BA “status hold” for Executive Club members taking parental leave

BA has introduced a new policy allowing Executive Club members taking parental leave to “freeze” their current status.

London Air Travel » Page 75

British Airways Lounge - London Gatwick South Terminal
British Airways Lounge – London Gatwick South Terminal (Credit: British Airways)

British Airways announced two major changes to its Executive Club frequent flyer programme today.

The first is the introduction of the option for members to put their account “on hold” for up to a year if they take maternity, paternity or adoption leave.

What this means is that if a member has Bronze, Silver or Gold status they do not need to earn the requisite number of tier points (eg 300, 600, or 1,500 tier points) in their membership year in order to renew their status for another year. However, tier points and Avios will still be earned if flights are taken whilst the account is on hold.
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Uncertainty over Alitalia’s Heathrow routes as it enters administration

Alitalia has entered into administration, leading to uncertainty over its future at London Heathrow as its slots are owned by Etihad.

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Alitalia Airbus A320
Alitalia Airbus A320

As has been widely reported, today (Tuesday 2 May 2017) the shareholders of Alitalia (one of whom is Etihad) decided to put the airline into a formal administration process with the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.

This follows a decision by members of Alitalia’s trade unions not to accept a restructuring proposal which would have involved, inter alia, cuts to jobs and staff salaries and a restructuring of its short-haul operations. Had the restructuring plan been approved the shareholders would have provided new finance to the airline.

Under the administration process, the Italian Ministry of Economic Development will appoint a Commissioner which will manage the airline whilst it is in administration.

The Italian Government has approved the provision of a bridge loan which will allow Alitalia to continue operations for the foreseeable future.

If a buyer for Alitalia is found then Alitalia could continue in some form. However, a question will remain over its London Heathrow slots.

When Etihad acquired a stake in Alitalia in 2014, it bought all of its London Heathrow slots. These were valued at €60m. These are currently leased to Alitalia which uses them to operate five flights from London Heathrow to Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino. (By comparison BA flies to Milan and Rome up to 10 and 6 times a day.) Whilst the precise terms are obviously commercially confidential it seems likely that these will revert back to Etihad at some point after Alitalia enters into administration.

Given that Scandinavian Airlines recently sold two London Heathrow slot pairs to American Airlines for $75million, Etihad could recoup some of its losses by selling them to other airlines or to expand its own network from London to Abu Dhabi. Either way, it is unlikely they will remain with Alitalia.

For further news on Alitalia’s situation we recommend checking Alitalia’s corporate website and the English language website of Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

BA upgrades its smartphone apps to include automatic rebooking during disruption

London Air Travel » Page 75

British Airways iPad App
British Airways iPad App

One of the many perennial criticisms of British Airways is its handling of disruption at its hub at London Heathrow.  The airport is full, so when there is severe weather, the airline is forced to cancel flights, with short-haul flights always bearing the brunt.  What usually follows is long queues at ticketing desks to be rebooked.

BA announced at the annual Capital Markets Day of its parent company International Airlines Group last year that it was working on automatic rebooking tools during disruption.

BA has today released an update for its smartphone app which includes the option to rebook on to alternative flights during disruption. However, this will initially only be for selected customers. We presume this is for testing purposes.

In addition, most if not all customers should now have a “timeline” feature for each booking on the app which provides a countdown for future bookings and services that are available in connection with that booking.

If you haven’t already done so, we do recommend that all travelers (whether a frequent or once a year BA flyer) download the BA smartphone app. It is the easiest way to keep track of flights both before the day of travel and at the airport. From experience we find it is often ahead of other sources for learning of delays.

It is also an easy way to keep on track of fixed price upgrade offers for existing bookings and being able to book flights without tripping over adverts for hotels and car hire as you do on ba.com!

We also recommend that for security reasons software updates for apps are downloaded as soon as they become available.

Qantas withdraws London – Dubai – Melbourne in favour of Perth stopover

Qantas its to withdraw its London Heathrow – Dubai – Melbourne route from Sunday 25 March 2018.

London Air Travel » Page 75

Qantas Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner (Image courtesy of Qantas Airways)

Following the news today that Qantas is to fly direct from London Heathrow to Perth from Sunday 25 March 2018, Qantas has also confirmed it is to also withdraw its service from London Heathrow to Melbourne via Dubai, operated with the Airbus A380.

Instead, passengers wishing to travel between London and Melbourne courtesy of Qantas can either fly on an Emirates codeshare service with a change of aircraft in Dubai.

Alternatively passengers can connect on to Qantas’ non-stop Boeing 787-900 service between London Heathrow and Perth which will ultimately originate and terminate in Melbourne.
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Qantas to launch non-stop London Heathrow – Perth flights from Saturday 24 March 2018

Qantas will fly non-stop between London Heathrow and Perth from Saturday 25 March 2018.

London Air Travel » Page 75

Qantas Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner (Image courtesy of Qantas Airways)

Qantas has today confirmed the launch date of non-stop daily flights between London Heathrow and Perth. 

The new direct route will launch from Perth on Saturday 24 March 2018 and from London on Sunday 25 March 2018.  

It will also replace Qantas’ existing London Heathrow – Dubai – Melbourne service.

Flights are on sale now at Qantas.com.

At the time of writing return fares (including a Saturday night stay) near to launch are in the region of £1,260 for economy and £4,231 for business class.
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BA unveils its planned redevelopment of New York JFK Terminal 7

British Airways is to redevelop the check-in, lounge, and gate areas of New York JFK Terminal 7.

London Air Travel » Page 75

Late last year, British Airways unveiled a planned $60million revamp of its home at New York JFK Terminal 7.

Today, the airline has provided further information of what, and what isn’t, happening with the planned development of the terminal which is to be completed over the next two years.

BA has confirmed that the development will include redeveloped general check-in areas, a new premium check-in area, a new food court post security, redeveloped First and Club World lounges and pre-flight dining facilities, and refurbished gate areas.

Passengers of other airlines which also use JFK Terminal 7, such as ANA, Icelandair, and Qantas, will also benefit from many of these improvements.

The Concorde Room which is for use by passengers travelling in First Class and Concorde Room Cardholders will receive, to use BA lexicon, a “refresh” after being refurbished a few years ago.

The airline has today issued images of the planned check-in and post security areas, but not the new lounges. A cynic might wonder whether BA has rushed out this announcement in order to maintain momentum after a recent PR event for its new London Gatwick lounges and First Wing at London Heathrow Terminal 5.

There is also no mention of redeveloping the immigration hall which can become extremely congested and is ill-suited to manage queues for both self-service kiosks and manned immigration desks.

It is also has to be said that the development is less ambitious in some respects than what was originally planned for JFK Terminal 7 before the 2008 financial crisis. Gone are proposals to create a “drive through” check-in for First Class and Gold Executive Club cardholders.
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Norwegian launches London Gatwick – Singapore

Norwegian will fly direct from Gatwick to Singapore from Thursday 28 September 2017.

London Air Travel » Page 75

Norwegian Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Norwegian Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Norwegian’s aggressive expansion at London Gatwick continues with the launch of a new route from London Gatwick to Singapore Changi airport.

The route will launch on Thursday 28 September 2017. It will initially operate four times weekly, increasing to five times weekly from Monday 30 October 2017. The flight will be operated by the mainstay of Norwegian’s long-haul operations, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in a two class configuration.

Flights are on sale now at Norwegian.com

Today’s announcement is significant for two reasons:
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TAP Portugal to launch London City – Lisbon from Sunday 29 October 2017

London Air Travel » Page 75

Lisbon (Image Credit: TAP Portugal)
Lisbon (Image Credit: TAP Portugal)

TAP Portugal is to launch a direct route from London City airport to Lisbon from Sunday 29 October 2017.

The route will operate twice daily on weekdays and once a day on weekends. This will be the third London airport served by TAP Portugal after London Heathrow and London City. It will also be the only direct route between London City and Lisbon.

TAP Portugal will also offer connections to the Azores and its extensive long-haul network in Brazil such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and many other cities.

Flights will be operated by a TAP Express Embraer E190 aircraft and are on sale now at on the TAP website.
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BA website ba.com suffers major outage – Tuesday 11 April 2017

British Airways’ website ba.com experienced a major outage on Tuesday 11 April 2017.

London Air Travel » Page 75

ba.com Error Message – Tuesday 11 April 2017

If you have tried to visit the BA website ba.com at any point today, you will have no doubt received the error message above.

The BA website has been down all day today.  No reason has been given for this, other than “technical issues”.  Whatever the issue is it must be very substantial.  As BA.com is BA’s main selling channel, you can be confident there is a lot of pressure to get the website back up and running.

It is also not possible to check bookings via the BA smartphone app.  However, live flight information appears to be available on the app.

In light of the fact that online check-in is not available you are strongly advised to allow plenty of time to check-in at the airport.

Given the nature of the issue is unknown, when the website is back up it is worth checking your Executive Club account and any future bookings to confirm everything is in order.

If you are travelling today you can also check live flight information on the websites of GatwickHeathrow and London City airports.

Edit: The website appears to be up and running at 20:00 BST.

Is BA going to scrap free meals in long-haul economy?

Is British Airways really going to scrap free hot meals in long-haul economy? In short, no.

London Air Travel » Page 75

British Airways Economy Catering (Pre-Paid Gourmet Meal)
British Airways Economy Catering (Pre-Paid Gourmet Meal)

Another week, another BA headline in the Sunday papers!

This weekend, BA is charged with plotting to scrap free meals in long-haul economy.

Step forward The Sunday Times which notes:

The airline could start charging long-distance flyers for a menu drawn from the aisles of Mark & Spencer, Alex Cruz, BA’s boss, has revealed. The move will spark fresh claims that penny-pinching is reducing BA to “a budget airline”.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Cruz said that after “a rough start” customers now welcomed the chance to pay for M&S food on European flights. The airline’s buy-on-board system, which replaced free food on short flights in January, is “a perfect decision”, he said.

“It’s going great. Customers say to us: ‘Finally, I have good choices. No more chicken or beef’.” The service could be extended to long-haul economy. “We might do it,” he said.

But is that what is really going on?

Not quite.
Continue reading “Is BA going to scrap free meals in long-haul economy?”