August 2013

As we enter a new month, British Airways enters a new era with its first scheduled 787 Dreamliner flight.

british airways 787The flight, from Heathrow to Toronto, departs on Sunday 1st September and is the first scheduled service for the new 787 Dreamliner of which British Airways has orders for 42.

Following on from Toronto, on 1st October British Airways will commence a daily 787 service between Heathrow and Newark, increasing to double daily from 27th October. These first two 787 destinations are currently included in the UK British Airways sale which ends at midnight on 24th September.

The seating layout on a British Airways 787

With an ageing fleet of 747′s and 767s, British Airways is embarking on a massive fleet renewal programme that, in addition to the 42 787 Dreamliners on order, includes 12 Airbus A380S, 18 Airbus A350s and 6 further Boeing 777-300s.

It is the Dreamliner however that is set to really dominate the British Airways fleet in years to come. Not only will the new aircraft offer far improved fuel efficiency and passenger comfort on existing routes, the same efficiency and far greater reach of the aircraft will allow British Airways to serve new routes that simply aren’t feasible at present. All that stands in the way of British Airways launching services to new destinations such as Portland, Lima and Saigon is the lack of slots at Heathrow.

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British Airways have announced that they will be adding a 10th 777-200 to their Gatwick fleet.

The additional aircraft will lead to an additional 3 weekly flights to Orlando, plus 1 extra flight per week to St Lucia, Antigua, Kingston (Jamaica)  and Punta Cana (Dominican Republic).

Gatwick North TerminalCommenting on the news, Peter Simpson, the airline’s Gatwick director stated: “From next year our customers will be able to fly more often to many of our most popular destinations. Adding an extra Boeing 777 to our Gatwick fleet has enabled us to enhance our fantastic flying schedule by increasing flights to our top leisure destinations, giving our customers even more choice. With so much to choose from holiday-makers are spoilt for choice; from our 13 flights a week to Orlando to our brilliant daily service to St Lucia, everyone will get a stunning start to their holidays with British Airways.”

Mr&MrsSmithAlthough British Airways main hub has always been London Heathrow, capacity constraints, as well as lower costs, have meant that much of the airline’s long-haul leisure fleet has been based at London Gatwick. The airline’s 10 Boeing 777-200s based at Gatwick serve destinations within the Caribbean, Florida (excluding Miami), Cancun in Mexico, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

British Airways also operates an extensive short-haul network from Gatwick, again mainly aimed at the leisure market, but with intense pressure from the ever growing easyjet, any future growth at London’s second airport will surely only come from further expansion of its long-haul market.

While the Caribbean is already well served by British Airways (Havana is a notable exception), and Cancun has proven a great success, the main limiting factor as far any future growth is concerned is a combination of mileage and aircraft, ie potential future destinations such Phuket, Penang and Bali are all too far to be (profitably) operated by 777-200s. The new generation 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A350s will be game changers in terms of reach and economics but anyone expecting to see these new aircraft at Gatwick, at least in British Airways colours, is in for a very long wait.

British Airways daily 777 service to Accra

 

 

After an absence of over a dozen years, British Airways is rumoured to be on the verge of returning to Jakarta.

jakartaBritish Airways have long declared their desire to serve more of Asia’s fast growing economies and, although the Indonesian economy has recently entered something of a difficult period, it is surely only a question of time before flights to Jakarta are resumed.

One of the more persistent rumours is that any new route to Jakarta will be operated as a tag-on to its Singapore service and that British Airways will receive 5th freedom rights to fly passengers between the two South East Asian cities.

Others have suggested that a more likely option is for British Airways to kill-two-birds-with-one-stone and resume flights to both Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta at the same time. British Airways has been absent from the Malaysian capital for almost as along and, now that Malaysian Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, there is a perhaps a stronger argument that British Airways should serve Jakarta as a tag-on to KL and leave Singapore, one of its premium business routes, as a stand-alone service.

There are currently no direct flights between the UK and Indonesia. Garuda, the national carrier of Indonesia, had planned to commence services between Jakarta & London Gatwick this year but has had to postpone them until mid 2014 at the earliest. The reason given was that the poor condition of the runway at Jakarta does not currently allow the airline to operate its 777-300 at full passenger / freight capacity and that, until that hurdle is overcome, the airline cannot operate the service profitably.

Of course the only reason that Garuda chose London Gatwick is the lack of slots at Heathrow. Any London – Jakarta service will be heavily biased towards the business market so, if British Airways does re-commence flights from Heathrow, Garuda might consider shelving their flights altogether.

For British Airways, the question of whether or when to return to Jakarta will be determined not just by potential traffic but also by juggling slots and aircraft. As British Airways consolidates the slots its secured from the takeover of bmi, the perception is that it will increasingly ditch a number of short and medium haul routes in favour of more lucrative long haul routes.

With British Airways also currently in the process of a huge fleet replacement program, there is also the issue of which aircraft the airline would use on any new service (ie if not as a tag-on to Singapore). Being a mainly business orientated route with relatively low volume, a Boeing 777-200 would be the natural choice from the airline’s existing fleet with either the Boeing 787 Dreamliner 8 or 9 series being the ideal long-term option.

British Airways 787 Dreamliner

 

 

 

The countdown has begun for British Airways first scheduled 787 flight.

The inaugural flight, BA 093, departs Heathrow for Toronto on 1st September and, as part of the airline’s marketing effort, British Airways invited Lisa Snowdon, DJ, model and ex contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, to test out the aircraft for herself.

As befits a celebrity of her standing, Ms Snowdon doesn’t seem to have bothered testing out the World Traveller cabin although she does look very comfortable in her Club World Seat.

lisasnowden

Commenting on the occasion, Ms Snowdon stated: ”As a breakfast DJ, I know the importance of a good night’s sleep – so when British Airways invited me to ‘road test’ its new Dreamliner aircraft, I couldn’t resist. Any aircraft that promises reduced jetlag, less dehydration and a smoother journey is a winner, especially as you arrive feeling refreshed and ready for action. I was really impressed with how spacious and airy it felt, with mood lighting and super comfortable seating to snuggle up in.”

British Airways has a total of 42 Dreamliners on order, split between all 3 models, the 8, 9 & 10 series. Initial orders are all for the 8 series, the smallest version, which will be used to replace British Airways ageing fleet of 767s on flights across the Atlantic to the US & Canada. So far British Airways has only announced the first 2 destinations for its new 787: starting on 1st September with Toronto and following up later the same month with Newark.

As well as being up to 20% more fuel efficient than the 767, the 787 Dreamliner should also offer a far more comfortable in-flight experience for passengers. The aircraft itself boast larger windows and over-head lockers, as well as superior atmospheric conditions which should mean that passengers arrive at their destination fresher and less drowsy. In addition, British Airways is fitting all 787 Dreamliners with its most up to date seating and inflight entertainment in all 3 cabins – World Traveller, World Traveller Plus and Club World.

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British Airways is adding capacity to Mexico City with a new, 4th weekly service.

The additional service between Heathrow and the Mexican capital will commence from 27th October, the start of the high season.

The new service, BA 243, will operate every Sunday, departing Heathrow’s Terminal 5 at 12:40 and arriving in Mexico City at 18:20; the return flight, BA 242, will depart Mexico City at 21:00, arriving back in London at 13:00 the following day. The new Sunday service is in addition to existing flights on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

The increase in capacity comes despite competition from AeroMexico who commenced their own thrice weekly service between Heathrow & Mexico City in December 2012.

Mexico

British Airways is set to gain monopoly status on flights between London City Airport and Edinburgh.

The airline, which operates up to 8 flights a day, had faced competition from CityJet on the route (with up to 4 flights per day). However, CityJet have announced this week that they will discontinue flights between the 2 capitals from 26th October.

CityJet had flown the route since 2007 but had been making losses for some time now, unable to compete with the more muscular British Airways. It is not yet known whether British Airways will increase frequency or capacity on the route.

British Airways London City Airport

 

 

 

British Airways has further consolidated its presence in the Trans-Atlantic market by signing an interline agreement with US airline JetBlue.

The two airlines have agreed to code-share on 18 daily British Airways flights between (mainly) Heathrow and the US, over 100 onward British Airways routes and over 50 JetBlue routes within the US. Code-share flights will be available on flights to and from New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Orlando (MCO) and Washington Dulles (IAD). Code-share flights will also be available on British Airways all-business class flights between London City Airport (LCY) and JFK as well as on OpenSkies flights between JFK and Paris (ORY).

JetBlue is regarded as one of the best airlines in the US, offering a superior service to most of its competitors, including free drinks and snacks and the first checked in piece of luggage free of charge. British Airways is also highly regarded in the US.

JetBlue is particularly strong at both New York (JFK) and Boston, 2 of British Airways key east coast destinations, so this new agreement will give British Airways access to many more secondary markets that it could ever hope to serve on its own. At Orlando, which British Airways serves from Gatwick, JetBlue is particularly strong on flights to the Caribbean and Latin America, opening up yet another market for the British carrier.

All this comes in the same week that the proposed merger between American Airlines (British Airways oneworld partner) and US Airways received a setback when the US authorities announced that they would oppose the deal on competition grounds.

Commenting on the tie-up, British Airways Head of Alliances, Steve Ronald, stated:  ”JetBlue is a well-respected, modern airline and we are delighted to be working with the carrier to offer our customers smooth connections to an even greater choice of destinations in the US. We are also very much looking forward to sharing the British Airways premium experience with customers in the U.S., who are interested in traveling in comfort to London and beyond.”

First class cabin in a British Airways A380

 

British Airways parent IAG has continued its aircraft shopping spree with an order for up to 220 A320s.

Vueling is part of British Airways parent group IAGThe shopping lists consists of 58 firm orders and 62 options for Vueling, the low cost subsidiary based in Barcelona that IAG only took full control of in April of this year. Unlike IAG’s other Spanish holding, Iberia, which has been bleeding heavy losses, Vueling has been consistently profitable and this new order is a mark of just how much faith IAG’s top brass have in the airline.

Vueling currently operates an all Airbus fleet of 70 aircraft and although some of the new aircraft, set to be delivered from 2015 onwards, will be used for fleet replacement, an equal number will be used to aggressively chase market share in an already cut-throat European market.

British Airways Willie WalshCommenting on the order, Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG stated: “Vueling has managed to successfully expand its business profitably by targeting both growth markets and those areas where weak competitors are reducing capacity. These new aircraft will enable Vueling to continue that expansion and replace some of its older fleet with modern, fuel-efficient aircraft, leading to further unit cost reductions.”

On top of the 120 A320s earmarked specifically for Vueling, IAG also has options for a further 100 of the aircraft which may ultimately be assigned to either Vueling, Iberia or British Airways.

British Airways currently operates an all Airbus short-fleet out of Heathrow but has a number of ageing 737s based at Gatwick that need replacing. However, while IAG seems keen to commit to Vueling’s short-haul expansion, for British Airways the emphasis is very much on the renewal of its ageing long-haul fleet with 12 A380s on order, 42 787s 18 A350s & 6 777-300s. The first of the airline’s new A380s and 787s were recently delivered to the airline and go into normal service next month to Los Angeles & Toronto respectively.

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British Airways has been part of a trial that has successfully reduced aircraft noise for almost 100,000 people living under Heathrow’s flight path.

The findings from the trial, detailed in the Helios Report, are that over a 5 month period from last December, changes to the routes taken by early morning flights arriving at Heathrow resulted in 100,000 people living under the flight path experiencing less noise from aircraft. Some 17 aircraft land at Heathrow every morning between 04:30 & 06:00.

The trial was a joint venture between Heathrow Airport, the National Air Traffic Service, British Airways and HACAN which campaigns against further runways or flights at the UK’s busiest airport.

Despite the success of the trial, the report states that it should not be continued and that ”pre-trial assessments should be undertaken to predict likely outcomes to better understand the balance of the likely benefits against the unintended negative outcomes”.

Commenting on the trial, John Stewart, long-time head of HACAN stated:  ”This is the first time we have worked with the aviation industry in this way. Although the trial had some problems which would need to be addressed in any future experiments, to bring relief to 100,000 people is a considerable achievement.”

Of course any co-operation between HACAN and both Heathrow / British Airways is likely to be short-lived as the latter 2 press on with their campaign to have a 3rd runway built at Heathrow. Even if permission for a 3rd runway is eventually granted, it is unlikely that it would be ready until 2025 at the earliest which leaves some 12 years of Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport airport, operating at 99% capacity.

The only short-term solution to this problem would be to allow Heathrow to use its 2 runways for mixed-mode operations, ie allowing both runways to be used for both landing and take-off at the same time. This would significantly increase the airport’s capacity but would lead to residents living under the airport’s flight path to endure traffic noise for almost 20 hours a day, far in excess of what they currently endure.

British Airways Heathrow

 

All 3 of the world’s airline alliances – Oneworld, SkyTeam and the Star Alliance – have backed Heathrow as part of the Davies Commission into UK airport capacity.

OneworldThe fact that Oneworld has expressed its support for Heathrow is no real surprise as British Airways, one of its founding members, holds nearly 50% of available slots at the west London airport. British Airways, and in particular Willie Walsh, have been long and vociferous supporters of a third runway at Heathrow and Oneworld has simply made it clear that it shares this opinion.

Both SkyTeam and the Star Alliance have much less of a vested interest in Heathrow but both have come out strongly in its support.

Heathrow Terminal 2 bWith the opening of Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 next year, the Star Alliance will pretty much have Terminal 2 to itself while Sky Team will see all its members moved to Terminal 4. With its partners all in the same terminal, both alliances feel that, for the first time, they will be able to offer passengers a seamless service and thus allow them to compete with British Airways.

To this end, a statement from the Star Alliance read: “This will allow us to effectively compete with the other alliances in Heathrow and add to the quality of our services and therefore we do not see any opportunity for us to make a change to another airport”. At the same time, SkyTeam simply commented that “relocating to another London or UK airport is not an option for our members.”

With the Davies Commission now have completed the process of accepting submissions and comments from all interested parties, it won’t be until 2015, after the next General Election, that a final decision is made. However, where once it seemed that any expansion at Heathrow was dead and buried, the momentum now seems to be with the incumbent and it just needs to be seen whether the politicians are prepared to make some very difficult decisions.

 

 

British Airways will today welcome its first passengers onboard the new 787 Dreamliner.

The invited members of the press and frequent flyers will board the 787 in Edinburgh as it operates a short flight to the north of Scotland and back.

Commenting on the flight, Simon Scholey, who will be at the controls of the aircraft, stated: “Serving the people of Scotland is enormously important for British Airways so it seemed right that the first-ever customer flight will take place here. We’re very much looking forward to showcasing it to the people both on board and on the ground.”

En-route to Edinburgh, the 787 will also make a stop-over at Newcastle airport. Commenting on this, Richard Tams, Head of UK Sales & Marketing stated: “We’re very excited to have flown our new Boeing 787 Dreamliner into Newcastle International Airport, which hundreds of thousands of our customers use every year to transfer onto international flights at Heathrow. Our customers in the north of England are hugely important to us, and we wanted them to be among the first to see the new aircraft and to learn about all the benefits it brings”.

British Airways offer frequent flights from both Newcastle & Edinburgh to London Heathrow so the airline will be keen to maximise this marketing opportunity.

The airline have a total of 42 787s on order, with the first scheduled service to Toronto set to commence in September of this year, followed shortly after by flights to Newark.

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British Airways has announced that it will no longer fly to Tunis after 25th October.

The airline currently flies 5 times a week from Gatwick to Tunis and has cited low profitability as the reason for withdrawing from the market.

Ever since the Arab Spring first took hold in Tunisia, security fears have plagued the region and both tourism and business have suffered. Although the airline had hoped that the situation would improve with time, recent events in Tunisia would appear to indicate otherwise.

When I flew out to Tunis with British Airways in April of last year both the outbound and inbound flights were largely empty so this news comes as no surprise. With no low-cost carriers yet flying between the UK and Tunisia, the only direct scheduled option is now Tunisair who fly between Heathrow & Tunis.

BritishAirwaysTunis

British Airways new ad, ‘A Ticket To Visit Mum’, was created to highlight the airline’s numerous flight options between India and North America.

The ad, created for British Airways by Ogilvy & Mather in New York, tells the story of Ratesh who moved from Mumbai to New York aged just 17 and who still pines for his mother’s homemade bhindi. Why send the meal to the boy when you can take the boy back to his mother so easily?

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On Friday morning, British Airways flew its first fare paying passengers on the new A380.

British Airways daily flight BA 902 from Heathrow to Frankfurt, departing at just after 07:00, is usually operated by a somewhat ageing 767. Passengers arriving for their flight yesterday morning were therefore somewhat surprised to find themselves boarding the airline’s brand new A380.

Less than 150 passengers were onboard the flight, somewhat short of the aircraft’s 469 seating capacity, and only the downstairs section of the aircraft was utilised.

In keeping with other airlines, British Airways has opted to use the new A380 on a series of short-haul flights so at to familiarise crew with the new aircraft. These ‘test’ flights will continue throughout August and into September before the first scheduled flights commence to Los Angeles on 24th September. Following on from Los Angeles, British Airways will commence A380 services to Hong Kong in October and Johannesburg in early 2014. In total the airline has placed orders for 12 A380s.

British Airways chose Frankfurt for the test flight partly because the airport is already well used to receiving the A380 but also, one imagines, as a way of promoting itself in a key market.

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The long awaited merger of American Airlines & US Airways appears to be inching closer to completion after the airlines agreed to give up two sets of slots at Heathrow.

Heathrow

Heathrow

The slots in question are currently used by US Airways to offer daily flights between Heathrow and Philadelphia. With the new merged carrier set to be part of the oneworld alliance, of which British Airways is a member, and with the British airline also flying between Heathrow and Philadelphia, EU regulators had demanded that the new merged airline relinquish the slots so as to maintain competition on the route.

What is less clear is who will take over the slots and whether they will be able to compete with British Airways on the route. With its dominance at Heathrow, and US Airways strong position at Philadelphia, British Airways will be able to offer passengers a huge number of onward connections at both ends, something no other rival will be able to match.

The most likely option is the UK’s only other longhaul airline, Virgin Atlantic, itself re-invigorated after Delta bought 49% of the carrier from Singapore Airlines. With Delta looking to strengthen its position in the transatlantic market, and slots at Heathrow at a premium, it is hard to see them resisting the opportunity to add Philadelphia to Virgin’s roster of east coast destinations.

AMERICAN AIRLINES NEW LOOK

 

 

British Airways parent company IAG has reported a return to profit in the last quarter.

IAGIAG, parent company of British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, reported an operating profit of 245 million euros (£214) for the second quarter of the year, a significant improvement on the 4 million euro loss reported for the same period last year.

The turn-around in fortunes is partly down to an improvement in trading at Iberia, with losses at 35 million euros, down from 95 million previously, but mainly a result of an increase in profits at British Airways , up from 94 million euros to 247 million euros. Vueling, which finally came under the control of IAG in April also contributed 26 million euros in profits for the quarter.

A poll tax on flying

Willie

Commenting on the results, IAG CEO Willie Walsh stated: “This is the first step in the restructuring but it is already bearing fruit with Iberia’s [second quarter] losses down from €93m last year to €35m, reversing the negative trend of the last 11 quarters”.

He went on to advise that more than 1,700 staff have now left Iberia since re-structuring of the airline begun, with remaining staff seeing signifcant cuts in their salary ranging from 11% to 18%.

With IAG’s results beating market expectations, IAG was this morning biggest rises on the FTSE 100 with the share price up 3.5% at 307.80.

A380-in-sky-landing