September 2013

British Airways say that Heathrow’s passengers are set to lose out in what it calls a “Double Whammy of Price Hikes and Spending Cuts.”

The issues concerning British Airways are:

· Airport charges set to increase under Heathrow’s new pricing structure
· Investment in airport facilities to decrease
· Heathrow’s investors in line to reap the rewards
· British Airways calls on the CAA to safeguard customers’ interests and increase the airport’s efficiency

British Airways say that the owner of Heathrow Airport is gearing up to hit passengers with a double whammy of price increases coupled with a cut in spending on facilities, a move British Airways say is set to be sanctioned by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which has a new statutory obligation to further the interests of customers.

The CAA is due to publish its final proposals next week for the airport charges that are levied on airlines and their customers for the period from 2014 to 2019.

British Airways argument is that the CAA’s initial proposal of RPI–1.3 per cent means that charges at the airport are set to increase by £600m over the five year period. This will maintain Heathrow’s position as the most expensive hub airport in the world and will continue the upward trajectory of charges levied by the airport.

Furthermore, British Airways argue that by its own admission, in the next five years Heathrow plans to cut spending at the airport by £1.5bn even as the charges increase and that the airport owner has publicly stated that if it does not get a settlement of RPI+2 per cent it will cut spending by a further £1bn, resulting in carrying out only “reactive maintenance” whereby facilities will be fixed only if faulty rather than maintained to standard or improved.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, said: “Heathrow’s management seem incapable of running their business efficiently within a routine cost control environment which is a day-to-day reality for most companies. If they can’t introduce customer improvements in a cost effective way, then they should step aside and let someone else run the airport.

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

“Rather than become more efficient, it appears that Heathrow’s priority is to further line its investors’ pockets. The airport already pays its shareholders a handsome dividend and has grown its profits throughout the period of global recession – a luxury not afforded to a large number of businesses.

“Heathrow has been protected from the harsh realities of the market place due to past over-generous regulated charges. The CAA has the responsibility to deliver a Heathrow that is efficiently run, fairly rewarded, and priced comparably with other hub airports.”

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’s parent company International Airlines Group, has been critical of the current visa regime saying that the level of trade was “significantly behind” its potential.

Speaking on the inaugural flight of BA’s direct service to Chengdu, the rapidly expanding capital of Sichuan province, Walsh said: “We need a visa regime that is less bureaucratic. People need to feel that the UK is actually welcoming. There is a perception in China that the UK doesn’t want to see Chinese tourists or business. We need to put a bit of effort into changing that.

Willie Walsh

Willie

“The government talks a good talk about wanting to do business in China, but if they’re going to translate that into real opportunity they’re going to have to look more closely at the visa issue.”

He said that air passenger duty, the British aviation tax that adds £83 to the cost of an economy flight to China, and visa fees were “a real deterrent” to visitors. Walsh said limited slots at Heathrow airport had been one factor that had slowed BA’s expansion into China, but said visas were “without question a problem for us”, and claimed that they would have launched the direct Chengdu service a year ago had problems been ironed out.

While Walsh said there had been improvements in the regime, he contrasted the £56 price of a visa for the Schengen area of EU countries – where passport and immigration controls have been abolished – with the £80 it costs a Chinese visitor to enter the UK alone. The market was also more difficult for airlines at Heathrow compared with those at other European hubs where visas for transfer passengers are not required, he said.

Willie warned that Chinese visitors, the fastest growing sector of global travellers, were “bypassing” the UK, and said Britain would need to work harder to attract them. “We’ll need to have more people who speak Chinese and Mandarin. We’re losing out on the organised tour groups. It does embarrass me that we don’t make more effort.”

Willie said that while China was the eighth biggest export market for the UK, “it’s still significantly behind where it could be, when you look at China in terms of its principal imports. There is an opportunity for a lot more trade.”

Willie Walsh also criticised David Cameron and George Osborne for a lack of vision and queried whether the economic recovery could be seen beyond the capital. “If I was Osborne I certainly wouldn’t be popping the champagne corks at this stage.”

“I haven’t seen much evidence of visionary leadership there. To me, they respond to whatever’s topical rather than setting out a long-term plan and a long-term vision for growth in the UK economy.”

The British Airways A380 will rise majestically into the sky for its first long haul flight on Tuesday 24 September at 4:15pm on the BA269 to the city of angels. It will be the first and only A380 aircraft to operate between London and Los Angeles. Champagne all round!

British Airways A380 Launch

British Airways A380 in flight

Cruising

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has taken to the skies for the first time, beginning a comprehensive flight-test program leading to certification and delivery in mid-2014.

With its new Boeing livery, the newest member of the 787 family completed a 5-hour, 16-minute flight, taking off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington at 11:02 a.m. local time and landing at 4:18 p.m. at Seattle’s Boeing Field.

Boeing 787-9 first flight

Boeing 787-9 first flight

“Today’s first flight marks a significant milestone for our team, including our partners,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and Chief Executive Officer Ray Conner. “We are tremendously proud to have our customers fly the 787-9 and look forward to delivery of the first airplane..”

During today’s flight, 787-9 Senior Project Pilot Mike Bryan and 787 Chief Pilot Randy Neville departed to the north, reaching an altitude of 20,400 feet (6,218 meters) and an airspeed of 250 knots, or about 288 miles (463 kilometers) per hour, customary for a first flight. While Capts. Bryan and Neville tested the airplane’s systems and structures, onboard equipment transmitted real-time data to a flight-test team on the ground in Seattle.

“We accomplished a lot in this flight, and it went really well,” said Bryan. “The 787-9 is a great jet and we wanted to just keep on flying.”

Powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, the first 787-9 will be joined in flight test by two additional airplanes, one of which will feature General Electric GEnx engines. Those airplanes are in the final stages of assembly in Boeing’s Everett factory. Over the coming months, the fleet will be subjected to a variety of tests and conditions to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the airplane’s design.

The 787-9 will complement and extend the 787 family, offering airlines the ability to grow routes first opened with the 787-8. With the fuselage stretched by 20 feet (6 meters) over the 787-8, the 787-9 will carry 40 more passengers an additional 300 nautical miles (555 kilometers), and, Boeing claims, with the same environmental performance.

“We call that a no-squawk flight,” Capt. Mike Bryan, senior project pilot for the 787-9, said after landing, referring to minor problems that often crop up on new planes.

“We have nothing to work that’s new and we’re ready for another flight, as quick as we can go,” Bryan said. He later said the next test flight was likely to occur on Thursday.

Bryan and co-test pilot Randy Neville, chief 787 test pilot, said they worked through numerous tests during the flight, including checking a stick shaker test for stalls, an alert system that warns of potentially perilously low speed.

“The airplane just did exactly as we expected,” Neville said. “There were no surprises.”

Boeing has unfilled orders for 936 Dreamliners, worth about $217 billion at list prices, or nearly eight years worth of production at its target construction rate of 10 per month, which it aims to hit by year’s end.

About 41 percent of the orders, or 388 planes, are for the 787-9. Boeing began selling an even longer version of the jet, the 787-10, in June, for which it has garnered 50 orders so far. The rest of the orders are for the 787-8.

The jet flew at a speed of up to 366 knots (421 mph) and altitude of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), according to flight tracking website Flightaware.com. The trip took it over Puget Sound and then over the eastern part of Washington state.

Thandie Newton models for British Airways’ first A380 to Los Angeles

Posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Hollywood actress, Thandie Newton (Chronicles of Riddick, Fast and Furious) has launched the countdown to British Airways’ A380 taking off on its “Red Carpet” route.

The A380 superjumbo will depart Heathrow on its first long-haul flight on 24th September, headed for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles.

Hollywood actress, Thandie Newton, said: “British Airways’ A380 aircraft is like a grand hotel in the sky. It’s luxurious and ultra modern. I feel particularly lucky because I make frequent trips to Los Angeles, and now even a long weekend to LA seems appealing, because the holiday begins as soon as you get on the superjumbo. Who thought travelling could get any more exciting?”

Looking lovely

Looking lovely

Well who indeed?

Thandie is pictured on the aircraft’s  staircase, which leads to the upper deck with Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus and World Traveller (economy) cabins.

Twelve A380s will join the British Airways fleet over the next four years as part of the airline’s £5bn investment in products and services for customers. The airline plans to have the aircraft  flying to Hong Kong from October 22 and Johannesburg from February next year.

Return fares to Los Angeles on the A380 start from £508 return in World Traveller (economy), £888 return in World Traveller Plus (premium economy), £2,092 return in Club World (business class) and £5,904 return in First.

British Airways offers a range of breaks in Los Angeles in the British Airways sale, with a choice of hotels. Three nights at the 3* Clarion Anaheim Resort starts from £549 per person or seven nights at the Andaz West Hollywood, flying on the A380 from £949 per person*. Both offers include return flights from Heathrow and room only accommodation, based on two people sharing for travel in November and December.

..and charges for checked in baggage.

Passengers of British Airways on some short-haul routes from London City and Heathrow will be charged a £10 fee for checking in a bag. How it will work is that from 24th September, passengers travelling without checked baggage to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam and Stockholm will get a £10 discount on the cheapest tickets. The airline has launched “hand-baggage only” fares that reward travelling light to eight domestic and European destinations and passengers who chose to check in a bag must pay £10 more. So is it a discount or a charge? It operates as an extra fee so we think it is a charge.

lost luggage mountain

Has anyone seen my bag?

This policy already applies to BA’s short-haul flights from Gatwick, but today’s move is significant in that there is no significant no-frills rival at either Heathrow or London City whereas Easyjet is a major rival at Gatwick.

But watch this space as if the scheme proves successful BA may introduce it across the whole short haul network in the months ahead.

However, an unwelcome feature of the scheme and some would say taking going too far into the budget airline model, passengers who book BA’s hand-baggage-only fare but turn up at the airport with a bag to check in will pay a £40 fee, a move likely to be very unpopular with passengers stung by the fee at check in.  Will such a move be compatible with BA’s brand? Time will tell.

 

 

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Following on from our story of yesterday about Qatar Airways joining oneworld, we cab report that LAN Colombia, a company related to LATAM Airlines Group SA (LAN Airlines), will become an affiliate member of oneworld.   LAN Airlines itself has been a full member of oneworld since 2000.  All other passenger airline affiliates of LAN Airlines have joined oneworld as affiliate members subsequently – LAN Argentina, LAN Ecuador and LAN Peru – apart from TAM, which will transition to oneworld from Star Alliance in 2014.
Oneworld
This will bring all of the components of Latin America’s leading airline group into the same global airline alliance.
 
Through its oneworld partnership with British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines, LAN Colombia will be able to offer its customers the most popular gateways for Latin American travelers, in their Miami, New York, Madrid and London Heathrow hubs.

 
From its first flights on Tuesday, 1 October 2013, LAN Colombia will offer oneworld’s full range of services and benefits.

Its cardholders of the LANPASS frequent flyer programme will enjoy privileges whenever they fly with any oneworld member airline – including the ability to earn and redeem awards and earn tier status points when flying on any oneworld airline partner.

British Airways and Unite, Britain’s biggest union, have agreed a groundbreaking recognition deal with British Airways (BA) for the airline’s mixed fleet cabin crew.

British Airways Cabin Crew

British Airways Cabin Crew

Unite have announced that a deal agreed between Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and British Airways chief executive Keith Williams covers terms and conditions ” …including pay, holidays and hours of work for all new and future cabin crew at British Airways working on European and worldwide routes.”

Mixed fleet cabin crew fly to destinations including Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Hamburg and Manchester. There are approximately 2,000 mixed fleet cabin crew operating out of Heathrow.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said:”I’m delighted that Unite and British Airways have agreed this groundbreaking recognition deal for BA’s mixed fleet. The union and the company worked positively together to put the finishing touches to the agreement.”

“Cabin crew have already seen the benefits of the recognition deal including a substantial increase in holiday pay entitlement. It’s no surprise that the union has already recruited over half of the mixed fleet cabin crew and Unite will continue to encourage crew to join to ensure workers have a voice within the mixed fleet.”

So hopefully smoother waters ahead…

As at 1st October British Airways Executive Club members and Qatar Privilege Club members will be able to redeem miles on each other’s flights. BA has said: “Qatar Airways will become a full member of oneworld®with effect from Wednesday 30 October 2013, adding one of the world’s fastest growing and most highly rated airlines to the world’s leading quality airline alliance.

Qatar Airways Aircraft

One of just seven carriers worldwide rated five-star by the Skytrax airline quality agency and the organisation’s Airline of the Year 2011 and 2012 and runner-up 2013, Qatar Airways is the only one of the “Gulf Big Three” carriers slated to join any of the global airline alliances.

 

British Airways this week announced that it will be commencing services to Austin, Texas in 2014.

The airline will commence flights in early March 2014, initially 5 times a week, before going daily from 5th May.

Austin will be British Airways 3rd destination in Texas, alongside Houston & Dallas, and 21st destination overall in the US, by far the airline’s most important market.

Although far smaller than both Houston & Dallas, Austin is home to a number of leading US tech companies such as ebay, Dell, Google & IBM. British Airways will also be the only airline to offer direct flights between Austin & Europe and, with its extensive route network out of Heathrow, will be able to benefit from extensive feeder traffic for passengers looking to fly to Austin, as well as numerous onward connections for anyone from Austin looking to travel onwards from London.

Even so, what has made this new route possible (and the airport authorities in Austin have made it clear that no financial inducements were offered to British Airways) is the arrival of the 787 Dreamliner. Prior to the arrival of the 787, which made its maiden British Airways flight to Toronto last weekend, British Airways had 3 long-haul aircraft in its fleet. The 767-300 is an ageing aircraft with poor fuel efficiency while both the 777 and 747 are simply too large for such a relatively ‘thin’ route.

The seating layout on a British Airways 787

The new 787-8 series, which will be configured in a 3 cabin layout without a First Class, is up to 20% more fuel efficient than the 767 as well as offering a far more pleasant inflight experience. Although fares on the Austin – Heathrow route are likely to be higher than from either Dallas or Houston, the airline is clearly confident that the convenience of direct flights, and the appeal of the new 787, will create enough demand to justify the new route.

Commenting on the news, Sean Doyle, the airline’s executive VP for the Americas stated: “We are very excited to be bringing British Airways to Austin. This new route presents an important opportunity for business growth across the Atlantic, particularly in the thriving technology sector. We know that London is among the top destinations for international travel from Austin and equally, Austin is home to some of the most important global cultural events. We are looking forward to providing a convenient and high-quality service to new and existing customers.”

 

 

British Airways has, this morning, made a number of announcements regards new and existing routes.

The only new route is to Austin, Texas which British Airways will start flying to from 3rd March. Initially, flights will operate 5 times a week before going daily from 5th May. British Airways already serve Houston & Dallas on a daily basis.

British Airways aircraft parked in front of Heathrow Terminal 5Also in the US, flights between Heathrow and Seattle will increase from 10 to 11 flights per week as of 30th March while flights to Newark will decrease from 21 to 20 flights per week at the same time.

In Africa, British Airways have announced an additional 3 weekly services between Heathrow and Accra, Ghana, taking the number of weekly services to 10. The new flights will commence from 27th October and will depart Heathrow on Tuesday, Friday & Sunday. The new services will be operated by a 767-300 with a 3 class configuration while the existing 777-200 service will switch to a 747-400 from 30th March 2014. This much anticipated increase in capacity to Ghana follows on from Virgin Atlantic’s earlier announcement that they were withdrawing from the route.

KampalaAlso in Africa, British Airways will be increasing the frequency of flights between Heathrow and Entebbe, Uganda from 3 to 4 flights per week. Flights will now depart Heathrow every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Sunday, returning to the UK the following day. The new flights and times commence from 30th March.

Unfortunately British Airways have also announced the suspension of services between Heathrow & Lusaka from the end of October. The last flight will depart Heathrow on Friday 25th October, returning on Saturday 26th October.

In Asia, British Airways will increase flight frequency between Heathrow and Seoul from 6 to 7 flights per week from 1st April.

Slightly nearer to home, flights to Tel Aviv decrease from 21 to 14 flights per week and switch to Terminal 5 from the 29th March. Although there will be 7 flights less per week, the BA 165/164 service will be upgraded to much larger 777-200 featuring all 4 cabins.

airlineBA777flying3