London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 8 March 2021

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

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Flybe De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 Aircraft, London City Airport
Flybe De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 Aircraft, London City Airport (Image Credit: London City Airport)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 8 March 2021.

From today anyone travelling from England to a destination outside the UK must complete a declaration form to demonstrate they are travelling for a “legally permitted reason”. Full guidance is available from the UK government.

If you are departing from the one of the very few flights at London Gatwick’s North Terminal you will also need to pay a minimum £5 drop off charge if arriving by car. This will apply to the South Terminal from 12 April, assuming it is open to passenger flights by then.

Doubts About Flybe’s Return

It may seem like a lifetime ago, but it is just over one year ago since Flybe collapsed.

“Thyme Opco” was established in September of last year as a vehicle to acquire the assets of Flybe and is reported to be working on plans to relaunch the airline. One director, Lucien Farrell of Cyrus Capital, a member of the consortium that previously owned the airline, resigned as a Director of the company last week.

Press reports have suggested the value of Flybe’s assets rests in the 12 Heathrow bmi remedy slot pairs it had at the time of entering into administration. These were taken back by IAG last year and have been advertised by Mazars to potential new entrants. The administrators of Flybe have advised in their official reports they are to challenge IAG’s appropriation of the slots in court.

“Heathrow – Britain’s Busiest Airport” Returns

Heathrow – Britain’s Busiest Airport” – not that is much of an accolade at the moment – returns to ITV at 20:00 Wednesday 10 March.

The latest series does cover the operation of Heathrow during lockdown. Next week’s episode features the final departure of the Boeing 747 from the airport.

Readers in the UK can catch up with the series on the ITV Hub.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 1 March 2021

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

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Heathrow Terminal 5C (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 1 March 2021.

Future Uncertain

The news media is not known for the quality of its reporting on statistics.

This was perfectly illustrated last week when many outlets breathlessly reported “600%” increases of flight and holiday bookings after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined plans to lift England out of lockdown. 600% of next to nothing is not a lot.

Qantas, which has been able to operate a domestic network of varying forms throughout COVID-19, illustrated last week how much network and schedule planning for airlines has changed.

The traditional winter and summer seasons are out of the window. As is the 353 day selling window for flights. Demand, which airlines have spent decades honing algorithms to forecast, will remain volatile. Announcements on border changes can result in immediate spikes in demand or mass cancellations.

Airlines will have to “war game” possible route and network planing decisions and implement capacity changes within a matter of hours of border restrictions changing.

Qantas Investor Presentation February 2021
Qantas Investor Presentation February 2021 (Image Credit: Qantas)

Whilst BA was keen to talk up the prospects of demand returning when restrictions are lifted with the scope for capacity to reach up to 70% of 2019 this summer, its parent company did not give much away in its annual results last week.

Apart from confirming that 5 short haul and 10 long haul aircraft will be delivered to the group this year, that was pretty much it in terms of firm plans. Lufthansa will follow Air France KLM and IAG in announcing its annual results this Thursday.

 

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 22 February 2021

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

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International Airlines Group Tailfins
International Airlines Group Tailfins

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 22 February 2021.

IAG’s Annual Results

12 months ago former IAG CEO Willie Walsh confidently asserted “To be honest we’ve gone through all of this before. We’ve all seen it before.” “We know what to do in a time like this. We know how to respond.”

Six months later, the group embarked on a €2.7 billion rights issue and the immediate retirement of Airbus A340 and Boeing 747 aircraft. A plan to be cash flow neutral by the end of last year is now a distant memory.

On Friday it will fall to Luis Gallego to announce a walloping annual loss and the group’s plans to recover from COVID-19.

Investors are likely to focus on debt and cash flow and whether IAG’s airlines will need further state support.

Other points to watch out for include changes to new aircraft delivery plans and how IAG plans to rationalise its brands in Spain after the acquisition of Air Europa.

Update: IAG has confirmed this morning that BA has agreed terms of a £2 billion loan partially guaranteed by UK Export Finance. This will be drawn down before the end of this month. BA has also agreed with the trustees of the New Airways Pension Scheme to defer £450 million of pension deficit contributions.

Restarting Aviation

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson today announces widely trailed plans to progressively move the UK out of lockdown, The Sunday Times speaks to cabin crew, management and pilots of Tui and Virgin Atlantic on the complexities of restarting aviation.

On a similar theme, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss has penned an editorial for The Telegraph calling on Boris Johnson to set out a timetable for the restart of aviation.

Shai Weiss cites the fact that airlines need two to three months notice to stand up pilots and cabin crew, reappoint ground handling agents at airports and prepare aircraft for return to service.

LBC Correspondent Ben Kentish reported yesterday that former Prime Minister Tony Blair is leading lobbying efforts on behalf of airlines for the UK government to introduce vaccine passports.

V&A Online Collections

Whilst the doors of the Victoria & Albert Museum remain closed to the public, it has introduced a new online catalogue of its collections.

This is currently in beta format but there’s plenty of aviation material to see including:

The original “Speedbird” logo by Theyre Lee-Elliott.

Imperial Airways “Move With The Times” Poster from 1926.

“As The Crow Flies. Only Faster!” poster for the original British Airways, circa 1937.

“It’s time you flew KLM” poster from 1948.

American Airlines Boeing 747 poster produced in 1969.

“Veni. Vidi. Venice. Come to Gatwick. See Venice” poster for British Airways 1985.

“Virgin Atlantic To And From Los Angeles” poster circa 1990.

Continue reading “London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 22 February 2021”

London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 15 February 2020

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

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Novotel London Heathrow Airport
Novotel London Heathrow Airport (Image Credit: Accor Hotels)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 15 February 2021.

Mandatory Hotel Quarantine Comes Into Force

12 months and many missteps into the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government likes to think it has learned the art of expectations management.

That didn’t stop it briefing compliant Westminster lobby journalists last week its plans for lifting lockdown measures. Schools in England are expected to reopen in early March when rules on socialising outdoors will also be relaxed. Pubs and restaurants may be able to serve outdoors from the end of March. Some outdoor sports will be allowed in April.

Whilst this is officially described as speculation it has not stopped further enthusiastic claims on many of today’s newspaper front pages.

One relaxation was conspicuous in its absence: international travel restrictions. Yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph featured a letter from BA CEO to Sean Doyle to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for an end to the “mixed messaging” and an end to the uncertainty over travel restrictions:

“Caution right now is correct. But with the success of your vaccination programme, the steady reduction in serious cases and good news around the effectiveness of the vaccines on variants, we should be confident to prepare for summer travel.”

“We know that so many people are longing to travel from the sheer fact that bookings jump every time restrictions have been lifted.”

“We urgently need the Government to create agreements with other countries, as we’ve seen Israel and Greece do this week, so that UK citizens can travel.”

“With our experience of operating around the world and the UK’s national technology capability, we should be leading the way and setting the international standards.”

“As you lead the country out of the crisis, so many different sectors of our economy that rely on aviation will also be looking for an indication that they can fly again.”

“If you cannot include aviation in your roadmap, then the industry urgently needs your commitment to a package of support which extends past April, to ensure it is able to survive this most difficult period.”

A projected date for the lifting of international travel restrictions would at least allow airlines to target marketing activity and generate cash flow from forward bookings. In all likelihood, this has fallen on deaf ears. The chances of restrictions being lifted before the autumn is very remote.

Those scientists who advocate a “zero COVID” approach to handling the pandemic argue that international travel restrictions are a price worth paying for reopening all of the domestic economy with adequate test and trace measures in place.

The mandatory hotel quarantine for passengers arriving from “red list” countries was introduced at 04:00 this morning. One of the hotels is the Novotel Heathrow which, according to its website booking engine, is closed for public bookings until April 2021.

According to reports on Channel 4 News and in today’s Telegraph Heathrow airport still has concerns that the UK is not sufficiently prepared, specifically when it comes to adequate border staffing and securely transporting passengers to designated hotels.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 8 February 2021

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

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Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5
Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Accor Hotels)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 8 February 2021.

UK Prepares For Mandatory Quarantine

Next week the UK government is to introduce a mandatory ten day quarantine regime for all passengers arriving from 30 “red list” countries.

The government is reported to be seeking 1,425 hotel rooms per night in what are dubbed “Managed Quarantine Facilities”, with up to a maximum of 28,000 rooms.

Specifications were only issued to hotel groups last Thursday evening. Details of how passengers can book into the quarantine facilities at their own expense are expected this week.

The quarantine regime is expected to last until 31 March 2021 at the earliest. As to what happens next, nobody knows.

There is widespread divergence amongst airlines, governments and industry bodies on how to securely reopen borders and international travel. easyJet CEO John Lundgren was dismissive of the concept of vaccine passports, at least for short haul travel, in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

The New York Times has a good analysis of the problems involved in developing vaccine passports. The most obvious answer is some form of digital vaccination certificate. This does require the acceptance of a common standard by airlines and governments. At the moment there are number of concurrent initiatives.

There is also the question of how individual governments will be able to access and store personal medical data. Also, not everyone in the world has access to the internet or owns a smartphone. Some point to the fact that paper evidence of vaccination has been accepted in the past.

As many countries are not expected to achieve widespread vaccination in 2023, the requirement for evidence of a negative COVID-19 test is likely to continue. Politico reports on how this may be exploited criminal gangs, leaving airlines exposed to penalties for failures to properly check passenger documentation.

Airlines have for decades developed self-service processes so that passengers arrive at airports “ready to fly”. When air travel starts to return to normal, airlines are likely to require substantially more staff to process passengers at check-in and departure gates.

Japan Airlines Amenity Kits

Following COVID-19 most airlines have suspended all non-essential expenditure so it’s relatively rare to hear about new inflight amenities.

Japanese design firm Nendo has designed a portfolio of new amenity kits, menu cards and tableware across all cabins for Japan Airlines. Deploying the maxim less is more, the designs are based around a red folded paper version of the airline’s famous flying crane logo.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 1 February 2021

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

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing » Page 2

Route map of LH2574 Hamburg - Mount Pleasant, 31 January 2021
Route map of LH2574 Hamburg – Mount Pleasant, 31 January 2021 (Image Credit: Lufthansa)

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 1 February 2021.

February Flight Schedules

It’s the first day of February and airline schedules and passenger route networks continue to shrink further.

At London Heathrow, BA’s long haul route network is largely limited to North America with flights operating to Barbados, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Washington Dulles.

In Central & South America, just Mexico City is served by BA. Similarly, Bahrain is the only destination in the Middle East.

In Africa & the Indian Ocean, BA is flying to Abuja, Accra, Lagos, Nairobi and The Maldives.

Limited flights are operating to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi in India. BA also continues to fly to Islamabad and Lahore in Pakistan.

BA short haul flights at Heathrow are limited to UK regional airports and a small number of cities in mainland Europe such as Paris Charles de Gaulle and Stockholm.

At Gatwick, limited BA long haul flights are scheduled to operate to Antigua, Bermuda, Cancun, Kingston and Saint Lucia.

Meanwhile at London City, there are just two BA return flights a week to Belfast City and Frankfurt respectively.

Back to Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic is operating limited flights to Atlanta, Barbados, Delhi, Islamabad, Lagos, Lahore, Los Angeles, Miami, Mumbai and New York JFK.

Where Did Passengers Fly In December?

There continues to be much attention in the UK media on Instagram Influencers who flew to Dubai in December.

According to traffic data for international routes for December 2020 Dubai was, by some margin, the busiest route at Heathrow with 130,110 passengers travelling in either direction. This is a decline of “only” 43% year on year.

The next busiest international route was Doha with 36,105 passengers, a decline of 72% year on year.

Measured year on year, the strongest performing routes were Abuja, Accra, Islamabad, Lagos and Lahore with declines in the range of 20% – 30%.

Madrid was the busiest international short haul route with 34,448 passengers, but still a decline of 71% year on year.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 25 January 2021

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

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing » Page 2

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

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 25 January 2021.

Is International Travel A Write Off Until 2022?

Twelve months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and after a number of false promises, the UK government appears to have learned the art of expectations management.

Ministers are refusing to commit to a date for the lifting of lockdown measures. A number have made it clear that the public should not plan for a summer holiday abroad this year.

According news reports, the Cabinet is likely this week to back plans to require all inbound passengers in the UK to quarantine at designated hotels. It has not yet been decided whether this will apply to all inbound passengers regardless of citizenship, and whether it will apply only to those arriving from countries designated as high risk.

The final decision is said to rest with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. According to Financial Times journalist Sebastian Payne on BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour last night, he is minded to go for a blanket quarantine measure.

Those who have campaigned against mandatory quarantine point to the fact there is more to international travel than Instagram Influencers heading to Dubai. The effective closure of international borders will carry signifiant economic and social costs. As is the case with citizens of countries that have closed borders, many thousands of UK citizens will be left stranded overseas.

That said, there is widespread support amongst scientists for increased travel restrictions which, as painful as they are, are necessary to prevent the importation of new variants of COVID-19.

There are many unanswered questions, particularly whether there is the hotel capacity to handle all incoming passengers and how these properties can be made COVID-19 secure and do not themselves become hotspots for the virus.

Elsewhere border restrictions are increasing. A number of EU Member States are restricting travel from within the EU. Israel is to ban scheduled passenger flights from 22:00 GMT today. Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly has said that international travel restrictions will be one of the last changes after its vaccination programme. (ABC News)

According to Reuters, the US will also reimpose a travel ban on citizens from the UK, EU and Brazil.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 18 January 2021

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

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing » Page 2

Norwegian Boeing 787 Aircraft, Boston Logan International Airport
Norwegian Boeing 787 Aircraft, Boston Logan International Airport (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Welcome to the return of London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for 2021 with our first edition of the year.

The 24 Month Winter

In a little over two months’ time, airlines in the Northern Hemisphere are supposed to start their summer schedules.

It is safe to say that there is no prospect of a return to normal for airlines this summer travel season.

The UK has today closed its borders to international travel and will require all inbound passengers to present evidence of a negative PCR COVID-19 test and to also self-isolate on arrival.

Yesterday’s Sunday Times splashed with proposals for inbound travellers to the UK to self-isolate, at their expense, in dedicated hotels for two weeks. This was not denied by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab when interviewed by Andrew Marr on the BBC yesterday.

As Tabby Kinger describes of her experience of Hong Kong’s strict quarantine regime in the Financial Times, whether staying in a soulless airport hotel or top-end luxury hotel suite at a cost of up to £65,000 “no amount of money makes it tolerable.” As experience in Australia has shown, quarantine hotels may themselves become a source of COVID-19 infection.

According to Politico, Greece and other EU Member States are pressing the European Commission to adopt a common standard (“vaccine passports”) to allow those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 the freedom to travel. There are significant misgivings on the part of many Member States, both on privacy grounds and restricting freedom of movement – a core principle of the EU – based on health status.

Whilst BA and easyJet have secured additional state guaranteed loans, it seems clear that Virgin Atlantic will have to obtain new sources of cash. Last week it raised $230 million through the sale and leaseback of two Boeing 787-9 aircraft. This is unlikely to be sufficient to see it through continued travel restrictions in 2021.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 14 December 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s final Monday Briefing of 2020.

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Concorde and Santa Claus, Rovaniemi, Finland, 1997
Concorde and Santa Claus, Rovaniemi, Finland, 1997. Photo by Eric Chretien/Gamma-Rapho published under license from Getty Images. Unauthorised distribution and reproduction prohibited.

Welcome to London Air Travel’s final Monday Briefing of 2020. Our next Monday Briefing will be published on 18 January 2021.

What A Difference A Year Makes

12 months ago the airline industry was certain of its trajectory.

Consolidation was the order of the day. State intervention was a thing of the past. The days of making money in the good times, only to lose it all in a downturn, would never be repeated. Airlines had the financial resilience to withstand whatever challenges came their way.

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic had plans for a busy year, most of which have been abandoned.

Delta had pulled off a major coup, swooping LATAM out of Oneworld. It acquired, for some $1.9 billion, a 20% stake in the airline. That, along with its stakes in AeroMexico and Virgin Atlantic, are worthless as LATAM has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Even as the COVID-19 outbreak was underway, former IAG CEO Willie Walsh confidently asserted:

“To be honest we’ve gone through all of this before. We’ve all seen it before.”

“We know what to do in a time like this. We know how to respond.”

A planned near normal return to service for BA by the end of the year did not happen. There is at least positive news on the approval of vaccines against COVID-19 and pre-flight testing regimes underway.

That said, the fact that BA is barred from operating passenger flights to Hong Kong for two weeks following COVID-19 compliance failures, suggests airlines and passengers are going to have get used to extremely stringent measures in many territories for months to come.

Virgin Atlantic & Bain

What’s going on with Virgin Atlantic and Bain Capital?

Last week Sky News reported that Virgin had sold and leasebacked two Boeing 787 aircraft. According to recent filings at Companies House, there are further transactions involving Bain in connection with one of Virgin’s Airbus A350 aircraft.

Bain does of course have a connection with another Virgin airline as it owns the majority of Virgin Australia.

Staying with Companies House filings, Virgin Atlantic has yet to submit its annual accounts for the year to 31 December 2019. These should have been ready months ago. A cynic might wonder whether Virgin is waiting for a good day to bury bad news.

On a more positive note, Virgin is due to return to Cape Town this Sunday.

Coming Soon: The BA 747 Story

Over Christmas we will run a special series on the history of the Boeing 747 and some of its most memorable flights at BOAC and BA.

This will run over seven days from Christmas Eve to 30 December.

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London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 7 December 2020

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

London Air Travel » Monday Briefing » Page 2

British Airways, London Gatwick
British Airways, London Gatwick

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

BA Returns To Gatwick

BA should resume long-haul flights at Gatwick this week.

Flights to Punta Cana and St Lucia are currently scheduled to resume this Thursday, 10 December. A number of destinations follow on Friday including Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, Cancun and Kingston.

Grenada, Montego Bay and St Kitts return on Saturday, with Providenciales due to follow on Sunday.

This restart of a number of the above routes has been postponed many times before, so this is all subject to change.

London Heathrow Route Updates

In other route updates at London Heathrow, BA continues to reinstate scheduled passenger flights.

Last week, BA reinstated scheduled passenger flights to Bahrain, Boston, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City, Philadelphia, Riyadh, Santiago, Tel Aviv and The Maldives.

This week the airline is also due to return to Kuwait, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, The Seychelles and Tokyo Haneda.

In a sign of progress on at least some routes, BA will increase Dubai to three times daily from 10 December.

Also at Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic will operate its inaugural flight to Islamabad on Saturday and Lahore on Sunday.

London City Airport Publishes Its Masterplan

London City Airport published a revised masterplan last week.

The masterplan sets out its ambition to increase capacity so it is capable of handling 11 million passengers a year, with Air Transport Movements also increased from 111,000 to 151,000 a year.

The airport still has ambitions to expand its route network, with the return of transatlantic routes. However, with CityJet and Flybe having withdrawn from the airport – and a likely downsizing by BA CityFlyer which is serving just three destinations at present – this is going to be difficult to achieve.

Bonhams Vintage Poster Auction

If you are looking for a Christmas gift for an aviation enthusiast and happen to have a thousand pounds or so hiding down the back of your sofa, then look no further than Bonhams’ auction of vintage posters tomorrow.

The auction includes these vintage posters by Imperial Airways posters from 1936 and 1937.

Continue reading “London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 7 December 2020”