new Club Suite to all aircraft in the scope of the programme.

The answer why is United Polaris.  A little over two years ago it ran a huge PR campaign for its Polaris business class.   It is now only a third of the way of retrofitting the seat to Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft due to delays in the delivery of seats from the manufacturer.   BA is obviously managing expectations, and the roll-out may be accelerated if manufacturing capacity becomes available.

This is also not necessarily a bad thing.  With the best will in the world there will always be issues not anticipated before passengers and crew have to work with the seats.  When the current Club World seat was introduced in 2006, the seat had to be modified because passengers complained of a “bounce” effect when their neighbours sat down.

Expectations need to be managed for the first flights

There has understandably been huge interest in the first A350 flights to Dubai and Toronto in October.  

One note of caution:  It is not only a new cabin but an entirely new type of aircraft for the crew.  As is common when new aircraft are introduced it does take time for the crew to get familiar the layout of galleys.   The service may be a little slow to start with.  Whilst this will be more than compensated by for by the new seat, this something to bear in mind, particularly on overnight flights.

All eyes are now on Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic is expected to announce its new Upper Class cabin for the Airbus A350 in a little over two weeks.   

One difference between BA Club World and Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is that the latter is Virgin’s top tier product.   It has always featured prominently in advertising and has acted as a “brand halo” for the airline.   With a relatively smaller route network and fewer frequencies, Virgin has always pushed hard distinctive features such as its Upper Class bar to compensate.  Its announcement is awaited with great interest.

WOW air

Today was the day we were to learn of the fate of WOW air.

Last year, Icelandair announced it was to buy WOW air in all share transaction which valued WOW air at around $18m. However, this was abandoned.

WOW air announced last November that it had reached an agreement in principle for an investment from private equity firm Indigo Partners LLC. However, it announced on Thursday 21 March that Indigo Partners had withdrawn its interest. Talks with Icelandair resumed on Thursday with a deadline of today. However, WOW air issued a statement on Sunday afternoon that these had been cancelled. It is now in discussions with bondholders and creditors on a possible restructuring, which could include a debt for equity swap.

Monocle 24 On “The Golden Age Of Aviation”

Talk of a “golden age” of aviation should always be treated with caution.

Passengers have more choices of cabins and routes on more comfortable aircraft than ever before.

Monocle 24 has started a new series on The Golden Age Of Aviation, which it deems from the 1950s to 1970s. It was certainly a period of significant progress with the advent of the jet age. The first episode covers the branding and marketing of Pan American World Airways and the experience of pilots at Hong Kong’s former Kai Tak airport.

In case you missed it:

What’s else is happening with Club World? (London Air Travel)

BA returns to Dammam. (London Air Travel)

BA launches London Gatwick – Milan Bergamo (London Air Travel)

Virgin Atlantic launches London Heathrow – Sao Paulo (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

BA staff raise security concerns about its call centre in Germany. (Financial Times)

How does aircraft landing gear work? (Virgin Atlantic)

Monday Briefing – 18 March 2019

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

British Airways Club World logos from the late 1970s
British Airways Club World logos from the late 1970s

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 18 March 2019.

Stand By For BA’s New Club World Seat

As has been widely trailed on social media over the weekend, BA will be officially unveiling its new Club World seat at around 10:00 GMT this morning.

Much is known already. It’s an entirely new seat and cabin layout with direct aisle access for all passengers. Unlike the existing Club World seat it is not an entirely bespoke design for the airline.

There will be gate to gate in-flight entertainment for the first time. Privacy and personal storage will also be significantly improved.

There is also an important element of expectations management. It is going to take some time for new aircraft to arrive with the new seat. The first 4 of 18 Airbus A350-1000 aircraft will arrive this year. Next year, BA will begin to take delivery of 12 Boeing 787-10 aircraft and 18 Boeing 777-9 aircraft from 2022. It will also take time to retrofit to the existing fleet and many aircraft will not be retrofitted.

The importance of Club World to BA cannot be overstated. It is not dubbed the “profit engine” for no reason. History has shown that the financial performance of the airline is inextricably linked to volumes of Club World traffic.

It’s also worth remembering how very reluctant BA has been to give up the existing 2-(3/4)-2 layout. Up until a couple of years ago IAG was adamant that whilst the seat would be updated for the Airbus A350 it would maintain the existing cabin layout because of its space efficiency. Market forces have dictated otherwise.

Here’s our history of Club World from its humble origins as a curtained off section of economy in the 1970s, to Super Club, and Club World.

Virgin Atlantic is also expected to reveal its new Upper Class cabin for its Airbus A350-1000 in the next few weeks.

Boeing 787 Woes Continue For BA

There are signs that the Trent 1000 engine Boeing 787 Dreamliner issues are not going away at BA.

It will continue to wet lease an Air Belgium A340 aircraft throughout the summer on selected London Heathrow – Toronto flights. BA has also instituted blanket cancellations on Mumbai and New Delhi.

Continue reading “Monday Briefing – 18 March 2019”