February 2013

British Airways has come out as the top airline in the Consumer Superbrands list for 2013 and second overall in the Business Superbrands list, both times beating its long-time competitor, Virgin Atlantic.

The Superbrands study reflects on the airline’s reputation for ‘iconic advertising’ and the huge success of its Olympic ‘Don’t Fly’ campaign which attracted almost 6 million views online. Industry magazine  PR Week hailed the latter as the ‘most impactful Olympic campaign’.

Heathrow airport also came out of the report with praise, proving perhaps that the much aligned operator has finally turned the corner and can finally call itself a world-class global hub to compete with the likes of Dubai, Singapore & Hong Kong.

Heathrow Terminal 5

British Airways has announced that it has reached agreement with Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific to code-share on flights between the UK and Australia. Subject to regulatory approval, the new agreement will come into force on 31st March, the same days as the new partnership between Qantas & Emirates comes into effect.

The new agreement will allow British Airways customers travelling between the UK & Australia to combine the airline’s twice daily service between Heathrow Terminal 5 and Hong Kong with onward Cathay Pacific flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane & Cairns.

“Our new code share with Cathay Pacific will allow British Airways to serve all major Australian cities and provide customers with increased schedule options and flexibility,” British Airways spokeswoman Nicole Backo said. ”Customers travelling via Hong Kong will arrive at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and have access to British Airways’ extensive European network, whilst providing a single itinerary and through-checked bags.”

The introduction of this new route agreement does not affect British Airways existing service between Heathrow & Sydney via Singapore while, at the same time, Cathay Pacific will continue to offer its own flights between the UK & Australia utilising its soon to be 5 daily flights between Heathrow & Hong Kong.

Both airlines are members of the oneworld alliance as is Qantas. Whether the Australian flag-carrier remains within the alliance is far from certain although, thus far, it has stressed its unequivocal support.

British Airways have announced that from 31st March their service between Heathrow & Shanghai will increase from 6 to 7 flights a week. The announcement re-enforces the airline’s stated commitment to increasing flights between the UK and mainland China and comes before the September launch of their brand new service between Heathrow & Chengdu. Both routes will be served by Boeing 777s with 4 class cabins.

Earlier this month, the airline’s oneworld partner Cathay Pacific announced that they would be launching a 5th daily service between Hong Kong & Heathrow; British Airways currently has a double daily service on the route although it has been rumoured that Hong Kong will be British Airways launch route for the A380 when it arrives this summer.

Having long promoted itself as the ultimate full-service airline, British Airways has seemingly decided that if you can’t beat them, join them; for short-haul flights from Gatwick the airline is introducing charges ranging from £9 to £15 per checked-in bag, depending on the exact route. To begin with the airline will be trialing the system on a select number of routes although it is expected that the new policy will soon be applied to all short-haul flights from Gatwick. This new policy will not apply to long haul flights nor any any routes out of Heathrow and the weight limit per item of luggage will remain at 23kgs.

The change comes as British Airways struggles to compete with Easyjet, now the largest airline at Gatwick. On many routes British Airways has simply decided not to try and compete at all and pulled out of routes on which the low cost carrier operates.

American Airlines

With the long-awaited merger between American Airlines & US Airways set to be agreed as soon as 14th February, , the US aviation market will come down to 3 mega legacy carriers (the other 2 being United & Delta) plus a number of low cost carriers and small independents such as Virgin America.

The new merged carrier is expected to simply be called ‘American’ and have its HQ in Austin, Texas. It will be the largest airline in the world with almost $40 billion in revenues, some 100,000 employees and over 1,500 aircraft.

Assuming the merger succeeds, it is widely expected that the new carrier will be part of the oneworld alliance, a massive boost to British Airways and its partners.

The North Atlantic has always been British Airways most important market and the prospect of losing its long-standing partner, American Airlines, must have filled the airline’s top management with dread. Now, not only does it look as if they kept American Airlines in the fold, they are also set to gain a new partner, US Airways, with a strong route network on the east coast.

Unlike both British Airways & American Airlines, US Airways has a very weak presence across the Atlantic with just the single flight between Heathrow & Philadelphia although, starting this March, it will be adding a new direct service between Heathrow & Charlotte (ironic because it was only able to do so after British Airways & American Airlines were forced to relinquish some of their slots). The benefit to British Airways therefore will almost entirely accrue from increased feeder traffic from US Airways domestic network.

This latest development will cap a successful 12 months for oneworld and British Airways. At the start of February, Malaysia Airlines joined oneworld, giving the alliance an important foot-hold in the South East Asian market. Then, at the end of 2012, Qatar Airways announced that it too would be joining oneworld, the first of the Gulf carriers to join any of the airline alliances.

Leaving aside the troubles at British Airways IAG partner, Iberia, prospects for the British flag carrier are certainly on the up.