BA’s Business Class Dilemma: How & when to introduce direct aisle access for all?

British Airways is responsible for launching fully flat beds in long-haul business class with its patented “yin-yang” layout. However, its cabins are now falling behind the competition as most of is competitors now offer cabins with all seats having direct access to the aisle.

London Air Travel

BA Club World IFE Screen
BA Club World IFE Screen (Image Credit: British Airways)

It was some fifteen years ago in May 1999 that British Airways shook up the market for long-haul business class travel with the launch of its fully flat Club World “flying bed”.

Designed by Tangerine, it was arguably the singlest biggest innovation since the original introduction of business class (which Qantas claims credit for.)

BA Club World Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

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Virgin Atlantic’s late summer/autumn worldwide sale – Book by 23 September 2014

Virgin Atlantic has today launched a sale across its worldwide network for bookings made by 23 September 2014.

The sale applies to all three of Virgin Atlantic’s cabins, economy, premium economy, and Upper Class and to destinations from both London Gatwick and London Heathrow.

Not all cabins are available on sale for every destination. There are a number of exclusions from premium economy (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco for example). There are no published sale fares for US destinations in Upper Class.

New York is available in economy from £399 on limited flights and days of the week. Boston and Miami are available from £459. Chicago and Los Angeles are available from £479.

Also, travel dates vary by destination and cabin. In most cases, fares are on sale for travel up to either March or June 2015, with a pre-Christmas travel blackout.

There’s more on the Virgin Atlantic website.

BA is likely to follow suit shortly and BA’s fares can be compared using the BA Low Price Finder.

Edited: Please note that since the launch of this sale Virgin Atlantic has announced the suspension of Tokyo and Mumbai from 31 January 2014 and the permanent closure of seasonal routes to Vancouver and Cape Town from 11 October 2014 and 26 April 2015. There’s more information here.

BA’s long farewell to the Boeing 747-400 jumbo

BA is retiring the Boeing 747-400. However, it will still have a presence at London Heathrow for many years to come.

On 11 August 2014, flight BA78 arrived at London Heathrow from Accra in Ghana. For the aircraft operating the route, a Boeing 747-400 (registration G-BNLI), this was its last passenger flight after more than 24 years’ service at the airline (Source: The BA Source.)

G-BNLI is the 11th 747 to be withdrawn from service at BA. This marks a continuation of a process that started some five years ago.

The 747s were initially withdrawn in response to the financial crisis, but more recently to be replaced by more efficient Boeing 777-300s and Airbus A380s which have seen the BA 747 removed from routes such as London Heathrow to Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Sydney.

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Finnair unveils routes, economy and business class cabins for Asia bound Airbus A350 aircraft

London Air Travel

Finnair Airbus A350 Business class cabin
Finnair Airbus A350 Business class cabin

Over the past fifteen years, Finnair has been steadily, but surely, building a niche as the European airline that provides the most efficient link between Europe and Asia via its hub in Helsinki.

In 2000, Finnair served just three destinations in Asia. Now, it serves 15 destinations. Finnair also serves a number of cities without direct links to London including Chongqing and Xi’an in China and Nagoya and Osaka in Japan.

Unfortunately, this has yet to translate into long term profitability for the airline. On Friday, Finnair joined the list of European airlines to issue a profit warning.

However, the airline is committed to its strategy and aims to double revenues from Asia by 2020. This week, Finnair revealed the interiors for its new Airbus A350 aircraft which will replace its quad-engine Airbus A340 aircraft and ply routes from Helsinki to Asia from mid 2015.

The airline has 11 firm orders for Airbus A350 aircraft, and a further 8 options.

The aircraft will initially be deployed on flights to Shanghai, Bangkok and Beijing in 2015. Hong Kong and Singapore will be served by the A350 in 2016.

In business class, Finnair has opted for the Zodiac Cirrus III seat which American Airlines (Boeing 777-300 flights only), Air France and Cathay Pacific have also adopted.

This seat provides both a fully flat bed and direct aisle access for all passengers, which is increasingly becoming standard for business class cabins. Finnair’s seat will also include touchscreen in flight entertainment and AC and USB power sockets. There will be a total of 46 seats in the cabin.

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Air France launches short-notice £999 business class sale fares to Dubai, Mumbai, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto

There has been a trend in recent years for airlines to announce short-notice sales of deeply discounted business and first class tickets, primarily aimed at leisure travellers in periods where bookings from corporate travellers are relatively low.

Air France has followed this trend and has just announced a special £999 fare for business class flights from London Heathrow to Dubai, Mumbai, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

Whilst £999 is a lot of anyone’s money, it does make the business class cabin much more accessible for those willing to pay and the pricing is particularly keen when compared to economy fares for direct flights during busy travel periods.

Bookings must be made by Monday 18 August 2014. However, bookings are valid for travel from 22 August 2014 to 31 March 2015. Bookings can be made for flights on both Air France and its sister airline, KLM.

As these are not direct flights from London, it does involve a change at either Amsterdam Schipol or Paris Charles de Gaulle airports (a connection at the former is much easier!).

It’s also worth noting that neither Air France nor KLM currently guarantee fully flat beds in business class across all flights. Both airlines are rolling out new fully flat business class products as per the Air France and KLM microsites.

There’s more about the sale on the Air France website.

Etihad to acquire five Heathrow slot pairs from Alitalia

As part of Etihad’s acquisition of a 49% stake in Alitalia, it will also acquire five London Heathrow airport slot pairs and lease these back to Alitalia.

London Air Travel

Alitalia Airbus A320
Alitalia Airbus A320

After a long period of negotiation, Etihad has finally announced a deal to acquire a 49% stake (the maximum allowed under EU ownership rules) in troubled European airline Alitalia.

Full details of the transaction can be viewed here.

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British Airways to make tactical long-haul cancellations during the Winter 2014/2015 season

British Airways parent company, International Airlines Group, released its half year results last Friday.

The results were, overall, very positive. All three IAG airlines (BA, Iberia, and Vueling) reported increased profits year on year.

However, IAG, did sound a note of caution. The group will moderate planned capacity growth for the rest of the year with BA and Iberia in particular shaving off a couple of per cent of their growth.

In the case of BA, this will not be done by way of route suspensions or cancellations, but by tactical cancellations of flights during quiet periods.

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