“London Airways” reinstates European flights from UK regions

London Air Travel » Page 114

British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

A few years ago, British Airways earned itself the moniker “London Airways” amongst some frequent flyers.

A long struggling regional operation, latterly known as “BA Connect”, offering flights from Birmingham, Manchester, Southampton and other regional airports was sold to Flybe in late 2006.

BA’s sole remaining international flight from a non-London UK airport, Manchester to New York JFK, was cancelled a couple of years later. This left BA, excluding franchise partners, operating international flights only from London airports.

Whether this was the right move strategically depends on your point of view. There is the argument that BA is right to focus on London which is one of the largest centres of premium business traffic in the world. There is also the argument that BA failed to make the necessary moves to adapt its cost base to changing market conditions and maintain its resonance in the UK market.

Yet tonight, Sunday 1 June, the very last departure of an any airline at Edinburgh airport is a BA Airbus A320 operating as flight BA8990 direct to Ibiza.

The flight will arrive on the white island shortly after 02:30. One hour later it will return to Edinburgh as BA8991 to land in Edinburgh at 05:40. Just in time for one of the first of 25 flights BA will operate from Edinburgh to London Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports on Monday.

So what’s going on?

For some clues, we can look at the Civil Aviation Authority statistics on aircraft utilisation by different airlines.

An easyJet Airbus A320 aircraft spends, on average, 10.9 hours a day in the air. The equivalent number for British Airways is 8.4.

The difference can in part be explained by Heathrow. Parking and slot restrictions and the need to offer business friendly timetables for “out and back in a day” business travellers mean that not all aircraft can return to Heathrow overnight.

Nonetheless the difference is significant as far as profitability is concerned. Legacy carriers have traditionally lost money on short-haul operations but have relied on more profitable long-haul operations to offset them. Rising fuel prices and intense competition from new entrants means this is no longer possible.

Some airlines, like Lufthansa, have transferred some short-haul operations to lower cost subsidiaries. In Lufthansa’s case this is Germanwings.

BA seems to be opting for a number of initiatives to improve short-haul profitability. And this is one of them. By flying from Edinburgh to Ibiza overnight the aircraft is working for six hours that would otherwise be spent idle on the ground in Edinburgh.

The one downside is of course that if the aircraft decides it doesn’t want to leave La Isla Blanca there will be a lot of disgruntled commuters in Edinburgh on Monday morning!

At the moment this is just a tentative step with two weekly return flights to Ibiza, increasing to three later in the peak of the Ibiza season. However, if this is considered a success then expect the initiative to be extended to other regional airports next summer.

Heathrow Terminal 2 opens on 4 June 2014 with United

London Air Travel » Page 114

London Heathrow Terminal 2A Forecourt
London Heathrow Terminal 2A Forecourt (Image Credit: London Heathrow)

Heathrow Terminal 2 “The Queen’s Terminal” opens to the public next week, on 4 June 2014.

The new terminal, the first to open since Terminal 5 in 2008, has been designed by Luis Vidal + Architects.

It will house all Star Alliance member airlines at London Heathrow who are currently split across Terminals 1, 3 and 4. These include United Airlines, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, SAS, Swiss and Air New Zealand.

The terminal will also house non-alliance members Germanwings (a subsidiary of Lufthansa) and Aer Lingus, as well as Virgin Atlantic’s domestic “Little Red” flights to Manchester, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

United Airlines is the first airline to move into the terminal, consolidating its operations in Terminals 1 (Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco & Washington) and 4 (New York Newark, Houston).

The first flight to arrive at the terminal will be United Airlines flight UA858 from Chicago at 05:55.

The first flight to depart from the terminal will be United Airlines flight UA123 to Washington at 07:30, followed by United Airlines flight UA929 to Chicago – two of seventeen flights due to leave that day.

United Airlines will also have two departure lounges for eligible passengers: A United Club and United Global First Lounge. The lounges will feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the airfield and will offer complimentary food & drink and Wi-Fi in addition to business facilities and shower suites.

We also understand that Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines will have their own lounges for eligible passengers.

One point of interest is that there will be a paid for access Plaza Premium Lounge for passengers who do not have lounge access by virtue of their ticket type or frequent flyer status. The lack of such a lounge in Terminal 5 is a regular comment we hear.

Like Terminal 5, public art features prominently in the terminal.   The consultancy FutureCity has commissioned sculptor Richard Wilson MBA to produce a 70m long sculpture “Slipstream” which was officially unveiled on 23 April.

Of course, this being Heathrow, significant attention has been given to the retail offer in the terminal. The full list of retailers has been published. As well as the standard UK airport fare, two noteworthy tenants are John Lewis and the “Perfectionist’s Cafe” by Heston Blumenthal.

Lessons have been learned from the opening of Terminal 5 in the move of airlines will take place in phases over six months. Air Canada, ANA and Air China will follow United Airlines on 16 June 2014.

As a consequence of the move, Terminal 1 is expected to close in 2016. British Airways will consolidate its operations that are currently across Terminals 1, 3 and 5, into Terminals 3 and 5 in 2015.

Heathrow airport has provided a brochure to promote the new terminal and more information is also available on the Heathrow airport website.

Thailand Coup: Thai Airways & BA Heathrow flights scheduled to operate

As has been widely reported in the media, on 22 May, the Royal Thai Army imposed Martial Law in Thailand. The military authorities in Thailand have imposed a nationwide daily curfew between the hours of 10pm and 5am. Broadcasters such as the BBC and CNN have also been taken off air.

British Airways and Thai Airways fly daily and twice daily respectively from London Heathrow to Suvarnabhumi International airport Bangkok under the following flight numbers:

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BBC2 goes behind the scenes at BA in “A Very British Airline”

London Air Travel » Page 114

BA Boeing 747 approaching the coast (Image Credit: British Airways)
BA Boeing 747 approaching the coast (Image Credit: British Airways)

After a long hiatus, the “behind the scenes” documentary of large public and private sector organisations has been back in fashion of late.

Over the past couple of years the BBC and others have gone behind the scenes at the London Underground, Claridges, First Great Western and East Coast Trains.

Now, it is British Airways’ turn to open itself to the cameras.

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Virgin Atlantic adds Atlanta & Delta adds Los Angeles in Heathrow shuffle

Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines have announced changes to their schedules between London Heathrow and Atlanta and Los Angeles as part of their transatlantic joint-venture.

London Air Travel » Page 114

Virgin Atlantic & Delta Air Lines Aircraft (Image Credit: Delta Air Lines)

We have to admit to being a little surprised by this news.

Virgin Atlantic and Delta, partners together in a relatively new transatlantic joint-venture, have announced that they will swap flights between London Heathrow and Los Angeles and Atlanta from 26 October 2014.

Delta will take over one of Virgin Atlantic’s twice daily London Heathrow – Los Angeles flights. Virgin Atlantic will take over one of Delta’s thrice daily London Heathrow – Atlanta flights.

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BA suspends Heathrow – Agadir from 26 October 2014

London Air Travel » Page 114

British Airways Tailfin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways)
British Airways Tailfin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways)

British Airways has announced it is to suspend its twice weekly service from London Heathrow to Agadir from 26 October 2014.

No specific reason has been given for the cancellation. However, we assume that poor commercial performance is a factor.

This was a route inherited by BA from its takeover of bmi in 2012 and is one of many subsequent route cancellations.

These include Damascus (29 May 2012), Addis Ababa (10 June 2012), Dammam (16 September 2012), Bishkek, Khartoum (1 October 2012), Tehran (12 October 2012), Yerevan (13 October 2012), Amristar, Casablanca, Marrakech (28 October 2012) and Tbilisi (31 March 2013).

Affected passengers have the option of a full refund or flying to Marrakech from London Gatwick or Casablanca via Madrid. No direct alternative route is available.

Heathrow Express – Discounts, offer codes and promotions

One of the many frequent complaints about Heathrow airport is the cost of travelling to the airport by train from London Paddington.

Whilst there is the option of taking The Tube, the journey on the Piccadilly Line (best described as one long baggage carousel) is long, prone to delays and over-crowding. The carriages are ill-suited to carrying large amounts of luggage and the overland parts of the journey are anything but scenic.

That only leaves (until Crossrail opens in 2018 at least) the Heathrow Express from London Paddington to Heathrow Central (for Terminals 1 and 3 and interchange to Terminal 4) and Heathrow Terminal 5. However, at a cost of £20 for a single ticket or £34 for a return ticket for a 15-20 minute journey (and more if you buy on board!), it must rank as one of the most expensive train journeys per minute in the world!

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Qantas re-times QF9 & QF10 London – Dubai – Melbourne from 20 July 2014

London Air Travel » Page 114

Qantas Airbus A380 at London Heathrow Terminal 3 (Image Credit: Heathrow)
Qantas Airbus A380 at London Heathrow Terminal 3 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

A familiar sight for anyone passing through Heathrow during the day is a pair of Qantas A380s parked at a remote stand near Terminal 3.

Whilst providing those on a mundane business trip to Frankfurt or Geneva the opportunity to dream about going somewhere else, it serves as an illustration of the hard economics for Qantas of competing against Middle Eastern and Asian airlines in the London to Australia market.

Currently, Qantas’ twice daily flights to Australia depart late in the evening and arrive in the morning at London Heathrow meaning hugely expensive assets are left on the ground all day doing nothing.

From 20 July 2014, as part of a broader restructuring of Qantas’ network in response to a deteriorating financial performance, Qantas flights to Melbourne will be retimed from a late evening departure to an early afternoon departure.

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BA giving away free flights at London Victoria

London Air Travel » Page 114

British Airways London Victoria
British Airways London Victoria

British Airways is giving away free tickets to destinations from its London Gatwick base in the Caribbean every 15 minutes at London Victoria railway station every day this week until Saturday 10 May 2014.

To be in for a chance to win you have to test your skills on an arcade-style game, with the highest scoring participants in 15 minute intervals winning tickets to the featured destination of the day.

The BA stand is located towards platforms 15-19.

From what we’ve seen the stand is popular, so do be prepared to queue for a short while if travelling to Victoria specifically for this.

Today’s (Friday) destination is Barbados. Wednesday’s destination was Saint Lucia and Thursday’s destination was St Kitts.

Full details of BA’s network at London Gatwick are available here.

See an Airbus A320 recycled in Kevin McCloud’s “Supersized Salvage”

London Air Travel » Page 114

Channel 4 Logo
Channel 4 Logo (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

This is one, perhaps, for readers more interested in the hardware of aviation than the “softer” aspects of flying.

Tonight, 24 April 2014, on Channel 4 (UK), “Grand Designs” presenter Kevin McCloud will challenge a team of three engineers to recycle the entire contents of an Airbus A320 aircraft into reusable consumer products in Kevin McCloud’s “Supersized Salvage” (also repeated just after midnight on 4 Seven).
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