British Airways & American Express Partnership Extended

British Airways’ partnership with American Express has been extended in a new multi-year deal announced by its parent company IAG.

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British Airways First Class Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways First Class Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways’ partnership with American Express has been extended in a new multi-year deal announced by its parent company International Airlines Group.

American Express issues BA branded credit cards through which members can earn Avios points.

BA’s parent company, IAG, has announced that it has signed a new multiyear deal with American Express.

This operated through a separate division of IAG known as IAG Loyalty. As part of this, American Express will pay IAG £750m which is primarily a pre-payment for Avios points it will issue to members.

IAG CEO Willie Walsh did state during its full year results announcement that he had met with Mastercard a few times and they were “mad keen” to do business with IAG. This was no doubt a signal to American Express.

The advance sale of frequent flyer points to third parties is a device airlines use to raise funds. In 2009, American Airlines pre-sold $1 billion of AAdvantage miles to Citigroup. This comes at a time when airlines seek more ways to raise cash by using intangible assets. Yesterday, American Airlines announced it had taken out a $1.2 billion loan that was secured against its trademark and the internet domain name aa.com

IAG is due to announce its half-year results on Friday 31 July and will provide a further update on its finance raising plans then.

Qatar Airways & Japan Airlines Move To LHR Terminal 5

Qatar Airways and Japan Airlines will relocate to London Heathrow Terminal 5 from Monday 27 and Wednesday 29 July.

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

Qatar Airways and Japan Airlines are to temporarily relocate to London Heathrow Terminal 5.

Both airlines had temporarily relocated to Terminal 2 due to the closure of Terminals 3 and 4.

They will now move to Terminal 5 from Monday 27 and Wednesday 29 July 2020 respectively where they will join fellow Oneworld alliance members American Airlines, BA and Iberia.

Note that at the time of publication, this is not reflected in all online timetables.

It may seem odd these airlines are moving terminals twice due to COVID-19, this is most likely due to systems issues at Terminal 5 which were originally designed for BA.

Although not confirmed, timetables indicate that Finnair will relocate to Terminal 5 from Saturday 15 August.

In terms of other Oneworld alliance members, Cathay Pacific, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, Royal Air Maroc and SriLankan Airlines remain at Terminal 2, to the extent they are operating international flights from London Heathrow.

Currently, Heathrow airport does not expect Terminal 3 to reopen until late 2020 at the earliest. This will depend on how demand recovers in the autumn. Terminal 4 is not expected to reopen until 2021 at the earliest.

British Airways Extends Flexible Rebooking Policies

Passengers due to fly with British Airways up to 30 September 2020 can exchange the value of their ticket for a voucher for future travel.

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British Airways Tail Fins, London Heathrow
British Airways Tail Fins, London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

British Airways has once again extended its flexible rebooking policies for passengers due to fly with the airline in the coming weeks.

All passengers due to fly with the airline up to Wednesday 30 September 2020 have the option of exchanging the value of their ticket for a voucher. This applies regardless of when the booking was made.

The voucher will be valid for travel for completion in full by 30 April 2022. This policy until today, Wednesday 22 July 2020, applied only to passengers due to travel up to Monday 31 August 2020.

BA’s flexible change policy which allows passengers making bookings from 3 March 2020 to make changes to bookings without incurring fees has not changed. It currently only applies for bookings made up to 31 August 2020 for travel up to 30 April 2021.

Full details of this policy and guidance on how to claim a voucher are available on ba.com. Please read this page very carefully, including the terms and conditions for flight and holiday bookings, before taking any action. Once your original booking is cancelled it cannot be reinstated. These policies may be amended or withdrawn at any time.

BA is clearly not expecting any significant expansion in schedules before the end of September 2020. Please see here for details of where BA is currently flying.

If your flight is cancelled – these policy changes usually presage further flight cancellations – you are entitled to a full cash refund. However, you will need to call BA to do this.

Passengers can check the status of any existing bookings using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com.

British Airways Launches London Gatwick – Montego Bay

British Airways is to launch a new winter seasonal route from London Gatwick to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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British Airways Lounge, South Terminal, London Gatwick (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Lounge, South Terminal, London Gatwick (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways is to launch a new winter seasonal route from London Gatwick to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Flights will operate twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 13 October 2020 until Easter 2021.

The route will be operated with a three class Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

It may seem unusual for the airline to launch a new route at a time of significantly reduced demand. However, it’s worth recalling that after the 2008 financial crisis, BA pivoted towards long-haul leisure routes and added a number of destinations at Gatwick such as Male and Cancun. There may also be an element of subsidy for this route.

Virgin Atlantic previously flew to Montego Bay from Gatwick and is due to restart the route from London Heathrow on Friday 2 October 2020. This move by BA will obviously put competitive pressure on Virgin Atlantic.

Continue reading “British Airways Launches London Gatwick – Montego Bay”

British Airways Suspends London Heathrow – Portland

British Airways has suspended plans to launch a new route from London Heathrow to Portland, Oregon.

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Portland International Airport
Portland International Airport

British Airways has suspended plans to launch a new route from London Heathrow to Portland, Oregon.

BA was due to launch the route on 1 June 2020 with the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. This had been postponed until Wednesday 2 September 2020.

The route has today, Tuesday 21 July 2020, been taken off sale and removed from BA’s timetables entirely.

With no prospect of an imminent relaxation of travel restrictions to the US and reduced demand well into 2021, it is not surprising to see the launch of a new long-haul route postponed as they typically take a couple of years to establish themselves.

Continue reading “British Airways Suspends London Heathrow – Portland”

London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 20 July 2020

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

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

Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 20 July 2020.

BA Retires The 747

So it’s time to say adieu to the Boeing 747 at BA.

BA is far from alone in retiring the Queen of the Skies. Qantas will despatch its last Boeing 747 to Mojave on Wednesday. However, never has an airline retired so many of such a significant aircraft in its fleet so suddenly and so unceremoniously.

New York JFK, which used to host up to 8 BA Boeing 747s a day, will probably never see the aircraft again.

Ordinarily, you would expect some special goodbye flights and a hangar event for employees, enthusiasts and journalists. However, with BA contemplating thousands of redundancies and doing everything it can to conserve cash, this is unlikely. In spite of significant media interest, BA did not even offer any executives or staff for broadcast interviews on Friday.

Officially, the planned the retirement is subject to consultation. Assuming a minimum 45 day consultation with trade unions, its “official” retirement should be in early September.

For BA, the retirement of the 747 is more than just a substantial reduction of long-haul aircraft at a stroke. It is also represents a more significant reduction in premium seat capacity.

All Boeing 747 aircraft featured 14 First Class seats. Those aircraft earmarked to replace the 747, Airbus A350-1000, Boeing 787-10, Boeing 777-300 and Boeing 777-9, will have at most 8 First Class seats.

The 86 Club World seat Boeing 747s were second only to the Airbus A380 in terms of the number of Club World seats per aircraft. The 52 Club World seat Boeing 747s also featured more Club World seats than most Boeing 777 and 787 family aircraft at BA, many of which don’t have First Class.

The retirement of the Boeing 747 is not the only fleet decision BA will need to make in the coming months.

According to Bloomberg, the Airbus A380 will be spared an early retirement. Deliveries of Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787-10 aircraft will continue as planned. However, BA will need to look at the seating configuration for new aircraft. The planned delivery of the Boeing 777-9 from 2022 may also change.

New and refurbished Boeing 777-300 and new Boeing 777-9 aircraft were both expected to “premium heavy” configurations. That said, whilst long-haul premium traffic is likely to be soft for some time, it did rebound strongly after a precipitous fall during the 2008 financial crisis.

IAG is due to announce its half-year results on Friday 31 July and will no doubt provide an update on group fleet plans then.

Staying with BA, it has restarted long-haul flights at London Gatwick. Flights are now operating to Barbados and Bermuda. Kingston restarts today. St Lucia follows on Saturday 25 July.

BA also resumes short-haul flights from London City to Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow today.

At London Heathrow, BA returns to Naples today, Bilbao on Thursday 23 July and Seattle on Friday 24 July . BA will also launch Newquay this Friday.

Virgin Atlantic Restarts Passenger Flights

Virgin Atlantic restarts scheduled passenger flights today.

From this evening, Virgin will fly to Hong Kong. Flights will operate three times weekly until the end of August. Los Angeles and New York JFK follow tomorrow. These will operate three times weekly until the end of July. Los Angeles and New York will operate five times weekly and daily respectively during August.

Barbados and Shanghai will resume on Saturday 1 and Tuesday 4 August respectively. Lagos and Miami are currently due to resume in late August. The relaunch of some routes such as Atlanta, San Francisco and Tel Aviv has been pushed back to September.

Whilst Virgin has now secured additional funding, it is evidently going to face many more months of very difficult trading conditions.

Continue reading “London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing – 20 July 2020”

Qantas Bids Farewell To The Boeing 747

Qantas is to retire its last Boeing 747 aircraft, nearly fifty years after it revolutionised travel between the UK and Australia.

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Qantas Boeing 747-238B "City Of Canberra"
Qantas Boeing 747-238B “City Of Canberra” (Image Credit: Qantas Airways)

2020 will be known for many things, but in the world of aviation it will be remembered for the year that brought an abrupt end to the Boeing 747.

At approximately 14:00 AEST on Wednesday 22 July 2020, a Qantas Boeing 747 VH-OEJ will depart Sydney for Los Angeles under flight number QF7474 as its last flight.

From Los Angeles, it complete a short hop to Mojave to join a number of Qantas Boeing 747s which have been in storage since the suspension of international flights.

It has been a long time since Qantas has operated scheduled international flights and even longer since Qantas Boeing 747s were seen at London Heathrow.

It’s no exaggeration to say the Boeing 747 fundamentally changed Qantas’ position in global aviation and how passengers travelled from Europe to Australia.

Qantas Before The Boeing 747

Before the Boeing 747 entered into service, Qantas was Australia’s self-styled “Round The World Airline”.

Qantas Boeing 707 Around The World Jet Services, 1959
Qantas Boeing 707 Around The World Jet Services, 1959

At its peak, with its fleet of Boeing 707 aircraft, Qantas offered no less than four different routings between the UK and Australia.

There was the “Kangaroo Route” which traced its origins to the 1930s. A typical routing with the Boeing 707 was London – Rome – Cairo – Karachi – Calcutta – Bangkok – Singapore – Darwin.

In 1959, Qantas also launched a westbound service to Sydney via New York, San Francisco, Honolulu and Fiji.

Five years later in 1964, Qantas added two additional routes. There was a relatively short-lived second westbound service to Sydney known as the “Fiesta route”. This called at Bermuda, Nassau, Mexico City, Acapulco, Tahiti and Fiji.

A second eastbound route called at either Athens or Istanbul, Tehran, New Delhi, Hong Kong (with the option of flying on to Tokyo) before reaching Australia.

The 747B

The 747 changed everything. It enabled passengers to reach Australia with just two stops en-route from London.

Qantas’ first Boeing 747 aircraft was the 747B. This had the same dimensions as the first variant of the 747, but with a longer range and higher maximum take-off weight.

It had capacity for 356 passengers, with the galleys located below the main deck. In common with other airlines, there was a dedicated “Captain Cook” lounge for First Class passengers on the Upper Deck.

Qantas Captain Cook Lounge, Boeing 747 Upper Deck 1971
Qantas Captain Cook Lounge, Boeing 747 Upper Deck 1971 (Image Credit: Qantas)

Qantas’ first Boeing 747 flight departed London Heathrow for Sydney via Bahrain and Singapore on Friday 26 November 1971. Flights initially operated twice weekly on Fridays and Sundays.

In March 1974, Qantas added a second one-stop service from London Heathrow to Perth via Mumbai with a journey time of around 20 hours.

Qantas, QF8 London Heathrow to Perth, March 1974
Qantas, QF8 London Heathrow to Perth, March 1974
Qantas, London Heathrow to Australia Services, March 1974
Qantas, London Heathrow to Australia Services, March 1974
Continue reading “Qantas Bids Farewell To The Boeing 747”

BA Retires The Queen Of The Skies, The Boeing 747

British Airways plans to retire the Boeing 747 nearly five years earlier than planned, due to COVID-19.

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British Airways Boeing 747, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
British Airways Boeing 747, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Image Credit: British Airways)

British Airways is to retire the Boeing 747 with immediate effect.

At this stage it is officially a proposal, subject to consultation with trade unions. However, this appears to be a fait accompli as BA says the aircraft are likely to have flown their last scheduled commercial services.

This follows decisions by Qantas and Virgin Atlantic to immediately retire the aircraft due to COVID-19.

It is hard to overstate the impact the Boeing 747 had on civil aviation, BA, and what its early retirement will have on BA’s route network and profile of passenger traffic.

The Early Days Of The Boeing 747

Pan American World Airways, for whom the Boeing 747 aircraft was designed, was the first airline to operate passenger flights, from New York to London on 21 January 1970. 

It may seem strange to think now, but there were doubts as to whether airlines could fill the aircraft with passengers. There were concerns about the ability of airports to handle the aircraft, at the time the biggest passenger jet in service. Both London Heathrow and New York JFK had to implement makeshift arrangements to handle the aircraft. 

“All The 747 Needed Was BOAC Service.”

BOAC began passenger flights from London to New York on 14 April 1971 with the bold claim “All the 747 needed was BOAC service”.

BOAC Boeing 747-136 aircraft
BOAC Boeing 747-136 aircraft (Image Credit: British Airways)

It had been delayed by a year, partly due to an industrial dispute with its pilots. Prior to the launch of 747 services, BOAC opened its own dedicated terminal at New York JFK, today known as Terminal 7.

The 747 would be progressively added to many North American routes such as Chicago, Miami, Montreal, Toronto and Washington, as well as South Africa.

BOAC Boeing 747 Cabin Interior
BOAC Boeing 747 Cabin Interior (Image Credit: British Airways)
BOAC Boeing 747 Cabin Interior
BOAC Boeing 747 Cabin Interior (Image Credit: British Airways)
BOAC First Class Cabin, Boeing 747
BOAC First Class Cabin, Boeing 747 (Image Credit: British Airways)
Continue reading “BA Retires The Queen Of The Skies, The Boeing 747”

American Airlines & JetBlue Form Strategic Partnership

American Airlines and JetBlue are to form a strategic partnership. However, JetBlue will not join the Oneworld alliance.

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JetBlue Airbus A321 Aircraft, Boston Logan International Airport
JetBlue Airbus A321 Aircraft, Boston Logan International Airport (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

American Airlines and JetBlue have announced the two airlines are to form a strategic partnership to bolster their respective positions in the North East of the United States.

This follows a similar move by American Airlines and Alaska Airlines last year. However, unlike Alaska Airlines, JetBlue will not join the Oneworld alliance. Nor will JetBlue join American Airlines’ transatlantic joint business with BA.

This means that connections to JetBlue are likely to be only available for transatlantic passengers when connecting to / from American Airlines operated international flights, booked through American.

JetBlue’s plans to launch its own transatlantic routes from London in 2021 are also undisturbed by today’s announcement.

American Airlines customers will benefit from 130 new routes through codesharing with JetBlue. 60 new routes will become available to JetBlue customers through codesharing with American Airlines.

The codeshare partnership will also encompass JetBlue’s highly regarded Mint transcontinental routes and American’s own three class Airbus A321 transcontinental routes. Though, they do not appear to be seeking anti-trust immunity to co-ordinate schedules.

Continue reading “American Airlines & JetBlue Form Strategic Partnership”

Sotheby’s Auctions British Airways’ Lounge Art Collection

Sotheby’s is to auction selected works of art from British Airways lounges around the world.

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

Sotheby’s is to auction selected works of art from British Airways’ lounges around the world as the airline seeks to raise funds to survive the impact of COVID-19.

Standout works include “Cool Edge” by Bridget Riley which is valued up to £1.2m and will be auctioned amongst works from other collectors at a “Rembrandt to Richter” auction on Tuesday 28 July 2020.

Other items from the BA collection to be auctioned by Sotheby’s at future auctions this month include works by Damien Hirst, Peter Doig, Julian Opie and George Shaw.

In total, 17 pieces will be auctioned from BA’s collection of 1,500 works of art: (No, you can’t earn Avios at Sotheby’s!). These are:

“Grasshopper Portfolio” by Peter Doig (£10,000 – £15,000)
“Colour Down The Side” by Sir Terry Frost, R.A. (pictured above) (£20,000 – £30,000) 
“Sunglow” by Sir Terry Frost, R.A. (£10,000 – £15,000)
“Scarlet and Bordeaux in Cobalt” by Patrick Heron (£10,000 – £15,000)
“Valium” by Damien Hirst (£5,000 – £7,000)
Eight Landscapes by Julian Opie (£10,000 – £15,000)
“Garden 2” by Marc Quinn (£5,000 – £6,000)
“Untitled” (Bronze) by Bridget Riley (£5,000 – £7,000)
“Untitled” (Rose) by Bridget Riley (£5,000 – £7,000)
“Untitled” (Elongated Triangles 1) by Bridget Riley (£4,000 – £6,000)
“Untitled” (Elongated Triangles 2) by Bridget Riley (£4,000 – £6,000)
“Untitled” (Elongated Triangles 6) by Bridget Riley (£4,000 – £6,000)
“Untitled” (Elongated Triangles 4) by Bridget Riley (£4,000 – £6,000)
“Untitled” (Elongated Triangles 5) by Bridget Riley (£4,000 – £6,000)
“Scenes From The Passion: (Ash Wednesday) by George Shaw (£10,000 – £15,000)
“Scenes From The Passion: The Path In) by George Shaw (£10,000 – £15,000)

BA’s lounge complex at Heathrow is of course based around a “Galleries” concept and features many bespoke art installations and works. You may recognise “Colour Down The Side” by Sir Terry Frost, R.A. from the BA Arrivals Lounge. Though, there’s been a conspicuous lack of interest in the horse lamps from Terminal 5.

Speaking to the Sunday Times last month IAG CEO Willie Walsh, who famously sold off Aer Lingus’ art collection after the events of 11 September 2001, claims to have had nothing to do with the proposed sale and said of the auction:

“I didn’t realise we had an art collection. They said they had been hiding it from me for years because they thought if I knew it was there, I would probably sell it, and they were right.”

“I won’t be bidding for any of them, I can assure you.”