Monday Briefing – 6 May 2019

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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 [@] londonairtravel.com

Monday Briefing – 29 April 2019

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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 [@] londonairtravel.com

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.

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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 [@] londonairtravel.com

Monday Briefing – 15 April 2019

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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”

Monday Briefing – 11 March 2019

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

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Monday Briefing 11 March 2019 Header
Monday Briefing, 11 March 2019

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 11 March 2019.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302

It would be remiss not to begin this week’s briefing without mentioning Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.

The incident in which 149 passengers and 8 crew members lost their lives is naturally uppermost in everyone’s minds. It is our editorial policy not to provide a running commentary on incidents such as this as it’s a subject well outside our competence. There’s already significant coverage elsewhere, much of it very speculative, which is deeply unhelpful to the families of the victims.

Official updates are available from Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines.

Willie’s Words For Rolls-Royce

IAG published its annual report last week.

Much of its contents are already known. However, IAG CEO Willie Walsh did have the following words for Rolls-Royce in respect of ongoing engine issues:

We faced many problems with the Trent 1000 engine in 2018, which meant a number of our aircraft were unavailable during the year. This was very
disappointing. It’s not the sort of performance you expect from a company like Rolls-Royce. We’re receiving compensation, but, to be honest, I’d prefer to have the engines functioning properly. It’s fundamental to our future relationship with Rolls-Royce that they respond positively to this issue in 2019, because the situation last year was completely unacceptable.

If that’s what’s being said in public…

Heathrow Third Runway Judicial Review

Last week we reported that judicial review proceedings brought by a number of local London councils, the Mayor of London and Greenpeace against the Government were about to be heard before the High Court.

It appears that the court case will now be heard this week. The hearing is expected to last for two weeks. It will be some afterwards before the court hands down its judgment. (Financial Times)

Air France cuts London Heathrow – Paris Charles de Gaulle

Last month, BA announced it is suspending London City – Paris Orly from 31 May 2019.

Air France also appears to be cutting frequencies on London Heathrow – Paris Charles de Gualle, with its schedule reduced by one flight to six times daily from Sunday 31 March 2019. Though, judging by queues for the Eurostar check-in at London St Pancras this weekend, many would have wished they had flown. The Heathrow slot appears to have been leased to Flybe to increase London Heathrow – Edinburgh to six times daily from Tuesday 23 April 2019.

In case you missed it:

American Airlines Dallas Fort Worth – London Heathrow reviewed. (London Air Travel)

BA adds new First Class menus and amenities from Sunday 31 March. (London Air Travel)

BA unveils its retrospective Landor livery. (London Air Travel)

The late Sir Colin Marshall on “Putting People First”. (London Air Travel)

Also of note this week:

The CEOs of easyJet, IAG, KLM, Lufthansa, and Ryanair are asked, in front of each other, with whom would they trade places. (Reuters)

The Department for Transport has confirmed that UK – EU flights will be protected in a “no deal” departure of the UK from the EU. (Department for Transport)

NATS is to begin a trial of satellite technology whereby position reports of aircraft flying over The Atlantic will be received every 5-8 seconds, instead of every 14 minutes. (NATS)

A day in the life of a trainee pilot. (SWISS)

Late Post Publication Updates

[Reserved for updates during the day.]

London City airport has unveiled its new brand identity. (London City Airport)

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Monday Briefing – 4 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 » Page 2

British Airways Boeing 737-236 G-BKYA
British Airways Boeing 737-236 G-BKYA “River Derwent” and BAC One-Eleven Series 528FL G-BJRT “County Of South Glamorgan” in Landor Livery. (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our Monday Briefing for the week beginning 4 March 2019.

Dutch Dirigisme

Before BA and Iberia merged under the umbrella of International Airlines Group in 2011 there was considerable scepticism as to whether it would work.

How could you bring together two radically different airlines with different working cultures?

The answer of course was keeping day to day operations separate and imposing a self-styled “brand agnostic” parent company on top, headed by a hard-nosed Chief Executive.

It’s not always been plain-sailing. There were some fairly unedifying scenes in Madrid when IAG was seeking to restructure Iberia, with charges that BA was “stealing” routes from Iberia. It has also not gone unnoticed by BA trade unions that much of IAG’s operating profit is generated by BA and they would like a greater reward for this.

Whilst individual IAG airlines are still largely known by their national identities, much behind the scenes has been subsumed within IAG. Many back-office functions are now carried out not in London or Madrid, but in Krakow, Poland. Last week’s order for 18 Boeing 777-9 aircraft was made by IAG, not BA. BA’s retro liveried aircraft are being repainted, not at Heathrow, but in Ireland. It’s these back-office cost savings have helped IAG report an operating profit of over €3bn for 2018.

The pioneer of the pan-European group was Air France-KLM which was formed in 2004. Before BA merged with Iberia, Willie Walsh expressed admiration for what Air France-KLM had achieved, as least as far as revenue synergies were concerned.

15 years on, Air France-KLM still sees itself as two airlines competing against each other for investment in a zero-sum game. The fact both the two have, bar Africa, broadly similar levels of worldwide coverage does not help. BA and Iberia have always been able to claim ownership of distinct markets, namely North and South America.

Air France Long-Haul Network
Air France Long-Haul Network (Image Credit: Air France-KLM)

KLM Long-Haul Network
KLM Long-Haul Network (Image Credit: Air France-KLM)

Last week, the Dutch government acquired a 12.68% stake in the group without any warning, which provoked fury in France and a terse statement from Air France-KLM. The irony of this is not lost as the French state owns 14% of the airline.

Le Monde reported on Saturday that Dutch and French finance ministers Wopke Hoekstra and Bruno Le Maire are setting up a working group to review the airline, and will report their findings in June.

As easyJet found with Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, agitated minority shareholders can be a big distraction of management time and require assuaging.

At a minimum this means that the French state will not dispose of its stake, which was seen as a necessary step in getting Air France trade unions to accept structural reform, the resistance to which has frustrated successive Air France-KLM Chief Executives.

It’s worth recalling that BA and KLM did explore a full merger back in 2000. Talks were called off, partly due to a disagreement over control as BA wanted full ownership of KLM. Willie Walsh has expressed on more than one occasion what a missed opportunity this was.

The attractions would have been obvious. The UK and the Netherlands are close in more than just geography. Many passengers in UK regions feel a closer association with KLM than with BA because of the former’s coverage of UK regional airports. The two airlines would have been able to leverage this, as well as KLM’s broader world-wide network. This is of course something that Virgin Atlantic will seek to do in the coming years when Air France-KLM acquires a stake in the airline.

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