Virgin Atlantic has long been known for its distinctive, if relatively few in number, Clubhouse lounges. The flagship being of course its London Heathrow Clubhouse, with other Clubhouses in San Francisco, New York, Boston and Washington.
One notable absentee has been Los Angeles, in spite of it being one of Virgin Atlantic’s most important routes after New York.
Today, 28 April 2015, Virgin Atlantic has opened a new Clubhouse at Terminal 2. The lounge has been designed by Slade Architecture who also worked on the airline’s Newark and JFK clubhouses.
The 4,000 sq ft triangular shaped Los Angeles clubhouse offers views of the airport’s apron and Hollywood Hills. The colour palette is relatively toned down compared to other Virgin lounges, with extensive use of white. It is clearly inspired by the Californian outdoor lifestyle and climate.
The lounge is lined by a sculpted Corian and copper Flow Wall that features a copper lined bar. Lounge furniture includes Swan chairs by Arne Jacobsen, Walter Knoll Turtle chairs, classic Eames chairs, and a custom fabricated surfboard inspired counter by the windows that is sculpted from layers of bamboo.
British Airways has announced that passengers travelling on selected flights in its World Traveller long-haul economy cabin from 12 May 2015 will have the option of purchasing an alternative three course meal tray, in lieu of the standard “Chicken Or Beef?” meal offered to all passengers.
The alternative meals will cost from £15 to £18 and will be available for passengers to pre-order in advance. The trays on offer are “Gourmet Dining”, “Taste of Britain”, “Great British Breakfast”, “Healthy Choice” and “Vegetarian Kitchen”.
Passengers will be able to purchase a meal between 30 days and 24 hours before departure. Full details are on the BA website.
Some time ago, we wrote of British Airways’ plans to refurbish 18 of its 40-odd fleet Boeing 747 aircraft. Full details of the refurbishment programme are here.
As part of this refurbishment programme, BA is to also reconfigure the capacity of its Club World business class cabin on these aircraft.
Currently, BA has two Club World configurations on the Boeing 747, with either 52 or 70 business class seats.
The former is a relatively unusual arrangement introduced just under ten years ago whereby World Traveller Plus premium economy is located between first and business class. Although many bawked at the idea at the time, it did allow BA to increase its business class capacity by 8%, which was roughly the entire business class capacity of Virgin Atlantic.
On 6 Boeing 747 aircraft the number of business class seats will be reduced from 70 to 52.
On the 18 aircraft earmarked for refurbishment the number of business class seats will increase from 70 to 86, with an additional two rows of Club World seats.
This means there will be 66 business class seats on the main deck (with the remaining 20 seats on the upper deck). This will make for a very large cabin, so it will be interesting to see how this works in practice.
The number of World Traveller economy seats will be reduced to accommodate the extra seats. The number of First class and World Traveller Plus premium economy seats will remain the same.
The new larger cabin is expected to operate on routes with high business class demand such as New York, Boston, Chicago and Lagos.
NB. We should add we receive a lot of search enquiries about the condition of BA’s Boeing 747 aircraft, so it’s clearly a very live issue for passengers.
The trade union representing pilots of the airline TAP Portugal has called a ten day strike from Friday 1 May to Sunday 10 May 2015.
As yet, TAP has not yet published of operating flights during the period of industrial action. However, a minimum service will be set by an arbitration tribunal. We’ve no idea whether London is deemed important enough to require a minimum service level!
TAP has invited passengers booked on flights during the strike to rebook onto another TAP flight on an alternative date. TAP has not indicated whether affected passengers will be accommodated on other partner/rival airlines.
Update: TAP has published a list of minimum services that will be operated during the strike This includes a daily return service between London Heathrow and Lisbon:
Flight TP356 Depart Lisbon 15:00 – Arrive London Heathrow 17:40
Flight TP369 Depart London eathrow 18:45 – Arrive Lisbon 21:25
Other scheduled flights may still operate. However, the situation is likely to quite fluid. TAP has also published a list of flights over the next three days that are guaranteed not to operate.
TAP flies from London Heathrow to Lisbon, Funchal and Porto and from London Gatwick to Lisbon and Porto.
For those wishing to make their own alternative plans, alternative options include British Airways from London Heathrow to Lisbon and Porto and London Gatwick to Funchal, easyJet from London Gatwick to Lisbon, Funchal and Porto.
In a further sign of US airlines continuing to narrow the historical gap in service levels between their European rivals, United Airlines is to provide complimentary beer and wine in economy class on long-haul flights to and from London Heathrow from 1 June 2015.
This is part of a package of service improvements announced by United Airlines. The airline will continue to charge for spirits in economy. Passengers will also have the option to purchase additional snacks in flight.
This move does, if we’re not mistaken, put United Airlines broadly on a par with Delta and American Airlines. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic continue to offer a full bar service free of charge in economy.
Whilst in the grand scheme of things, this is a very modest change and, in truth, only a reversal of a previous cut, it’s perhaps less likely other airlines will start charging for alcoholic drinks in economy.
United Airlines flies from London Heathrow Terminal 2 to New York Newark, Chicago, Washington Dulles, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Ever since London Heathrow Terminal 5 opened seven years ago, a frequent criticism of the terminal has been the absence of a paid-for-access lounge for those who do not have access to BA’s Galleries lounge complex by virtue of frequent flyer status or travel class.
This summer Terminal 5 will gain its own paid-for-access lounge as an “Aspire” lounge is to open in Terminal 5 near Gate 18.
We’re not sure why it has taken so long for a lounge to open but this will be a welcome development for many. The standard of third party lounges has improved markedly over the past few years and it should compare favourable to BA’s Galleries Club lounges.
The one point to note is that many BA long-haul flights do depart from the Terminal 5B and 5C satellite terminals and there won’t be paid-for lounge facilities in these satellite terminals.
Update: The opening date of the lounge is Tuesday 4 August 2015 and the cost of lounge access is from £34.99.
Paul has followed up his illustrated history of British Airways (published last year) with “Better By Design – Shaping The British Airways Brand”.
This is an illustrated guide to BA’s visual identity from its predecessor airlines BOAC and BEA to the BA of today. The book explores the evolution of advertising, aircraft interiors, on-board experience and crew uniform fashions, and how these have come together to shape not only the BA brand but the way we view commercial aviation.
The 160 page paperback title is published by Amberley Publishing which has a special pre-order offer (at the time of writing) of £13.79.
For an example of more recent work for BA, we suggest visiting the website of David Davis and Stuart Brandon who have worked on the most recent brand identity for the airline.
The behind the scenes documentary shows no signs of running out of steam. We’ve lost count of the number of train companies, hotels and airlines that have opened themselves up to the cameras! ITV has now commissioned a three part documentary series on London Heathrow.
The documentary is being made by independent production company Raw TV. Production has been underway for some time, with the company actively seeking both frequent and nervous flyers late last year.
Of course, this is not the first time Heathrow has opened itself up to the cameras. The BBC ran “Airport Live” in 2013, as well as the long-running docusoap “Airport”.
We’ll provide an update with an expected transmission date as soon as we hear of it.
Update: Episode 1 of “Britain’s Busiest Airport” premiers on ITV at 9pm on Thursday 4 June 2015. More from the ITV Press Centre.
The BA lounge in Terminal 1 of Singapore Changi airport is currently closed for refurbishment, which is expected to be completed by late summer of this year.
In the interim, eligible passengers (eg those travelling in Club World business class, First Class, and Silver and Gold Executive Club cardholders) will be able to use the highly regarded Qantas Singapore lounge.
There was a time when BA and Qantas jointly operated a business and first class lounges in Singapore, but for reasons we do not know, the two airlines decided to move to separate lounges.
When an airline introduces a new type of long-haul aircraft into its fleet, it is standard practice to undertake short-haul test flights. This is so pilots can undertake a sufficient number of take-offs and landings to fly the aircraft and cabin crew can become familiar with the layout of the cabins and galleys.
It is for this reason that Finnair will be bringing its brand new Airbus A350 to London Heathrow in October 2015 as part of a series of test flights across Europe.
The Airbus A350 is due to operate on the following flights between London Heathrow and Helsinki and flights can be booked now on Finnair’s website.
Tuesday 6 October 2015
Flight AY831 Helsinki – London Heathrow
Flight AY840 London Heathrow –Helsinki
Thursday 15 October 2015
Flight AY995 Helsinki – London Heathrow
Flight AY996 London Heathrow – Helsinki
Friday 16 October 2015
Flight AY995 Helsinki – London Heathrow
Flight AY996 London Heathrow – Helsinki
The aircraft features an entirely new cabin, including a business class cabin with aisle access for all seats. It is due to fly from Helsinki to Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong progressively from 25 October 2015.
We should sound a note of caution that schedules may change at short notice if there are teething issues. It is entirely within Finnair’s discretion to let passengers change flights if this happens, if the rules of your ticket do not allow any changes.