London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 16 March 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly briefing on air travel around the world, as published every Monday at 06:00 GMT.

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

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 16 March 2020.

“To be honest we’ve gone through all of this before. We’ve all seen it before.”

“We know what to do in a time like this. We know how to respond.”

The comments of IAG CEO Wille Walsh a little over two weeks ago.

Last Friday, British Airways CEO Alex Cruz sent a video message, ostensibly to employees only, which referred to BA as being in “a fight for survival”.

There is a kernel of truth that many airlines have been at pains to emphasise they have learned the lessons of 11 September 2001 and the 2008 financial crisis. Some airlines have claimed they could now be profitable in perpetuity, no matter what.

Arguably, no-one could have anticipated that many airlines could now be close to shutting down all international operations for a minimum of two months.

This is the most unprecedented situation for civil aviation since the Second World War.

Some of the tools airlines such as BA have used to get through downturns in the past, such as aggressive marketing activity in certain geographic markets or passenger segments, are simply not available now.

The “known unknown” is whether this is a period of significantly reduced demand for a few months which will soon rebound, or a fundamental reordering of global aviation.

The scale of capacity cuts and route suspensions is unprecedented:

airBaltic is to suspend all scheduled flights from 17 March to 14 April 2020, save for potential repatriation flights.

Air New Zealand is to cut long-haul capacity by 85%. London Heathrow – Los Angeles is suspended from 21 March to 30 June. Other suspended long-haul routes are Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, Houston, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Tokyo Narita, Honolulu, Denpasar and Taipei 

Alitalia has asked all passengers to wear masks on board its aircraft in case passengers cannot be kept one metre apart.

American Airlines is to suspend virtually all long-haul flights outside of Central & North America. The airline will operate a skeleton service of one flight a day from London Heathrow to Dallas / Fort Worth and Miami and three flights a week between Dallas / Fort Worth and Tokyo Narita.

Delta is to suspend virtually all transatlantic flights. This is save for one daily flight to Atlanta from London Heathrow, Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle; one flight from Amsterdam to Detroit; and flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK.

Lufthansa now expects its group airlines to reduce capacity by up to 70%. The airline has drawn additional credit facilities of €600m. The group is also looking to secure financing against its aircraft which it claims have a book value of €10 billion.

Norwegian has issued an outright plea for state support and has admitted it will not be able to raise funds through conventional means. Even before the extension of the US travel ban to the UK & Ireland, the airline had announced it was to ground 40% of its long-haul fleet and cancel 4,000 flights to the end of May.

Qantas has made substantial cuts to its international network, including the grounding of all part two Airbus A380 aircraft until September.

SAS Scandinavian Airlines is to suspend almost all operations from today.

Singapore Airlines has suspended services from Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Milan, Munich, Paris and Rome to Singapore until the end of May.

Shai Weiz, CEO of Virgin Atlantic and Peter Norris, Chairman of Virgin Group, a 51% shareholder in Virgin Atlantic, are reported to be writing to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week to ask for liquidity support of up to £7.5bn for the entire industry.

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British Airways Cuts North America Flights

British Airways is to operate a substantially reduced schedule from London to the United States following an extension of a travel ban to the UK & Ireland.

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British Airways Coat Of Arms
British Airways Coat Of Arms (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways is to temporarily cut the number of transatlantic routes and flights it operates from London Gatwick and Heathrow to the US.

This follows the decision by the US Government to ban foreign nationals from entering the US if they have been in the UK in the past 14 days. The Foreign Office has also advised against non-essential travel to the US.

US citizens and lawful US permanent residents may still travel from the UK to the US. However, they must do so through a designated airport. At the time of publication, these are:

  • Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta (ATL)
  • Boston Logan (BOS)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Detroit Metropolitan (DTW)
  • Daniel K Inouye International Airport, Honolulu (HNL)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • New York John F Kennedy (JFK)
  • Newark Liberty (EWR)
  • San Francisco International (SFO)
  • Seattle Tacoma (SEA)
  • Washington Dulles (IAD)

The ban takes effect in respect of flights departing for the US from 00:00 ET / 04:00 GMT Tuesday 17 March 2020.

As a consequence of this, the following routes are now suspended from Tuesday 17 March:

London Gatwick: Las Vegas, Orlando, Tampa

London Heathrow: Austin, Baltimore, Charleston, Denver, Houston, Nashville, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Jose

London City – New York JFK has already been suspended.

At the time of publication, flights to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas / Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York JFK, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington Dulles are showing as operating, but with some frequency reductions.

This may change imminently. It is implausible that BA will maintain its current schedules as demand falls. The status of aviation all over the world is also changing very rapidly and BA’s parent company IAG plans to reduce capacity by in excess of 75% in April and May.

Flights to Canada are currently expected to operate as scheduled.

If your flight is cancelled you are entitled to a full refund. You are also eligible to be rerouted via an alternative US airport, connecting to / from BA’s transatlantic joint-business partner American Airlines. If you are travelling to the US, you must of course be able to comply with its entry restrictions.

If your flight is still operating, you are still allowed to either change the date of your flight or use the ticket value of your flight towards a future booking. There are more details of this policy at ba.com

You can also choose an alternative departure / arrival airport. However, any consequential costs such as ground transportation will be at your expense.

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American Airlines Cuts Transatlantic Flights From Heathrow

American Airlines has substantially reduced its schedule from London Heathrow following new restrictions on travel from the UK to the USA.

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American Airlines Aircraft at London Heathrow
American Airlines Aircraft at London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

American Airlines has announced significant reductions to its transatlantic flight schedule from the UK & Ireland.

This follows the decision by the Trump Administration to ban foreign nationals from entering the US if they have been in the UK & Ireland in the past 14 days.

US citizens and lawful US permanent residents may still travel from the UK to the US. However, they must do so through a designated airport. At the time of publication, these are:

  • Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta (ATL)
  • Boston Logan (BOS)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Detroit Metropolitan (DTW)
  • Daniel K Inouye International Airport, Honolulu (HNL)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • New York John F Kennedy (JFK)
  • Newark Liberty (EWR)
  • San Francisco International (SFO)
  • Seattle Tacoma (SEA)
  • Washington Dulles (IAD)

The ban takes effect in respect of flights departing for the US from 00:00 ET / 04:00 GMT Tuesday 17 March 2020.

As a consequence of this, American Airlines will operate an extremely limited service with one flight a day from London Heathrow to Dallas Fort / Worth and Miami.

American Airlines will also progressively wind-down its own operated services from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles and New York JFK by 23 March bring passengers back home. Services are currently planned to resume from 6 May 2020. The launch of Heathrow – Boston is postponed until early May.

American Airlines will also suspend flights from London Heathrow to Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix as these are not approved airports for eligible travellers to travel to.

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British Airways One-Way Fares To / From The USA

British Airways has filed a special one-way fare for passengers looking to travel urgently to / from the USA up to Sunday 22 March 2020.

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British Airways Boeing 747 Heathrow
British Airways Boeing 747 Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

British Airways has filed a one way fare for travel to / from the United States up to Sunday 22 March 2020.

This is intended for anyone who needs to travel urgently to / from the United States.

It applies to the World Traveller economy cabin only. It’s not a deeply discounted fare, but it is relatively low for booking this close the date of travel.

A one-way economy flight to Boston or New York up to Sunday 22 March 2020 will cost approximately £500. By contrast, it would cost £1,500 to book an economy ticket to Dubai this close to departure.

From Monday 23 March 2020, BA is only selling full fares to / from the US. This is likely due to the imminent extension by the US Government of restrictions on travel to the US on foreign nationals who have been in the UK within the previous 14 days.

British Airways Special One Way Fares To The US
British Airways Special One Way Fares To The US
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Airline Slot Waivers At London City, Gatwick & Heathrow

Airlines operating at London City, Gatwick and Heathrow airports have the flexibility to cancel flights up to 30 June 2020 without risk of forfeiting slots.

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United Airlines at London Heathrow
London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

Airlines operating at London City, Gatwick and Heathrow airports have been granted a waiver to cancel flights up to 30 June 2020 without risk of forfeiting their slots.

Under “use it or lose it” rules airlines must use their slots for 80% of the time during a travel season. Otherwise, the slots will be forfeited and placed into a pool for other airlines to bid for.

For airlines facing significantly reduced demand due to Coronavirus, this means they are limited in how many flights they cancel.

Airlines would rather run empty flights than hand slots free of charge to their competitors, which in the case of Heathrow, could otherwise cost tens of millions to buy.

Airport Coordination Ltd which oversees the management of slots at City, Gatwick and Heathrow, had granted a limited waiver for slots used for mainline China and Hong Kong flights. The company had said that its ability to grant a broader waiver was constrained by EU Slot Regulations.

The European Airport Coordinators Association had published a paper urging the European Commission to relax these regulations. It has since done so, and whilst the legislation has not yet been formally adopted by the European Council and European Parliament, ACL will now relax slot regulations.

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Virgin Atlantic Extends Status For Flying Club Members

Virgin Atlantic is to provide Silver & Gold members of the Flying Club with a six month extension to their membership year.

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Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 Upper Class Cabin
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 Upper Class Cabin (Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic)

Virgin Atlantic has offered Silver and Gold members of its Flying Club frequent flyer programme a six month extension to their frequent flyer status.

In addition, the expiry date of vouchers such as Clubhouse and upgrade vouchers will also be extended. These changes should take effect by Friday 20 March 2020.

Virgin Atlantic has advised of the changes as follows:

Frequent Flyer Status Extension

We will be extending the status of all our Silver and Gold Flying Club members by 6 months, so that your status is protected during this difficult period. For example, this means that if your original membership year was due to expire on 30 April 2020, the new expiry date will be 31 October 2020. 

This means you will now have 18 months to earn the tier points you need to maintain your current status or achieve new status: 400 tier points need to be earned during the 18 month Extended Membership Year for Silver status to be maintained for another 12 months and 1000 tier points need to be earned during the 18 month Extended Membership Year for Gold status to be maintained for another 12 months.  

We will not be sending out new membership cards for this extension period, but your Extended Membership Year will be viewable online in your Flying Club account. Additionally, your digital membership card can be viewed and printed online or downloaded via the Virgin Atlantic app.   

For Gold members whose account renews automatically every year the Extended Membership Year will not be applicable. The normal renewal benefits will be awarded at the end of the 12 month membership year instead of the Extended Membership Year.

Your account will be updated on our internal systems by Friday 20 March 2020.

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British Airways Extends Flexible Rebooking Policy

British Airways has updated its flexible rebooking policy for all passengers due to travel up to Sunday 31 May 2020.

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London Heathrow Terminal 5 Check-In Concourse
London Heathrow Terminal 5 Check-In Concourse (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways, has from approximately 16:00 GMT Friday 13 March 2020, extended its flexible rebooking policy following the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

To date, BA has only agreed to waive change fees for new bookings made from Tuesday 3 March to Monday 31 March 2020.

Bookings made prior to this date are subject to existing fare rules, unless BA has put in place special policies for certain regions such as Italy, India and the USA.

BA has now updated its guidance on its website to include all existing bookings for travel up to Sunday 31 May 2020 which now advises:

You can now change your travel dates and destination without incurring a charge. If you’re travelling with us between 14 March to 31 May, you can change your plans and receive a voucher of the same value.

Full details of how to obtain a “voucher” (this is not a physical voucher), including terms and conditions, are on this page of ba.com. It is strongly recommended that you fully appraise yourself of these terms and conditions before selecting this option.

Note, this guidance may also be rescinded at any time.

It is also clear given the gravity of the situation now facing airlines, and the relaxation of “use it or lose it” airport slot rules until 30 June 2020, that there will be very substantial reductions to BA schedules in April and May. If your flight is cancelled you will be entitled to a full refund.

Also, given the very high volume of calls to BA’s call centres, if you are not due to travel within the next few days, it may be best to wait and see how the situation unfolds.

Passengers can check the status of their booking using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com. If you need to contact BA, telephone numbers are on this page of ba.com

A number of airlines have also extended their flexible booking policies including Aer Lingus and Lufthansa Group Airlines.

Update Saturday 14 March 2020

Following the decision by the Trump Administration to extend restrictions on travel from the Schengen area to the US to the UK & Ireland from 00:00 ET / 04:00 GMT on Tuesday 17 March, BA is allowing passengers who are mid-journey and want to return home early to rebook. You can contact BA by telephone to rebook. However, your chances of getting through on the phone are very slim.

British Airways Flexible Rebooking Policy For The USA

British Airways has put in place a flexible rebooking policy for passengers due to fly to the USA up to 11 April 2020.

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British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Image Credit: Heathrow)

British Airways has put in place a flexible rebooking policy for all passengers due to fly to / from the USA up to and including Saturday 11 April 2020.

This follows a decision by the Trump Administration to place travel restrictions on travellers from countries which are members of the Schengen travel area. This applies to all flights departing for the USA after 23:59 ET on Friday 13 March.

Passengers can rebook on to alternative BA flights to the USA up to Saturday 1 August 2020. Passengers can also change their departure, stopover and arrival airport. However, any consequential costs will be at passengers’ expense.

At the time of publication, refunds are not permitted. However, passengers can exchange their ticket for a voucher for future travel.

This policy also includes flights booked through BA on its codeshare partners American Airlines, Finnair and Iberia.  Finnair has also announced it is cancelling all flights to the USA from 14 March to 12 April.

Also, at this time, BA flights to the USA are scheduled to operate. In the event your flight is cancelled, you will be entitled to a full refund.

Passengers can check the status of their booking using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com. You can also contact BA by telephone to rebook . However, call volumes are very high. Unless you need to rebook urgently, it is best to wait.

If you are booked to fly with BA to / from the USA on a codeshare booking through another airline, such as American Airlines, you will need to contact the airline that issued your ticket to be rebooked.

If you are due to travel on a transatlantic flight operated by American Airlines please see this guidance issued by American Airlines.

Update Saturday 14 March 2020

Following the decision by the Trump Administration to extend restrictions on travel from the Schengen area to the US to the UK & Ireland from 00:00 ET / 04:00 GMT on Tuesday 17 March, BA is allowing passengers who are mid-journey and want to return home early to rebook. You can contact BA by telephone to rebook. However, your chances of getting through on the phone are very slim.

British Airways Flexible Rebooking Policy For India

British Airways has implemented a flexible rebooking policy for passengers due to fly to / from India up to 14 April 2020.

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British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
British Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Image Credit: Heathrow)

British Airways has put in place a flexible rebooking policy for all passengers due to fly to / from India up to and including Tuesday 14 April 2020.

This follows a decision by the Government Of India to withdraw tourist visas from Friday 13 March until Wednesday 15 April 2020. Travellers of all nationalities from certain countries must also enter quarantine for a period of 14 days.

Passengers can rebook on to alternative BA flights to India up to Saturday 1 August 2020.

At the time of publication, refunds are not permitted. Nor are changes of departure airport / destination. However, if you have not yet started your journey, you can use the value of your ticket as part-payment for a future booking within 12 months of your original intended date of travel.

Also, at this time, bar frequency reductions between Heathrow and Mumbai, BA flights to India are scheduled to operate. In the event your flight is cancelled, you will be entitled to a full refund.

Passengers can check the status of their booking using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com. You can also contact BA by telephone to rebook. However, call volumes are very high. Unless you need to rebook urgently, it is best to wait.

If you are booked to fly with BA to / from India on a codeshare booking through another airline, such as American Airlines, you will need to contact the airline that issued your ticket to be rebooked.

London Air Travel’s Atlantic Update – 11 March 2020

Welcome to London Air Travel’s weekly bulletin on transatlantic travel, published every Wednesday at 06:00 GMT.

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

Hello and welcome to London Air Travel’s Atlantic Update providing a weekly bulletin on developments on transatlantic travel between Europe and North America. The Atlantic Update is published every Wednesday morning at 06:00 GMT.

Coronavirus In The US

The whole world is watching the progress of Coronavirus.

At the time of publication there are over 950 cases of Coronavirus in the US and 29 people have died.

This is expected to increase significantly, and if it does, the global economic impact could be significant. And if there’s one country that is ill-equipped to handle such an outbreak, it’s the US.

It’s a large country with freedom of movement between states. There is no national public health care service. Workers rights are limited, many employees receive very limited paid sick leave. There are also pockets of deep mistrust towards federal government and strong ideological objections to universal health care. Individual freedoms and rights take priority. Add to that a deeply partisan and toxic political culture where party loyalty trumps all else. And Donald Trump.

American Airlines has announced significant network wide changes in response to Coronavirus.

There are no route suspensions from London Heathrow. However, a number of seasonal and year-round transatlantic routes from mainland Europe have been suspended until early June. Full details of the network changes are available from American Airlines.

Delta has also announced capacity reductions of around 15-20% on transatlantic routes.

Norwegian has announced it is to cancel approximately 3,000 flights up to mid June 2020.

This represents approximately 15% of its network capacity. Some employees will also be temporarily laid off. Interestingly, Norwegian’s CEO Jacob Schram  also calls for “the authorities to immediately implement measures to imminently reduce the financial burden on the airlines in order to protect crucial infrastructure and jobs” 

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