UK Government Restricts International Travel

New restrictions on international travel from England will be introduced by the UK government from Thursday 5 November.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

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

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today, Saturday 31 October, announced a series of measures intended to suppress the spread of COVID-19 that will apply to England until early December.

These measures are expected to take effect from 00:01 GMT Thursday 5 November and will last until Wednesday 2 December at the earliest.

As has been widely reported they are wide ranging and are, in effect, a return to the lockdown of earlier this year in all but name.

Although Boris Johnson did not mention it during his statement at the press conference, ITV Political Editor Robert Peston was briefed beforehand, that international travel out of England will be banned, except for work. Travel within the UK is also discouraged. This has also been included on a list of restrictions published by Sky News. How this will be policed is a complete unknown.

Guidance is available on the UK government website: This has been updated twice since it was first published and is likely to be subject to further updates.

If you live in England, you cannot travel overseas or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons, and you should look to reduce the number of journeys you make. However you can and should still travel for a number of reasons, including:

travelling to work where this cannot be done from home

travelling to education and for caring responsibilities

to visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare

hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health

to buy goods or services from premises that are open, including essential retail

to spend time or exercise outdoors – this should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)

attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services

If you need to travel we encourage you to walk or cycle where possible, and to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practise social distancing while you travel.

You must not travel if you are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms, are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms, are sharing a household or support bubble with somebody with symptoms, or have been told to self-isolate after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace. The fine for breaching self isolation rules start at £1,000. This could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and the most serious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating.

If you need to use public transport – to travel to work for example – you should follow the safer travel guidance. This includes the rules on wearing face coverings and advice on car sharing.

For those planning to travel into England, you should check the current travel corridor list to see whether you need to isolate for 14 days. You will still be required to abide by the restrictions set out here even if you do not need to isolate. If you do need to travel overseas from England before 2 December (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.

UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.

The regulations implementing these measures will be subject to a vote in Parliament on Wednesday.

It goes without saying this will have a hugely detrimental effect on travel and tourism. Those who are imminently due to travel will be concerned as to whether they will be able to return home. Anyone who hadn’t already given up on the prospect of a winter ski trip or an escape to sunnier climes, will now do so. It will also have a detrimental effect on people wanting to return home to their families.

The manner by which both the public and business have learned of this, first through leaks to newspapers and lobby journalists and a hastily arranged, and then delayed, press conference, is particularly shabby.

© Copyright London Air Travel 2020.

Virgin Australia Enters Into Voluntary Administration

Virgin Australia has formally entered into voluntary administration.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Virgin Australia Aircraft (Image Credit: Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia has formally entered into voluntary administration.

The professional services firm Deloitte has been appointed as administrator, The announcement was made shortly before 00:00 BST / 09:00 AEST on Tuesday 21 April 2020.

Virgin Australia’s “Velocity” frequent flyer programme is owned by a separate legal entity in the Virgin Australia Group and is not part of the administration process.

There had been speculation about Virgin’s financial health for some time. Profitability has been elusive and the airline has debts of AU$5 billion. Virgin Australia had sought support from the Australian Federal Government of AU$1.4 billion.

The airline has a history and ownership structure that could best be described as “complex”.

It was owned by Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, Nanshan Group, HNA Group which each own approximately a 20% share of the airline. Virgin Group owns approximately 10%.

Virgin Australia is currently operating a skeleton domestic network, which is being subsidised by the Australian Federal Government. Unlike when an airline enters into administration in the UK, Virgin Australia will continue to operate flights whilst it is in administration.

It is probable that a buyer that will be found for the airline’s assets. However, it is likely that it will emerge as a significantly smaller airline.

Whilst the Australian Federal Government has decided not to provide financial support to Virgin Australia, Australian Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann told ABC News Breakfast today that it does support the ultimate emergence of a second privately owned domestic airline to ensure Qantas does not have a monopoly.

The administrators have advised at a press conference that there have been a large number of expressions of interest in the airline. It is expected that the ultimate buyer will be known in around 2-3 months.

Sir Richard Branson has penned an open letter to Virgin Australia employees. Whilst Sir Richard hopes this is the start of a new beginning for the airline, it will of course be for the new owners to decide whether to continue to licence the Virgin brand.

Continue reading “Virgin Australia Enters Into Voluntary Administration”

What Does A Fall In Passengers From Coronavirus Mean For Airlines?

As passenger traffic falls due to the Coronavirus outbreak, what is the short and long-term impact on the airline industry?

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Coronavirus
Coronavirus (Image Credit: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

There remains considerable uncertainty as to the human cost of the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

However, it has already had a significant impact on the aviation industry. Airlines have cut capacity to affected areas and implemented flexible rebooking policies.

A number of trade and sporting events have been either cancelled or postponed. Many organisations are restricting their employees from international travel.

A number of companies in other industries are themselves experiencing disruption to supply chains and adverse financial impacts due to the effective closure of certain geographical markets. This, in turn, leads them to cut discretionary spending. The travel budget is the easiest to cut first.

The industry does not yet appear to facing a crisis of the scale of 11 September 2001 or the 2008 financial crash. However, airlines are now facing a period of significantly reduced demand for air travel and are unable to ascertain what the financial impact will be.

For some airlines there will be a short-term impact. For others, there will be significant long term changes. Based on history, here’s what we can expect.

Weak Airlines Are Vulnerable

We’re not in the business of speculating on the health of individual airlines.

However, it is well known that some airlines in Europe and beyond are struggling. A number of airlines such as eos, Flyglobespan, MaxJet, Silverjet, XL Airways UK and Zoom failed around the time of the 2008 financial crisis and a rising oil price.

It is inevitable that some airlines will not be able to survive a prolonged period of depressed demand. This is particularly so if this coincides with other pressures such as a rise in the oil price, or if this prompts nervousness from creditors and suppliers.

Cash Is King

With airlines having very high fixed costs, they ultimately survive on the cash flow from forward bookings and suppliers offering credit terms.

If depressed forward bookings continue, preservation of cash will be a priority. This does mean that capital intensive expenditure such as new aircraft deliveries and aircraft refurbishment projects will be postponed.

In terms of passenger revenues, it also means more focus on generating maximum revenues from flights. Anecdotally, after the 2008 financial crisis, BA adopted an extremely aggressive approach to overselling long-haul economy and premium economy cabins.

Everything Is Up For Review

During a crisis, no stone will be left unturned and nothing can be ruled out.

Marginal routes will be cut, aircraft will be grounded, projects put on hold and everything will be looked at to save costs. Again, after the 2008 financial crisis BA removed foot rests from long-haul economy seats to save £1m from its annual fuel bill.

Airlines Will Look To Ancillary Revenues

On that note, airlines will look again at generating more ancillary revenues from passengers.

The “sweet spot” for airlines is charging for ancillary services that cost little to provide, but have a value to customers. And in was after the 2008 financial crisis that BA started charging for seat reservations at the time of booking, which were previously restricted to Silver & Gold members of the Executive Club.

Continue reading “What Does A Fall In Passengers From Coronavirus Mean For Airlines?”

Airbus Unveils A321XLR Aircraft

Airbus has unveiled its newest single aisle aircraft, the Airbus A321XLR at the Paris Air Show.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Airbus A321XLR aircraft render
Airbus A321XLR aircraft render (Image Credit: Airbus)

Airbus has unveiled the latest member of its A321 family of aircraft, the Airbus A321XLR.

This will be the longest range single aisle aircraft in the world. Airbus plans for the aircraft to be available from 2023. It has a 15% longer range than the Airbus A321LR aircraft with a range of 4,700 nautical miles. Airbus has cited London – Miami and New Delhi as feasible routes – though established airlines in the UK will be looking at new destinations not already served by wide body aircraft. The aircraft is designed to accommodate 180-220 passengers.

There are attractions for airlines in that has a lot of commonality with Airbus A320 family aircraft, which is of course the workhorse of short-haul travel in Europe. Though, it remains to be seen how willing passengers will be spend nearly ten hours on a single aisle aircraft.

In terms of orders, the third party lessor Air Lease Corporation has signed a Letter of Intent for 27 of the aircraft at the Paris Air Show.  Middle East Airlines has also signed a firm order for four of aircraft.

Further orders may be forthcoming at the Paris Air Show this week. However, we would hazard a guess that many other airlines will want to see how the Airbus A321LR performs before committing to the Airbus A321XLR.

Airbus A321XLR aircraft infographic
Airbus A321XLR aircraft infographic (Image Credit: Airbus)

Airbus To End A380 Production

Airbus has confirmed it is to end production of the A380 aircraft in 2021.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 London Heathrow Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Airbus has officially confirmed that it is to end production of the Airbus A380 in 2021.

The announcement was made today, Thursday 14 February, as Airbus announced its financial results for 2018.

The Airbus A380 has been a presence at Heathrow for over ten years. It was on 18 March 2008, that Singapore Airlines flight SQ308 arrived at London Heathrow from Singapore Changi marking the beginning of scheduled A380 flights from London Heathrow.

Emirates Airbus A380 Heathrow Emirates Airbus A380 Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Emirates and Qantas soon followed at London Heathrow. As did Etihad, Korean Air, Malaysian Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Thai Airways, albeit with varying frequencies.

Emirates now operates up to 7 A380 flights from London Heathrow a day. It is is the largest operator of the A380 by some considerable margin.

Last year, it ordered 20 additional aircraft with options for 16 more. According to the Airbus order book for January 2019, Emirates had 109 A380s in service, with 53 aircraft to be delivered.

However, Emirates has now decided to reduce its order substantially by 39 aircraft in favour of 40 A330neo and 30 A350 aircraft.

Beyond Emirates, there has been little appetite to order more aircraft. Qantas officially confirmed last week that it will not exercise options to add to the existing 12 in its fleet. There has also been a notable lack of interest in second-hand aircraft.

Some airlines have also reduced A380 flights at Heathrow. Malaysian ended daily A380 flights last year, in favour of the Airbus A350. Qantas has switched one of its two A380 routes to a non-stop Boeing 787 Dreamliner service to Perth. Qantas is also studying next-generation twin-engine aircraft to fly non-stop from London to Sydney and Melbourne.

Whilst the A380 has been popular with passengers, efficiency rules and it seems clear that airlines see the future of long-haul travel is twin-engined.

British Airways Airbus A380 Heathrow British Airways Airbus A380 Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

This announcement by Airbus seems to have settled the perennial question of whether BA will order any more aircraft. It has 12 in its fleet, with options for 7 more. It’s clearly serving the airline well, with a year-round presence on routes such as Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Los Angeles. However, IAG CEO Willie Walsh has always insisted that the purchase price for new aircraft is too high. With production now due to end, there seems no prospect of an order.

A look at the Boeing 787-10 aircraft

A look at the latest version of the Boeing 787 as airlines take delivery of the Boeing 787-10.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Singapore Airlines Boeing 787-10 Aircraft
Singapore Airlines Boeing 787-10 Aircraft (Image Credit: Singapore Airlines)

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.

Public Hotel – New York City

Our review of Ian Schrager’s latest hotel concept “Public” in New York City.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Queen Room, Public Hotel, New York
Queen Room, Public Hotel, New York (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Ian Schrager and New York City go back a long way.

With Steve Rubell, he founded one of New York’s most notorious nightclubs, Studio 54, which is still to this day a source of fascination.

After Studio 54’s closure, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell turned their attention to hotels. They founded Morgans Hotel Group which credits itself as the founder of the concept of the “urban resort” with Philippe Starck designed interiors, “see and be seen” bars, and celebrity-filled launch parties.

In New York, this took the form of the Hudson. It’s a hotel we have heard many stories about. This is why we’ve never stayed there. By Ian Schrager’s own admission, the Hudson may have had the cool factor, but it did not get the service ethos right.

Having long sold Morgans Hotels, Ian Schrager continues to maintain an interest in hotels and real estate designing 160 Leroy in New York’s West Village and creating Edition Hotels with Marriott.

Ian Schrager’s latest hotel concept is “Public”. The hotel is located in a newly constructed building in the Bowery district of New York at 215 Chrystie Street. This is not the first Public Hotel. That opened in Chicago in late 2011 in a refurbished property, but has since been sold.

About Public Hotel

The concept of Public is “Luxury For All”.

One of the principles behind this is “only give people what they want”. At Public, there are no porters, bellboys or concierge desks. Given the tipping culture in the US, many would regard this as a welcome relief!

You check-in online the day before your stay. On arrival, you collect your room key from a “Public Advisor”, who give as good a welcome as any luxury hotel, in the lobby.

In the room, there is no minibar. Room service is not offered. When you leave, you use an iPad in the lobby to check your self or are checked out automatically.
Continue reading “Public Hotel – New York City”

Hôtel William Gray – Montréal

Our review of one of Montréal’s newest independent boutique properties: Hôtel William Gray, located in Old Montréal.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Hotel Room, Hôtel William Gray, Montréal
Hotel Room, Hôtel William Gray, Montréal (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

It’s a relatively quiet period in August, so it’s time to take a diversion from our usual flight path with some hotel reviews.

The city of Montréal has always had an independent spirit. This is non more so than with its hotels. Whilst all the major chains are represented in the city, none, bar the W Montréal, really stir any interest. There are, however, lots of interesting independent hotels. One of the most recent is Hôtel William Gray which opened in 2016.

Hôtel William Gray

The hotel is located at 421 Rue Saint Vincent in Old Montréal, which is convenient for all the major tourist spots.

It is within walking distance, though perhaps not with heavy luggage, from Champ-de-Mars metro station. Valet parking is available at the hotel.

The hotel comprises two historical buildings, Maison Edward-William-Gray and Maison du Cabinet-de-Côme-Séraphin-Cherrier and a new 9 storey building, which houses most of the rooms, built around an exterior courtyard.

The hotel features two external terraces (a very popular feature in a city that does not take its relatively short summer for granted), a spa, a fitness room and expansive event facilities.

As well as the hotel, the building features a public coffee shop Café Olimpico and the “Off The Hook” boutique.

Judging by the crowds at weekends, the hotel bars are clearly popular with locals but, importantly, don’t interfere with the guests’ experience.

The Living Room

One of the stand-out features of this hotel is its ground floor public lounge area, The Living Room.

Hotels have long tried to make their public lobbies into a design statement. This may not be the grandest or most capacious space you have seen in a hotel. But it is great example of just doing something really, really, well. There’s a wide variety of seating and high quality furniture you’d be happy to have in your own home.

The Living Room, Hôtel William Gray, Montréal.
The Living Room, Hôtel William Gray, Montréal. (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Continue reading “Hôtel William Gray – Montréal”

Why I Ignore Hotel Loyalty Programmes

Why it is a relief to not to chase hotel loyalty scheme points and a mistake to choose a hotel on the basis of its loyalty programme.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Public Hotel New York City
Public Hotel New York City (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

There’s an interesting feature on the cover of the latest edition Bloomberg Businesweek.

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”

10 Years of EU – US Open Skies

As the 10th anniversary of the EU-US Open Skies agreement approaches, we take a look back at how it has reshaped transatlantic travel.

London Air Travel » New & Noteworthy

Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic & British Airways aircraft at London Heathrow
Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic & British Airways aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Some ten years ago, air travel between London and the United States was governed by an archaic treaty known as Bermuda II.

Signed in 1977 as successor to an agreement signed after the Second World War, it placed restrictions on who could operate flights between the UK and the US, and from where.

Flghts from London Heathrow to the US were restricted to two US airlines. These were American Airlines and United Airlines, who had acquired traffic rights from Trans World Airlines and Pan American World Airways respectively. What were then Continental, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and US Airways were forced to fly from London Gatwick.

From the UK, only British Airways and, from 1991, Virgin Atlantic could fly to the US from London Heathrow. Not only that, certain routes could not operate from London Heathrow. So BA had to fly to Atlanta, Dallas Fort Worth and Houston from London Gatwick. bmi which, at the time, held approximately 15% of Heathrow’s slots sat in deep frustration at being unable to fulfil its ambitions to fly to the US from the airport.

Some 30 years later, with negotiations no longer between London and Washington, the EU negotiated an Open Skies agreement the US. It officially came into force on 30 March 2008. Heathrow was opened up to all US airlines. And EU airlines could fly to the US from any airport in the EU.

However, access of European airlines to the US market and US airline ownership rules were untouched. They were officially parked into Phase II and remain so today.

So what has been the impact of EU-US Open Skies?
Continue reading “10 Years of EU – US Open Skies”