Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 7 February 2022.
Finnair To Unveil Premium Economy Cabin
It’s more than 20 years since British Airways and Virgin Atlantic first introduced premium economy to long haul flights.
Premium economy proved to be a success for both airlines. It is claimed by analysts that, on per square foot basis, premium economy is BA’s most profitable cabin.
It took a long time for airlines around the world to follow suit. This was principally for fear that premium economy would cannibalise business class revenue if corporate customers traded down to the cabin.
BA’s Oneworld alliance partners American Airlines and Iberia only introduced premium economy a few years ago. This week another follows suit. Finnair is expected to unveil its first premium economy cabin this week, as well as refreshed economy and business class cabins.
Before COVID-19, Finnair regularly operated wide body Airbus A330-300 and A350-900 aircraft between London Heathrow and Helsinki. This will hopefully return soon, providing an opportunity to eventually see refurbished aircraft at Heathrow.
“Any airline can go out and buy products off the shelf and put them on a plane. It’s actually the confidence and the style and the intimacy that we deliver in service that is going to be a differentiator”
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 24 January 2022.
How Ready Are Airlines For The Summer Season?
If you’ve browsed Instagram recently you may well have seen cabin crew recruitment campaigns for BA and Virgin Atlantic.
It’s now nearly two months until the start of the summer 2022 season. There are certainly signs airlines will be dealing with stretched resources.
There are unconfirmed reports that BA will wet lease aircraft from its fellow IAG airline Iberia Express to cover some Gatwick short haul flights. Last week, another IAG airline, Vueling, announced a string of new routes from Gatwick to Spain, at relatively short notice.
Airlines also do not yet know what airport slot usage rules will be in place as the UK government is yet to publish any guidance.
Edit: The Department for Transport has confirmed the threshold will be set at 70%, with a broader scope to claim dispensation for non-use of slots.
Hopes that next summer may be a return to “normal” may be a little premature.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s first Monday Briefing of 2022.
BA Cuts Short Haul Schedules
Yesterday’s Sunday Times reported that the government is likely to remove the need for passengers returning to England to take a lateral flow COVID-19 test after arrival.
Airlines will welcome a reduction in the cost and complexity associated with travel. Testing requirements are one of many issues airlines are now dealing with, including staff shortages.
From the airlines’ part, restoring confidence in travel has to also come from them getting to a point where there is stability to their schedules and passengers can book flights without fear of repeated cancellations.
On that theme, a number of BA short haul routes are suspended from today until February. These include:
Basel – Until Thursday 10 February Brussels – Until Monday 7 February Inverness – Until Monday 28 February Luxembourg – Until Monday 28 February Marseille – Until Wednesday 9 February Seville – Until Thursday 10 February Verona – Until Friday 11 February
The airline has also extended the suspension of some routes including:
Bilbao – Until Sunday 20 February Bordeaux – Until Saturday 26 March Marrakech – Until Thursday 10 February Pisa – Until Friday 4 March Porto – Until Thursday 10 February Rotterdam – Until Monday 28 February Stuttgart – Until Monday 28 February Zagreb – Until Monday 28 February
On long haul, twice daily services to Cape Town restart today. As do Airbus A380 flights to Johannesburg (BA57 & BA54).
This week, BA also suspends flights to Baltimore, Nashville and New Orleans until late April / early May.
Readers can keep up to date with the latest network changes with our dedicated guides to BA’s long haul and short haul networks.
This is our last bulletin before a break over Christmas and New Year. Thank you for reading in what has been another challenging and uncertain year. Our next bulletin will be on Monday 17 January 2022.
BA Prepares Summer 2022 Schedules
It’s normally at this time of year airlines have finalised their schedules for the summer season ahead of Christmas & New Year sales campaigns.
Whilst many Oneworld alliance airlines have confirmed new routes for next year, there’s a conspicuous silence so from BA. So far we only know of two new routes to The Azores for summer 2022. We don’t know of any new long haul routes, nor a firm start date for short haul flights at Gatwick.
It was only a few weeks ago that the airline was expected to operate the same level of capacity to North America in 2022 as 2019.
There are signs that these plans are being scaled back. Last week, BA processed a lot of long haul schedule updates for the summer season. Whilst the the Airbus A380 aircraft will return to Boston and Chicago O’Hare next summer, this will not be further into the season – 15 May & 1 June 2022 respectively.
The return of the A380 to San Francisco has also been pushed back to 1 May 2022. Double daily flights to Houston and Seattle have also been pushed back to 8 May 2022.
There is anecdotal evidence of passengers cancelling flights due to the uncertainty caused by increased testing and self-isolation requirements. Readers have no doubt heard of friends cancelling plans for Christmas overseas. Data provided by ForwardKeys to the Financial Times shows that transatlantic bookings between the UK and US have fallen back sharply since the Omicron variant was reported to the World Health Organisation.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 6 December 2021.
Flybe To Be Sold Again?
Today’s Telegraph has an interesting story – not online at the time of “going to press” – that Cyrus Capital is looking to sell Flybe.
Cyrus Capital was a member of the Connect Airways consortium that bought Flybe along with Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Air. It was described at the time by then IAG CEO Willie Walsh as “a business model that doesn’t work with shareholders that have suddenly cottoned on that they’ve bought a dog”.
Last month, Flybe announced with great fanfare that it is to start operations from a base in Birmingham in early 2022. It also plans to have a fleet of up to 32 De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 turboprop aircraft.
The Telegraph reports that the owners of Flybe are looking for a new investor to operate Flybe in partnership for around a year before the airline is sold. Airlines such as Aurigny and Blue Islands are said to have been sounded out.
It is claimed that a sale of the airline would come with the London Heathrow bmi remedy slots that that the “old” Flybe acquired from BA. These 186 weekly slots, equivalent to 12 return flights a day, were taken back by BA in June 2020 after Flybe entered into administration. They were readvertised to potential bidders, but with a warning they were subject to a legal dispute.
However, a filing with Airport Coordination Ltd from earlier this year shows that 86 weekly slots for the winter 2021 season were transferred back from BA to Flybe.
This latest development will fuel speculation that the motives behind the purchase of Flybe’s assets out of administration were primarily to realise the value of its Heathrow remedy slots.
This is particularly so when the wisdom of launching a new regional airline is questionable after many rival airlines have moved to replace the routes formerly operated by Flybe and business travel is likely to remain depressed well into 2022.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 29 November 2021.
One Step Forward…
This week was due to be a cause for celebration.
On Friday, BA is due to restart Airbus A380 long haul operations with daily flights to Dubai (BA107 & BA106). Miami (BA209 & BA208) follows on Sunday.
This was meant to further signal a return to normal and the release of pent up passenger demand. Events have now decided otherwise.
From 04:00 tomorrow morning all passengers arriving in the UK will have to take a PCR test by day 2 and self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. Full guidance is available on gov.uk
Whilst this is a temporary measure and scientific advisors would say it’s better to move hard and fast early than wait until you are certain you are right, the uncertainty, the one thing that irritates passengers more than anything else, is hugely damaging to the travel industry.
easyJet and IAG shares fell sharply on Friday and are likely to fall further when markets open this morning.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 22 November 2021.
Virgin Atlantic Seeks To Raise £400 Million
Virgin Atlantic is reported to be seeking new funds of up to £400 million to see the airline through the winter.
On Saturday Mark Kleinman of Sky News broke the story that Virgin Atlantic was seeking new funds from its shareholders Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines, as well as other creditors.
This was expected. When Virgin Atlantic undertook a solvent recapitalisation last year it was said that continued travel restrictions into 2021 would require further fund raising by the airline.
Last week, Virgin Group sold a further stake in Virgin Galactic of $300 million to support Virgin businesses. Last year, Virgin Atlantic’s 49% shareholder Delta Air Lines said it could not provide any direct financial support due to the state support it had received from the US government under the The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Delta did, however, agree to defer certain payments owed to it.
In August of this year Sky News also reported that Virgin was seeking an Initial Public Offering to raise funds. For anyone who has followed Virgin Atlantic over the years, a public listing for the airline is hard to visualise. This is postponed indefinitely.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 15 November 2021.
Eastern Airways Secures Newquay PSO Route
Eastern Airways is reported to have won a contract to operate the Public Service Obligation route from London to Newquay according to Cornwall Reports.
London – Newquay is designated a Public Service Obligation (“PSO”) route. These are subsidised by central and local government to preserve links between London and the regions of the UK.
Other PSO routes include Derry, operated by Loganair from Stansted, and Dundee, operated by Loganair from London City.
Flybe operated the Newquay PSO route from London Heathrow before its collapse in 2020.
Eastern Airways is expected to launch the route from Gatwick in December. It will initially operate daily, and increase up to three times daily in the peak summer season.
As the route operates from Gatwick there will be relatively limited opportunities for codesharing and onward connections. BA’s summer seasonal service to Newquay from Heathrow is due to resume from Sunday 26 June 2022.
Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 8 November 2021.
The US Reopens
So today’s the day.
The US has reopened to passengers from the UK and Europe who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
To mark the occasion, BA and Virgin Atlantic will put aside their long standing rivalry and simultaneously depart from London Heathrow for New York JFK at around 08:30 this morning, with BA using its most prestigious flight number, BA1.
(Readers with long memories will recall it’s not the first time the two airlines have raced from London to New York JFK. Virgin tried to spoil BA’s social media campaign during its inaugural London City – JFK service back in 2009!)
Today, BA expects to carry around 8,000 passengers from London to the US. It’s no exaggeration to say this cannot come soon enough for either airline.
The results for the quarter to 30 September 2021 from BA’s parent company IAG illustrate starkly how important it is that transatlantic traffic recovers.
IAG reported an operating loss of €452 million. Vueling broke even and Iberia reported a profit of €21 million. Aer Lingus and BA lost €80 million and £386 million respectively. This compares unfavourably to Air France KLM and Lufthansa – Robert Boyle of Gridpoint Consulting has done a full analysis of their relative performance.
And BA is betting on a full recovery of transatlantic traffic. Next summer it plans to operate 96% of its 2019 capacity to the North Atlantic, including Bermuda and Canada, across 34 routes. This is as measured by Available Seat Kilometres, not flights.
In 2020 BA’s long haul fleet was cut by 20%, primarily due to the retirement of the Boeing 747. This implies its long haul network will remain substantially geared towards North America next year. It is also suggests a lot of heavy lifting by the Airbus A380.
A route network published by IAG last week also indicates that BA may relaunch Portland and reinstate Pittsburgh again next year:
Whilst it is expected that many routes to Asia Pacific will not reopen well into 2022 and BA points to the withdrawal of Norwegian from the transatlantic market, it remains to be seen whether there will be the demand to the US there was in 2019. This week, BA will typically operate 5 flights a day to New York. This compares to up to 12 flights a day before COVID-19.
Sean Doyle expressed a hope in The Sunday Telegraph that many more suspended routes across the network will return. Sean denies these have been permanently suspended but, to get into semantics, they are removed from timetables with no date set for a return. Any substantial growth in the route network will need more aircraft. IAG is not currently giving any guidance on future aircraft deliveries for 2022 and beyond – other than that it is not cancelling any existing orders.