This year marks 40 years since the introduction of business class.
That’s if you believe Qantas’ claim that it was the first airline to introduce a dedicated business class cabin.
It was not the first airline to introduce a class between economy and First Class. BA introduced “Executive Class” in 1977, later to become “Super Club”. Pan Am introduced its “Clipper Class” on 29 October 1978. That year, Delta also introduced “Medallion Service”. However, this was essentially designated economy seating with enhanced amenities for passengers purchasing full fare tickets.
The basis for Qantas’ claim seems to it introduced a dedicated cabin on its Boeing 747s in 1979, as per the advert below for the UK press in 1983.
Qantas promised a dedicated check-in, priority baggage handling, a separate cabin with dedicated cabin crew, wider seats and a choice of meals served on fine bone china.
A very Happy New Year to all our readers around the world.
We got new routes!
In 2019, we will see many new routes, and former routes from London reinstated.
By this time next year we may also know whether in three years’ time we will be able to fly to Sydney non-stop. Here’s a quick run through of new routes launching in 2019.
London Gatwick Long-Haul
Norwegian continues to reshape its London Gatwick network, launching Rio de Janeiro four times weekly from Sunday 31 March.
It will also swap routes from Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale and Oakland to Miami and San Francisco International respectively from 31 March.
Austin and Seattle will also resume following their winter seasonal suspension on Friday 1 March and 31 March respectively.
In theory, Norwegian is supposed to take delivery of the Airbus A321 Long Range this year and may announce more transatlantic routes but this is very much dependent on its overall financial health.
London Heathrow Long-Haul
Virgin Atlantic will transfer Las Vegas from Gatwick to Heathrow from 31 March.
Air China will transfer Chengdu from Gatwick to Heathrow from 31 March.
BA will return to Osaka after a near 20 year absence, four times weekly from 31 March.
American Airlines will launch a daily service to Phoenix from 31 March.
BA will return to Pittsburgh, four times weekly, from Tuesday 2 April.
BA will fly to Charleston twice a week from Thursday 4 April until Thursday 24 October. It’s relatively unusual for BA to launch a low frequency seasonal long-haul route, and if a success, this could presage more route announcements.
Two certain events are likely to dominate in 2019.
The first is BA’s centenary celebrations.
The airline will officially celebrate its centenary on Sunday 25 August 2019. This will mark 100 years since the first scheduled international passenger service between London and Paris.
It can be said with confidence there will be a lot of PR activity in advance of this. The airline has already said there will be “100 acts of kindness” throughout the year as part of its “BA Magic” series. You can also expect a lot of in-flight service improvements in the first half of the year.
The second is that both BA and Virgin Atlantic will take delivery of their first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.
Both airlines will be introducing entirely new Club World and Upper Class cabins respectively.
This is the first time both airlines will undertake a full redesign of their cabins since they each introduced fully flat beds. BA will be abandoning its patented “yin-yang” layout. Virgin is also expected to replace its current herringbone design.
It’s hard to envisage both airlines not going for something other than a forward facing 1-2-1 design. Though both will want to differentiate themselves in the market. Whoever comes up with the leading design, will Virgin let BA have the last word? Probably, not.
As events this year have shown, there is no shortage of willing entrants on the UK transatlantic market. JetBlue, subject to obtaining slots, may announce new transatlantic routes from Boston and New York to London.
Like JetBlue, WestJet is respected local brand. However, it’s entry into the transatlantic market a couple of years ago got off to a very difficult start, primarily due to the reliability of its Boeing 767s. Its competitiveness should improve significantly next year when it introduces the Boeing 787 with its first international business class cabin at Gatwick.
Qantas is also expected confirm next year whether it will launch non-stop flights from London to Sydney.
It is currently in discussions with Airbus and Boeing about placing an order for suitable aircraft. The launch of non-stop flights to Perth this year generated huge amounts of PR for the airline and has, at least as far as Qantas is prepared to say, has been a commercial success.
In terms of loyalty programmes, easyJet will be making another move onto BA territory by launching its first ever frequent flyer currency. Virgin will also relaunching its frequent flyer programme as it, subject to regulatory approval, launches a new combined transatlantic joint-venture with Air France-KLM.
The two big unknowns are Flybe and Norwegian.
Virgin Atlantic confirmed shortly before Christmas that it is still in discussions with Flybe. This does suggest that it is serious in its intent.
In theory, next year Norwegian is supposed delivery of yet more Boeing 737 MAX8 and Boeing 787 aircraft, and its first Airbus A321 Neo Long Range aircraft. However, it’s clear from an update shortly before Christmas that preserving cash is currently a priority. Norwegian will be selling aircraft – both existing and those yet to be delivered. Whatever happens next, the era of rapacious growth is simply over.
Things have gone very quiet regarding IAG and Norwegian. That is not to say there isn’t activity behind the scenes – it’s when there’s an impasse that there are leaks. IAG is not an organisation to shy away from hard work and would relish the “transformational” aspects of any acquisition, specifically in the Nordic region and at Gatwick. However, given the number of overlapping city pairs between IAG airlines and Norwegian, it’s hard not to see slot significant divestures being demanded by competition regulators.
As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time for a customary look back at the year gone by.
It was a year of many airline failures. Some came and went in the UK market very quickly. Others will enter 2019 facing continued uncertainty.
Consolidation In Europe Has Some Way To Go
Over the past 15 years or so, legacy airlines in Europe have consolidated into one of Air France-KLM, International Airlines Group and Lufthansa.
easyJet and Ryanair have become the dominant low cost airlines.
After the failure of Air Berlin and Monarch in 2017, CityJet, once dominant at London City, suspended scheduled flying and now provides wet lease services only. Cobalt Air, Primera Air, and VLM Airlines failed.
Flybe is searching for a new owner. Finnair repeatedly indicates a desire to play its part in consolidation. There is some way to go yet.
Reykjavik Is Not Dubai
Iceland’s WOW air once had an ambition.
If Dubai could capture great swathes of connecting traffic between Europe and Africa and Asia, then why could Reykjavik not do the same across the North Atlantic?
The answer of course is what Emirates did at Dubai to great effect was provide passengers between Europe and Asia and Australia with scores of new one-stop connections that previously required two changes. And all in better comfort.
There are of course ample direct flights between most major European and North American gateways and many connection opportunities at better connected airports.
This did not deter WOW air which embarked on an aggressive expansion plan, launching many new US cities from Reykjavik. This now lays in tatters. It is rapidly shedding itself of aircraft and routes in the hope of securing a new investor. Continue reading “2018 – A Year In Air Travel”
Now that the main day itself is over, there’s at least some time to think about travel for the year ahead.
It’s a busy time for airline sales, so here’s our rundown of selected New Year sales by airline for travel into 2019.
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand, which flies from London Heathrow to Auckland via Los Angeles, has special fares to Los Angeles across all cabins for booking until Thursday 31 January 2019.
Special fares are available from £329 in economy for travel between Wednesday 16 January and Saturday 23 March 2019, from £759 in premium economy for travel between Sunday 20 January and 23 March 2019, from £2,099 in Business Premier for travel between Monday 1 July and Saturday 24 August 2019.
BA’s sale for flights and package car hire/hotel deals is underway in all cabins across its network.
On short-haul, there are a good number of destinations available from £24 in EuroTraveller and from £99 one way in Club Europe.
There are a number of North America destinations available at less than £300 return in World Traveller including Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Many of these destinations are also available at around £700 return in World Traveller Plus.
In Club World, some of the best fares are Baltimore at £1,374 return and Nashville at £1,377 return.
And in First Class, Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles are available from £1,874 return.
The best way to see what is available is to use the low fare finder on ba.com and select your preferred region and class of travel.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is now a firm fixture in the fleets of many long-haul airlines from London.
The Boeing 787-8 has, with great success, opened up many new transatlantic routes such as Nashville and New Orleans and, from next year, Charleston and Pittsburgh. The Boeing 787-9 has established the first direct scheduled route between London and Australia, to Perth.
This year, airlines have begun to take delivery of the latest variant of the 787, the Boeing 787-10.
However, it’s not clear whether the 787-10 will be as revolutionary as its older siblings.
It’s a larger aircraft, with a length of 68m, compared to 57m for the 787-8 and 63m for the 787-9, but with the same height and wingspan. The most significant difference is that it has, based on official figures from Boeing, a shorter range of 6,430 nautical miles, compared to 7,355 nautical miles for the 787-8 and 7,635 for the 787-9. The total number of aircraft ordered is relatively small, 169 out of over 1,400 for the 787 in total.
Always one to pride itself on world firsts, Singapore Airlines took delivery of the first Boeing 787-10 in March of this year.
Singapore Airlines now has 7 aircraft, out of an order of 47. These operate in a two class configuration with 337 seats in total. It’s used on what the airline terms “regional” routes of less than eight hours from Singapore to Manila, Nagoya, Osaka, Perth and Tokyo Narita.
United Airlines has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787-10.
It has ordered 14 aircraft in total. It will operate on transcontinental flights from Newark to Los Angeles from Monday 7 January 2018. Next summer, it will progressively operate on transatlantic routes from Newark to Barcelona, Dublin, Frankfurt, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Tel Aviv. United has yet to reveal interior images of the aircraft, but it will feature its “Polaris” business class seat as well as premium economy and economy cabins.
Etihad has very recently taken delivery of 2 out of 30 Boeing 787-10 aircraft. However, given its current financial situation, its fleet plans are likely to be reviewed.
British Airways plans to take delivery of 12 aircraft from 2020 to 2023, with the first six due to arrive in 2020. This will take its total number of 787s to 42, making it very close to the largest series of aircraft in its long-haul fleet.
BA is the only UK airline to have ordered the Boeing 787-10. Like the Airbus A350-1000, it is intended to replace the Boeing 747. The first Airbus A350-1000 aircraft to be delivered next year will not have First Class and will replace many 52 Club World seat Boeing 747s. As such, it is likely the Boeing 787-10 will have First Class and a higher Club World configuration to replace the 70 Club World seat Boeing 747s on routes such as New York JFK. It will of course feature BA’s new Club World seat.
Other airlines to take delivery of the Boeing 787-10 include Air France-KLM (though its new CEO has indicated that the fleet plans of Air France and KLM will be reviewed), ANA and Eva Air.
Airlines will be keen to showcase their latest cabins and advanced in-flight entertainment systems on the 787-10. However, with its larger size and relatively limited range, the Boeing 787-10 is likely to be a replacement for aircraft on many existing routes, rather than a gateway to new routes. The principal benefit seems to be its fuel efficiency and commonality with the 787-8 and 787-9.
For aircraft that will open up the next phase of new long-haul routes from London, we’ll have to turn to the Airbus A350 Ultra Long Range and the Boeing 777X which are currently under consideration by Qantas for non-stop flights to Sydney.
This week marked 15 years since Concorde completed its final commercial passenger flight.
On 24 October 2003, members of Concorde’s exclusive club of regular patrons such as the late Sir David Frost and Dame Joan Collins gathered in the Concorde Room at New York JFK. After a farewell speech from Concorde Captain Mike Bannister, they boarded BA2 for the final time, to land at Heathrow before the world’s media.
15 years on Captain Mike Bannister gathered with guests in The Design Museum earlier this week to mark the launch of a limited edition timepiece with Bremont.
Designed in collaboration with BA in advance of the airline’s centenary and the 50th anniversary of Concorde’s maiden flight in 2019, each watch features aluminium from one of BA’s seven Concordes, G-BOAB – pictured here at Heathrow. There are three editions, limited to 500 in total, which are handsomely priced from “just” £9,495 to £17,995.
A more affordable means of remembering Concorde is a recently published book “Supersonic: The Design And Lifestyle Of Concorde”.
It is written by Lawrence Azerrad who founded Los Angeles based design studio LAD Design and has gathered hundreds of Concorde related artefacts. The book focuses less on the engineering and the politics behind the Concorde, and more on the evolution of its marketing and the design of its cabin interiors and branding by both Air France and BA.
It features a foreword by Sir Terence Conran who, in conjunction with factorydesign designed the last Concorde cabin interior for BA and the Concorde Room in New York JFK and the former Concorde Room in London Heathrow Terminal 4.
At a time when there are forces at work determined to take the Western world backwards, Concorde does reflect a spirit of international co-operation and optimism about the future. It is unlikely that supersonic transatlantic travel will return. But progress remains in other areas. There are more US cities that can be reached directly from London then ever before. This time next year, we should know whether direct flights from London to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney could be launched.
Back to the book, Lawrence Azerrad will be in conversation with designer Sebastian Conran at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington on Friday 8 February 2019. Tickets are on sale now.
“Supersonic – The Design And Lifestyle Of Concorde” is published by Prestel Publishing and is on sale now.
Today, Thursday 4 October 2018, marks 60 years since the first passenger jet service from London to New York.
One of British Airways predecessor airlines, BOAC, flew two de Havilland Comet 4 aircraft between London and New York International Airport, Idlewild.
This was a mere 24 hours after the Port Authority of New York granted approval for passenger jet services following concerns over noise. It was also less than a month after the aircraft had been delivered to the airline and it had received its certificate or air worthiness.
The westbound flight left London at 09:55 local time and landed in New York at 15:15 local time after a refuelling stop for one hour and ten minutes in Gander, Newfoundland. The total journey time was 10 hours and 20 minutes
There were 31 passengers out of a capacity for 48 on the aircraft. They included Sir Gerald D’Erlanger, Chairman of the board of BOAC. He carried a letter from the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Denis Truscott to Mayor Wagner of New York. There were 12 paying passengers, many of whom had made reservations in anticipation of passenger jet services years ago and were only called to travel at very short notice. There were two classes of travel, First and Deluxe.
VLM Airlines has yesterday, Friday 31 August 2018, entered into liquidation.
The decision was made by the majority shareholder in the airline and has been confirmed on its website.
SHS Aviation B.V., the majority shareholder of the N.V. SHS Antwerp Aviation (VLM), today decided at an extraordinary general assembly to dissolve the Belgian airline and to liquidate it.
Earlier this month it was announced that VLM would discontinue the connections to Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cologne-Bonn, Maribor, Munich and Rostock and that VLM would henceforth focus on business charter flights and the Antwerp-London City Airport and Antwerp-Zurich routes. Also the scheduled flights from Antwerp to London City and Zurich are now cancelled.
The settlement takes effect immediately. Youri Steverlynck and Birgitta Van Itterbeek (Monard Law) were appointed as liquidators. They are responsible for the contacts with potential buyers.
SHS Antwerp Aviation N.V. is a subsidiary of the Dutch investment company SHS Aviation B.V., which is owned 60% by Dutch investors and 40% by Chinese investors. SHS Antwerp Aviation N.V. is developing airline activities under the trading name ‘VLM’. VLM employs 85 people.
The airline has therefore suspended operations and all future flights are cancelled. VLM flew from London City to Antwerp, a route it inherited from CityJet a little under 12 months ago.
If you do have a future booking with VLM, then the best advice is to contact your credit card company for refund.
It concerns Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels Group. It happened in 2016. However, it has taken nearly two years for Marriott to combine its frequent guest programme with that of Starwood. The new combined programme will launch later this month.
It seems that the thorniest issue behind the transaction was not both sides and their armies of lawyers agreeing the terms of the deal or combining reservation systems, but their respective frequent guest programmes. Every single development in this regard has been carefully scrutinised by members on tenterhooks that their beloved benefits may be lost.
Put simply, who should be entitled to a free breakfast under the new programme!?
The article gives a good understanding of the workings of hotel loyalty programmes and the sometimes absurd lengths, known as “mattress runs” (it’s nowhere near as interesting as it sounds..), some members will go to climb the ranks of the programmes.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a member of some frequent guest programmes and enjoyed their benefits, principally late check-outs. But none have compelled me to be slavishly devoted to one hotel programme and I have been happy to let membership lapse.
Airline and hotel loyalty programmes are not the same
When it comes to flying, there is a logic of choosing to align yourself with one of three airline alliances to accrue frequent flyer benefits.
There is an assurance of flying with an airline in an alliance that there isn’t with booking large hotel groups.
In air travel, there is much scope for things go wrong. As customers of Primera Air and Norwegian have learned, for small airlines there are little means to recover from aircraft availability issues. When flying on a large airline, there is the assurance of the back-up it has through the size of its fleet, its network and its joint-venture and alliance partners. This isn’t so much the case with hotels. The only time I could genuinely see a need to stick with a large chain is when staying in a destination where you need to be confident of hotel security and its support should you have problems. Continue reading “Why I Ignore Hotel Loyalty Programmes”