You have to credit Qantas for the amount of PR they have managed to generate from its “Project Sunrise” test flights to Sydney.
You can read reviews of the latest flight from London Heathrow to Sydney from CNN and The Sunday Times.
Of course, PR is all about expectations management and timing. Qantas has said a final decision on whether to order ultra long-range aircraft will be made by the end of the year. Given that a final go ahead also requires regulatory approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia, and agreement with Qantas trade unions, it seems implausible this will all happen in the next six weeks.
Qantas is holding its annual investors day at 09:00 AEDT on Wednesday 19 November 2019 and may provide more detailed timescales then.
South African Airways Strike
South African Airways’ local and international flights have been subject to significant disruption over the weekend due to open-ended industrial action called by the South African Airways Cabin Crew Association (SACAA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).
South African Airways’ flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg has been cancelled on Saturday and Sunday, but is expected to resume from today.
The strike follows the announcement of a restructuring plan by the state-owned airline which has not submitted financial statements to the Parliament of South Africa for the past two years.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation reports that National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is to call a secondary strike which may result in broader disruption to the aviation industry in South Africa.
Lufthansa has announced a number of group-wide sustainability measures to encourage passengers to offset the carbon emissions from their flights.
Both Lufthansa and SWISS have adopted the “Compensaid” platform which allows passengers to offset CO2 emissions from their flights. Lufthansa also plans to introduce a new corporate fare which automatically includes carbon offsetting from 2020.
Virgin Australia “Up, Up and Toupee”
Virgin Australia has launched a new TV advertising campaign in Australia. In a somewhat “different” advert under the banner of “Feel Good Flying”, it features a flying toupee taking off from its owner and making its own way to the airport.
This marks a retreat by Virgin Australia which had sought to become a full service, second force rival to Qantas Group and positioning itself somewhere in the middle of its budget airline origins and Qantas.
The Age Melbourne features an interview with Virgin’s recently appointed CEO Paul Scurrah.
Many are now planning their annual ski trip or a Christmas trip to Lapland or mainland Europe’s markets, so here’s a quick run through of direct winter seasonal routes from London which operate in addition to scheduled year round services.
BA’s winter seasonal service from London Heathrow to Innsbruck resumes three times weekly from Friday 13 December 2019 to Sunday 19 April 2020. Innsbruck also returns at Gatwick from Sunday 8 December 2019 to Friday 24 April 2020, with a decreased frequency of 4 flights a week.
easyJet operates a twice weekly seasonal service from London Gatwick to Klagenfurt on Wednesday and Saturday from Saturday 14 December 2019 to Saturday 28 March 2020.
BA’s winter seasonal flight from London Heathrow to Salzburg resume, initially four times weekly, from Friday 13 December 2019 until Saturday 28 March 2020. This will complement year round services from Gatwick.
easyJet also operates a four times weekly service from London Gatwick to Salzburg from Friday 6 December 2019 to Saturday 28 March 2020.
BA’s seasonal service from London Gatwick to Vienna returns from Sunday 27 October 2019 to Sunday 12 January 2020.
Finnair is operating a twice weekly winter seasonal service from London Gatwick to Ivalo on from Thursday 12 December 2019 to Sunday 22 March 2020
Finnair is also operating a weekly seasonal service from London Gatwick to Kittilä from Sunday 22 December 2019 to Sunday 8 March 2020.
Both of these routes can be booked as codeshares through BA.
easyJet also flying to Rovaniemi on Wednesdays and Sunday from Sunday 17 November 2019 to Wednesday 25 March 2020. Norwegian also flies to Rovaniemi on Monday and Friday until Friday 27 March 2020.
BA is operating a twice weekly winter seasonal flight from London City to Chambery on Saturday and Sunday from Saturday 14 December 2019 up to Saturday 18 April 2020. There are also four additional weekly flights between Monday 16 December 2019 and Tuesday 24 December 2019.
BA is operating a twice weekly winter seasonal flight from London Stansted to Chambery on Saturday and Sunday from Saturday 14 December 2019 up to Sunday 19 April 2020.
BA will fly to Grenoble Alpes Isère airport from London Gatwick from Saturday 14 December 2019 to Sunday 19 April 2020 with increased frequency of 4 flights a week. and from London Heathrow on Saturdays from Saturday 14 December 2019 to Saturday 28 March 2020.
easyJet will also fly to Grenoble Alpes Isère airport five times weekly from Friday 13 December 2019 to Saturday 28 March 2019.
BA’s winter seasonal service from Gatwick to Cologne returns from Friday 1 November 2019 to Friday 27 March 2020.
easyJet also operates a seasonal service to Friedrichshafen on Saturday and Sunday from Saturday 14 December 2019 to Saturday March 2020. BA’s winter seasonal service from Gatwick to Friedrichshafen does not return this year.
BA’s winter seasonal service from Gatwick to Nuremberg returns from Friday 29 November 2019 to Monday 6 January 2020.
BA’s winter seasonal route from London City to Reykjavik does not return this year.
easyJet will operate a seasonal service from London Gatwick to Turin up to six times weekly from Friday 6 December 2019 to Saturday 28 March 2020.
Qantas has completed a non-stop flight from London Heathrow to Sydney Kingsford Smith airport.
A Qantas Boeing 787-9 aircraft departed London Heathrow at 06:09 GMT / 17:09 AEDT on Thursday 14 November 2019 and arrived in Sydney at 01:28 GMT / 12:28 AEDT on Friday 15 November 2019. The total flight time was 19 hours and 19 minutes. This compares to around 22 hours and 35 minutes for Qantas’ one-stop service from London Heathrow via Singapore.
The Boeing 787, registration VH-ZNJ, named Longreach – a town in Queensland where Qantas traces its origins – bears a special livery to mark the forthcoming Qantas Centenary.
This flight departed with 52 passengers and crew including four operating pilots and six operating cabin crew.
This flight is the second of three test flights Qantas is conducting as part of its research into “Ultra Long Range” flights to Australia.
Qantas has used these test flights, operated by factory fresh Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, to trial service routines and test the impact of ultra long-range flights on passengers and crew. On this particular flight, passengers ate supper shortly after departure from London.
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Delta’s Boeing 767-400 at London Heathrow
Delta begins operating the Boeing 767-400 aircraft from London Heathrow today.
Although this is far from the most modern aircraft to cross the Atlantic, Delta is in the process of refurbishing its fleet of Boeing 767-400 aircraft to bring their interiors closer to the standard of Airbus A350-900 and refurbished Boeing 777 aircraft, neither of which are served with by Delta at London Heathrow.
The first refurbished aircraft should enter service this month. Delta’s refurbished Boeing 767-400 aircraft will benefit from a modified version its new “Delta One” business class suites. It promises more personal storage and significantly improved personal privacy with 34 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
These aircraft will also feature Delta’s 20 seat premium economy cabin, Delta Premium Select for the first time as well as improved in-flight entertainment..
The Boeing 767-400 aircraft will operate from London Heathrow on the following routes this year:
London Heathrow – Atlanta (Flight DL31/DL30) from Wednesday 13 November 2019
London Heathrow – New York JFK (Flight DL2/DL1) from Sunday 17 November 2019
London Heathrow – Boston (Flight DL59/DL58) from Thursday 21 November 2019
Selected flights from Heathrow to Detroit, Minneapolis and Portland will operate with the Boeing 767-400 from as yet unconfirmed dates in the second quarter of 2020. The one exception is Salt Lake City.
Note this does not guarantee that you will be on a refurbished aircraft. If you are booking flights online at Delta you will see these flights with refurbished aircraft specifically flagged on the booking page with “New Interior”.
Large parts of North America are currently experiencing severe weather.
There’s a phrase in American politics “If you’re explaining, you’re losing”.
And that’s where aviation finds itself in the climate change debate. As a percentage of global CO2 emissions, the contribution of aviation is very low. However, it is very visible (and, for some, audible) contributor. For many, flying is seen as a superfluous indulgence.
That is, of course, not the case. You can only understand a country if you’ve visited it many times. A lot of business and public affairs simply has to be done face to face. No organisation would award a contract to a supplier they have never met in person. As trends on routes from London to Brussels and Paris have shown, travellers will gladly take the train when it’s demonstrably a better option.
A BBC Panorama investigation “Can Flying Go Green?” presented by the BBC’s Chief Environment Correspondent Justin Rowlatt to be shown on BBC One (UK) tonight at 20:30 GMT is expected to criticise airlines for practices such as “fuel tankering”. This is where airlines carry fuel for the inbound flight on an outbound flight. This is often done for operational reasons, where the security of fuel supply at an airport cannot be guaranteed, or simply for cost reasons. IAG indicated last week that it may end such practices.
There are, however, signs that the industry is starting to coalesce around a single goal. Qantas has today announced that it will join IAG in aiming to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Qantas will also take one step further and will cap its net emissions at 2020 levels. Qantas will offset all growth in emissions from domestic and international operations from next year.
IAG also indicated at its Capital Markets Day last Friday that it will review individual routes on the basis of their carbon emissions. It is hard see BA’s all business class route from London City to New York JFK surviving in the long term.
It’s also questionable whether airlines such as Virgin should continue to offer complimentary car transfers when public transport is a perfectly feasible option at many airports.
International Airlines Group, the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, LEVEL and Vueling, held its annual Capital Markets Day today, Friday 8 November 2019.
The event followed a different format to previous years in that there were no individual airline presentations, so there’s not much news on that front.
You can download the full slide deck here. If you want to compare notes to what was announced 12 months ago, here’s our wrap up of last year.
The one significant piece of BA related news was the first published plan for the roll-out of its Club Suite at London Heathrow, which you can view here.
The roll-out of the new seat is crucial to improving Net Promoter Scores across for Club World. Whilst improvements to amenities and catering have delivered higher NPS scores in other cabins, the impact in long-haul premium cabins has been quite limited.
In terms of over-arching themes and trends for the day.
This will now be at a rate of 3.4%. In 2020, Aer Lingus, BA and Iberia will grow at a rate of 2-3%. However, there will be no growth at all for Vueling, where demand is softening in Barcelona.
IAG Is Moving To Greater Centralisation
Since its formation in 2011, the basic structure of IAG has been to centralise back-office functions, with day-to-day operations left to individual airlines.
A theme from last year was that IAG is placing more emphasis on looking at the relative positioning of its airlines against rivals in certain “demand spaces”. By its own admission, in certain market segments designed by IAG, there is scope to improve against competitors:
Many functions such as the design of aircraft cabins, in-flight service design and airline branding which have been hitherto left to individual airlines will come under central direction from IAG.
Other activities such as pricing, revenue management, sales and distribution, and loyalty will move entirely to IAG. This could, for example, result in IAG implementing a single booking engine across all of its airlines.
Group Loyalty – Avios
The Avios currency and the various frequent flyer programmes that adopt them are an extremely important part of IAG, both in terms of generating revenues in their own right and driving loyalty to IAG airlines.
IAG is also exploring implementing a single loyalty programme across all of its airlines, as hotel groups do. The big difference between IAG airlines and hotels is that separate hotel brands tend not to dominate specific geographic markets.
In the UK, the BA Executive Club has a very high profile and replacing it with a new IAG-wide name could result in significant brand dilution. (One way it might get around that is an interim partial rebrand of individual schemes based around a new name, before a wholesale transfer to one programme.)
Dynamism and greater personalisation is becoming a stronger theme (eg no e-mails offering redemptions you’re not interested in!), whilst maintaining some of the prominent fixed milestones that customers can easily identify (eg the tiers of the BA Executive Club).
IAG is also looking at more opportunities to redeem Avios. Options to reduce the amount of cash payable, such as short-haul redemptions with a £1 payment and part-pay with Avios which have proven very popular. This is even where, on a scientific basis, they are not the best value use of Avios. However, it does create an important perception that Avios are easy to redeem.
At some point all IAG frequent flyer programmes will move to a single platform with a single account balance as Aer Lingus and Vueling do at the moment. This will enable, for example, a member of the BA Executive Club to use their Avios when paying for food on Vueling.
IAG is also in active discussions to add new Avios partners, particularly in the financial services sector. As you can’t fail to notice when spending any time in London, a lot of new “fin tech” companies have to spend significant amounts of advertising to acquire new customers, and partnering with Avios is seen as a way of reducing the cost of customer acquisitions.
IAG’s Fleet Plans
Over the past few months, IAG airlines have announced orders for new aircraft, notably the Airbus A321 XLR for Aer Lingus and Iberia, the Boeing 737 MAX for BA at Gatwick and Vueling, and the Boeing 777-9 for BA.
Taking into account the above orders, IAG’s fleet plan is largely unchanged. BA still plans to retire the Boeing 747 by 2024 and there have been some very slight changes to the planned pace of retirement.
BA will also begin retiring some Boeing 777-200 aircraft. This will begin next year with three “odd ball” aircraft being retired. 8 Boeing 777-200 aircraft will be left in service by 2029.
IAG still plans to order the Boeing 737 MAX, citing the need for competition between Airbus and Boeing though has yet to convert its Letter Of Intent into a firm order.
As with the San Francisco lounge, the two former Club and First lounges have been combined into one, with a dedicated pre-flight dining area and a la carte menu for First Class passengers.
The lounge also features a centrepiece bar, a self-service food station with hot and cold food options. These include local specialities such as Indezi River cheese and Cape Malay curry. There is also a wide range of seating with at seat power.
Food options for First Class passengers in the dedicated pre-flight dining area include seasonal soups; ricotta and pea filled conchiglie; steak sandwich with mustard and basil relish; and chocolate brownies.
The lounge can be accessed by passengers travelling in Club World and First Class as well as Silver and Gold members of the Executive Club, and Oneworld alliance equivalents.
The last remaining lounge refurbishment project for this year is the Geneva lounge.
International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, is holding its annual Capital Markets Day today, Friday 8 November 2019.
As part its presentation, IAG has published its first complete plan for the roll-out of its “Club Suite” to existing long-haul aircraft at London Heathrow.
This gives a flavour of when passengers can expect to see the Club Suite on Heathrow based long-haul aircraft.
Overall, BA plans to have the Club Suite on 100% of Heathrow long-haul aircraft by 2025. By this time, BA will have retired its last Boeing 747 aircraft.
More than 50% long-haul aircraft at London Heathrow should feature the Club Suite by the end of 2021. Nearly 80% of long-haul aircraft at London Heathrow should feature the Club Suite by the end of 2022.
The Club Suite On New Aircraft
As expected, the Club Suite will be available on new deliveries of long-haul aircraft.
4 new Boeing 777-300 aircraft, which will be delivered in 2020
12 Boeing 787-10 aircraft, 6 of which will be delivered in 2020
18 new Boeing 777-9 aircraft, 8 of which will be delivered in 2022
The Club Suite On Existing Aircraft
BA has already begun retrofitting the Club Suite to four class Boeing 777-200 aircraft.
From the slide, the priority is clearly to continue retrofitting the Club Suite to Boeing 777-200 aircraft throughout 2020 and 2021. It’s worth adding that at the same time BA will convert economy seats on these aircraft from 9 to 10 abreast.
BA will then retrofit the Club Suite to its 12 existing Boeing 777-300 aircraft from 2021.
It will also begin retrofitting the Club Suite to 12 Boeing 787-8 aircraft from 2021 and 18 Boeing 787-9 aircraft from 2022.
The last existing fleet type to be retrofitted with the Club Suite will be 12 Airbus A380 aircraft from 2023.
As expected, the Club Suite will not be retrofitted to Boeing 747 aircraft. The current plan remains to retire the last Boeing 747s by 2024. The current plan is to have 25, 20, and 12 aircraft in service by the end of 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively.
These plans are of course subject to change according to the availability of seats from manufacturers and the ability to withdraw aircraft from service for refurbishment.
Economic and geopolitical events may also require BA to slow down capital expenditure or review its fleet plans in terms of new deliveries and the retirement of aircraft.
The Club Suite at London Gatwick
It should also be noted that this presentation is silent on whether the Club Suite will be retrofitted at Gatwick.
At the moment there appear to be no plans to do so.
Hello and welcome to the The 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.
The W Hotel Brand Plans Its Reinvention In New York
Arguably, there is no hotel brand more marmite than the W Hotel chain.
Founded in New York in 1998, the W Hotel brand sought to be epitome of cool. Not merely a hotel, but a lifestyle brand in its own right.
Promising “Whatever / Whenever” service, W hotels did not have a lobby, they had a dimly lit “Living Room”. Suites were given faintly ludicrous titles such as “Wow” and “Extreme Wow”. Housekeeping would never do something so mundane as simply service your room, they would “style it”.
Many of its rivals sought to imitate and launch their own brands. This even resulted in Hilton having to pay what was then Starwood Hotels $75million to settle a legal action. Starwood had sued Hilton and two former Starwood executives employed by Hilton, accusing them of stealing more than 100,000 confidential documents from Starwood. Hilton also had to abandon plans to launch its own lifestyle brand “Denizen”.
To its enthusiasts, W was a break from the norm and many aficionados would actively seek out W properties around the world. To its detractors, it was a means to command room rates of 5 star properties, without commensurate levels of service. And putting a night club in a hotel, as is the case with some properties, is a sick joke.
The opening of the original W Hotel on Lexington Avenue in 1998 drew celebrities such as Cindy Crawford and, err, Donald Trump. It was rebranded as the Maxwell last year.
The irony is that New York is the city where the brand impresses the least. Partly because of the constraints of New York real estate, and the city’s occasionally brash manner does seep into hotel service. The best W hotels are actually outside the US, such as Barcelona and Montreal.
In its third decade, W is now planning a reinvention. Three W Hotel properties in New York remain. This includes the W Union Square, which Marriott is reported to have acquired and plans to use a test bed for the relaunch of the brand. Of course, there are now countless lifestyle hotel brands, all following the template of public spaces and destination bars. Many are much more humble and less self-aggrandising than the W.
And there is the old adage that if you set out to be cool, that immediately precludes you from being so.
When International Airlines Group announced its third quarter results last Friday, 1 November 2019, Willie Walsh offered some warm words to one of its rival airlines Delta.
Willie praised Delta for its strategic move in acquiring 20% of LATAM airlines, thereby snatching it out of the Oneworld alliance. It also all but ended the prospect of further co-operation between LATAM and IAG airlines, which had been faltering due to regulators in Chile denying approval for a revenue-sharing joint-venture.
There was a hint that more details of IAG’s plans for Latin America were to come at its Capital Markets Day this Friday 8 November 2019, but no-one could have guessed that IAG had a plan up its sleeve.
Today, Monday 4 November 2019, IAG has announced it has reached an agreement to acquire Air Europa for €1 billion in cash.
This is what IAG would term a “transformational deal”. It significantly increases its presence at Madrid, by some 50%.
Whilst IAG making this move as revenge on Delta makes for a good story, this deal is likely to having been brewing for some time as it is highly unlikely that due diligence could be completed and terms agreed within a little over a month.
There are competition concerns. It is enviable that remedies will be demanded by regulators and there can be no certainty that these will be palatable to IAG.
About Air Europa
Readers in the UK will be forgiven for not knowing much about Air Europa.
It is the third largest airline in Spain after Iberia and Vueling, operating a fleet of 66 aircraft, principally to destinations in mainland Europe and Latin America. It has a relatively limited presence in the UK, flying from London Gatwick to Madrid.
Air Europa serves a number of destinations in Latin America not already served by IAG airlines such as Cordoba in Argentina and Recife in Brazil.
Air Europa is currently a member of the SkyTeam and will leave the alliance after its acquisition by IAG.
IAG’s Acquisition Of Air Europa
IAG has confirmed the following details this morning:
IAG will initially retain the Air Europa brand and it will operate as subsidiary of Iberia. IAG views the airline as operating as a “value carrier” in the mould of Aer Lingus. This suggests that it won’t be fully integrated into Iberia. However, as Iberia has a stronger brand presence in Latin American markets, it is likely it will adopt a brand name closely associated with Iberia.
Like Aer Lingus, Air Europa is unlikely to join the Oneworld alliance as a full member but may join as a “Oneworld Connect” partner.
IAG is keeping its cards close to its chest as to how its operations will be ultimately integrated into the group. When IAG acquired bmi in 2012 some in IAG pressed for the airline to be kept separate from BA and IAG secured productivity improvements from BA pilots as condition of its integration into BA. IAG may do the same here.
There’s also little fleet commonality with Iberia as Air Europa operates the Boeing 737 and Boeing 787, neither of which are used by Iberia.