April 2013

virgin little red

Over the years British Airways & Virgin Atlantic have had numerous colourful disagreements. Now, with the launch of Virgin’s domestic service, Little Red, the battle will be played out over the skies of the UK for the first time.

Following its takeover of bmi in 2012, British Airways was forced to give up a number of slots on routes between Heathrow and Manchester, Edinburgh & Aberdeen. It would have had to do the same on flights between Heathrow & Glasgow except for the fact that bmi had already stopped operating the route before the takeover. Having given up the slots, it came down to a straight flight between Virgin Atlantic & Air Lingus as to who would take them over and, as the former could boast a complementary long-haul route at Heathrow, it came as no surprise to industry watchers when the slots were awarded to Virgin.

British Airways Terminal 5 ArrivalsStarting with services to Manchester, followed by the launch of flights to Scotland this April, Little Red now offers six daily flights between Heathrow & Edinburgh, three daily flights between Heathrow & Aberdeen and four daily flights between Heathrow & Manchester. One of the amusing ironies of this story is that because Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have any experience of flying short-haul, Little Red flights will be operated by aircraft and crew from, yes, you guessed it, Air Lingus.

All flights will be operated by A320 aircraft in the Virgin Atlantic livery, as per the picture above. The airline will offer a single cabin service with all-leather seats and hot-breakfast rolls on flights before 9am.

So, will Virgin be able to compete with British Airways and make a profit? Well, it’s always been hugely difficult for anyone to make a profit on UK domestic flights but especially full service airlines. In terms of cost, Little Red is unlikely to be able to compete with Easyjet & Ryanair (although neither fly to Heathrow) while British Airways has more slots and bigger aircraft which it could use (surely not!) to drive prices down. As a stand-alone service it seems highly unlikely that Little Red will ever make money so its value to the airline can only be considered as a feeder service. Clearly there are passengers near all three airports who will welcome the ability to fly Virgin all the way to the US, Africa & Asia but are there enough of them? Having recently seen US carrier Delta take a 49% stake in the airline,  and with talk of Virgin Atlantic joining the Sky Team alliance, Richard Branson must feel confident that Little Red won’t go the way of bmi.

A lovely BA plane in flight


airlineBAwtpServingDrinksNew research from British Airways has uncovered some distinct patterns when it comes to where people prefer to sit on a plane. Top findings include:

  • Window pips aisle in popularity
  • Twin seats 51/52B, 51/52C, 51/52H and 51/52J most sought-after economy seats
  • Aisle seats more popular at the front and window seats more popular at the back
  • More people prefer the right hand side of the aircraft to the left

All customers flying with the airline can choose their seats for free 24 hours in advance of their flight, and there is the option to secure a seat further in advance for a fee.

The data found that the airline receives six per cent more bookings for window seats than aisle.

airlineBAwtCoupleThe results also show that the four sets of twin-seats, 51/52B, 51/52C, 51/52H and 51/52J, in a British Airways Boeing 747 are the most popular place in economy to pre-book, with more than half of our customers travelling as a pair opting to have a row to themselves.

Those who head for the front of the economy cabin tend to choose aisle seats but those who prefer the back go for the windows.

The research also suggests an intriguing fondness for selecting a seat on the right hand side of the aircraft (facing the nose). When choosing, 54 per cent of economy customers choose to sit on the right versus 46 per cent choosing to sit on the left.

British Airways First ClassUnsurprisingly, the most popular seats in First class are the two right at the front, 1A and 1K and in Club World (business class), the upper deck is always popular, especially with regular travellers who snap up the seats at the back of each section, 62A and K and 64A and K.

Sara Dunham, British Airways’ head of retail and direct channels, said: “Most people like the idea of turning left when they get on a plane, but it looks like the majority favour the right hand side when it comes to choosing their seat.

There are lots of theories why people favour the right hand side: there are more right handed people, we automatically tend to turn right, but the truth is we don’t know for sure.

“And we’ve all got into a discussion with our travelling companions about whether the aisle or the window is best with each side as determined as the other that they are right. It would seem though that the window-lovers who are firm fans of their view slightly outnumber the aisle-hoppers who like to get out of their seats easily.”

Article courtesy of the British Airways Press Office, 03/04/13

a380 front

Airbus A350

Airbus A350

According to reports from the Chicago Tribune (and Boeing’s head office is in Chicago so you figure they have pretty good sources), British Airways is creeping ever closer to placing an order with Airbus for their new wide-bodied A350; the order is said to be for 20 of the largest model in the range, the A350-1000 which has a list price of some US$330 million.

British Airways 787 DreamlinerWe had already reported on this story which was first leaked by the Wall St Journal although, within a day, British Airways had pretty much stolen everyone’s thunder (click here for article) by confirming an option for a further 18 787 Dreamliners, that being in addition to the 24 it has already ordered, the first of which should be arriving later this year. Aside from the timing, one of the more curious aspects of this order was the statement from parent company IAG that the 787 was meant as a replacement for British Airways’ 747. Although the statement made no mention of which model the new order was for (the original order was a for a combination of the 8 & 9 series), we must assume that it is  for the future 10 series as the 8 & 9 series aren’t even close to being large enough to match the seating capacity of a 4 cabin 747.

Whether Boeing can trump the A350 deal at the last moment will probably depend on 3 key issues: (1) Whether it can bring forward its plans for the new 777-x and convince British Airways of the merits of a re-modelled aircraft (which British Airways already has over 50 of) against the brand new A350, (2) Whether, with its current problems with the 787, it can convince  British Airways that the new 777-x will be ready in time (and some of the airline’s older 747 aircraft really do need to be retired sooner rather than later) and (3) Whether the financials stack up.

British Airways 777One advantage that the new 777-x will have over the A350-1000 is capacity, with the former holding some 400 passengers compared to the latter’s 350 or so; that would certainly represent a better like-for-like replacement of the 747.  British Airways might therefore place an order now for the A350 and then follow that up at a later date with an order for the 777-x; alternatively, it might order the A350 and then add to its current order for 12 A380′s. The final question mark revolves around Iberia, British Airways sister airline within IAG. So far, talk of the order for the A350 has come from IAG rather than British Airways and, although somewhat unlikely, it could be that part of any order for the A350 would be for Iberia which already operates an all Airbus long-haul fleet and whose A340 models desperately need replacing.

If IAG / British Airways does order the A350, expect to hear the champagne corks popping in Derby as Rolls Royce are the sole suppliers of engines to the A350; as they are already supplying engines to British Airways new fleet of A380′s and 787 Dreamliners, it would be a win-win-win for the UK engine manufacturer.

big pratt and witney engine

a380 real

Last night British Airways released photos of its first A380 as it left the paint-shop in Hamburg, Germany. The aircraft is the first of 12 that the airline has ordered and, after final tests, will be delivered to British Airways in July. The aircraft will first see operational service on short-haul flights (no details yet but likely to be Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt & Amsterdam) so as to familiarise crew. It will then go into full service in October, operating the ‘Red Carpet’ route between Heathrow and Los Angeles. In November, the second destination to receive the A380 will be Hong Kong.

British Airways have not announced any further destinations for the aircraft although we are guessing at Shanghai, Beijing, Johannesburg, San Francisco and perhaps Singapore / Sydney. Delhi & Mumbai would also have been on the list but the A380 is prohibited from flying to India because of the country’s absurd protectionist policies (ie no Indian airline has ordered the A380 and both they and the government are afraid that they might lose out!). Due to the length of these flights, in order to operate a daily service airlines need 2 aircraft per destination which essentially means that with 12 aircraft, British Airways will only be able to serve 6 destinations.

Detailed below is the layout of British Airways A380 which will seat some 469 passengers, significantly less than on Air France (516) & Lufthansa (526) but more than Korean Airlines (407), the airline with the lowest seat density for the A380.

British Airways A380 layout

British Airways will feature all 4 of its cabins on the A380 and, as you can see, will split both World Traveller & Club World between the upper and lower decks. As the upper deck is narrower, both World Traveller and Club World will have 1 less seat on the upper deck compared to the lower deck. It therefore seems likely that this will the most popular option for passengers and therefore full of Executive Club members!

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A little video of prior to the paint job.

British Airways plcAlthough the freezing weather in the UK would suggest otherwise, 1st April marks the start of British Airways summer schedule with a raft of route and frequency changes. Quite why the airline felt the need to get Mylene Klass to parade around in her bikini is beyond us (and no, we won’t be re-publishing the offending picture here you naughty people) but then what do we know?

Many of the changes are obvious increases in frequency to southern European destinations that see far greater traffic over the summer months, ie Spain. Amongst the increase in flights however there are also brand new routes such as from Gatwick to Tenerife and London City to Granada which we have already reported on.

DSCN1500Long-haul, British Airways has commenced flights between London Gatwick and Sri Lanka while services between Heathrow and Chengdu in China begin in September. Other destinations, such as Amman, Beirut, Jeddah, Nairobi, Hyderabad, Mexico City, Rio, Boston, Phoenix and Seattle will also see an uplift in frequency over the summer.

British Airways PlcIn addition to new routes and increased frequency, British Airways will continue the merry-go-round process at Heathrow with flights moving between Terminals 1, 3 & 5. The airline is keen to move as many flights to Terminal 5 as possible but, even with the opening of satellite Terminal 5C, capacity remains an issue and busing passengers between the airport terminal and aircraft is always unpopular.

Finally, at the same time as British Airways adds routes and frequency, other destinations lose their flights entirely. These include Yerevan in Georgia (British Airways inherited this route from bmi but has been unable to make a profit) and Dar Es Salam in Tanzania which the airline has served for many years (my sister, a BA baby, was born in Dar!).



The following article was published by British Airways on 1st January 2013 and, we feel, fits in nicely with their on-going Height Cuisine program as featured in our recent post.

“British Airways takes the 500,000 cases of wine it serves on board in a year very seriously.

The in-house team work with Master of Wine, TV host and international author, Jancis Robinson in selecting the best wines for the sky.

Wines from vineyards and wineries around the world are shortlisted and sent to British Airways’ headquarters in London. Tastings are carried out every couple of months with the panel. The wines are always tasted ‘blind’ to ensure the decision is made purely on the flavour of the wine.

When choosing a wine to go on-board a flight a number of things are taken into account – the quality of the wine, the quantity that can be produced, and whether it complements the food on board.

Of course, how it tastes is also a key factor, however, at 35,000ft tastebuds lose about 40 per cent of their ability to differentiate between flavours, so Peter and the team have to ensure that they buy wines that can still be enjoyed at altitude. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be very high in alcohol content. It is worth remembering that flying at high altitude in a pressurised cabin makes one glass in the air equal two on the ground.

Overly acidic wines or those with high levels of tannin are avoided because these characteristics become more pronounced in the air.

The team select different wines for each cabin. There are some consistent favourites – in First class there will be an exclusive champagne, and usually a chardonnay and a cabernet sauvignon in the selection. In addition there will be a further two whites and two reds plus dessert wines. In Club World, champagne, sauvignon and merlot are popular choices. One more red and one white are also on the menu. First class and Club World passengers have a choice of wines from one of the classic European wine regions as well as from the continent they are travelling to.

In World Traveller Plus and World Traveller, wines are served in quarter bottles, which have proven very popular with customers. These will also often be a sauvignon or merlot.

On an average flight to New York, A BA plane carries 35 bottles of wine in FIRST, 84 bottles in Club World and 390 quarter bottles in World Traveller plus and World Traveller plus.”

British Airways 787 Dreamliner

Following on from our last 2 articles about potential orders for the Airbus A350 and the seating layout on the 787 Dreamliner, British Airways parent company IAG this morning issued the following statement.


** International Airlines Group (IAG) has reached agreement with Boeing for new longhaul aircraft for the group’s fleet. IAG plans to convert 18 existing Boeing 787s options into firm orders for British Airways. They will be used to replace some of the airline’s Boeing 747-400 aircraft between 2017 and 2021.

For Iberia, IAG has reached agreement with Boeing to secure commercial terms and delivery slots that could lead to an order for Boeing 787s. Firm orders will only be made when Iberia has restructured and reduced its cost base and is in a position grow profitably.

British Airways’ 787s will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. The engine order includes a comprehensive maintenance package with total care agreement.

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, said: “British Airways has 24 Boeing 787s on order already and we plan to boost this by a further 18 aircraft by exercising our options.  ”The aircraft offers a step change in fuel burn efficiency versus our existing aircraft with improvements in fuel cost per seat of more than 20 per cent. New technology engines and improved aerodynamics will lower fuel burn leading to reduced carbon and NOx emissions. ”The creation of IAG has resulted in greater buying power for both airlines through joint procurement and we have been able to obtain delivery slots for Iberia as part of British Airways’ order”.

British Airways has 118 wide-bodied longhaul aircraft in its fleet with 42 aircraft (12 A380s, 24 B787s, six B777-300ERs) already ordered **

What can we say? Well, British Airways hasn’t indicated in this statement which model of 787 the order is for or split between. Even if it was for the largest 1000 series, that would hardly constitute a like-for-like replacement of the 747 which seats at least 100 passengers more; and assuming that British Airways plans to retain First Class on the majority of its Heathrow fleet, it is hard to see the airline squeezing First, Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller into even the 787-1000 model.

Even with a total of 42 787′s on order, the fact remains that British Airways still needs to replace its fleet of 52 ageing 747′s; with only 12 A380s ordered so far, the new 787′s largely replacing the 767 &  777-200 and the airline’s route expansion plans to take into consideration, we still expect a significant new order of large aircraft to follow…….don’t be surprised if the A350 is still very much part of British Airways plans.

Airbus A350

Airbus A350




787 Layout

Later this year, British Airways should become the world’s first airline to operate both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner but, with the ongoing problems and delays being faced by the 787, so far we only know where the airline’s initial destinations for the A380 are.

British Airways has 24 787′s on order, split between the initial 8 series and the later, and larger, 9 series. The seat plan detailed here is for the 8 series and, as anyone who knows the airline can well see, there are some interesting issues regards the seat plan. The first such issue is that the Club World Cabin is split 2-3-2 as opposed to the 2-4-2 found downstairs on the 747 and on both models of the 777, the 200 & 300. This alternative seat plan will also be found on the upper deck of the new British Airways A380.

The same applies in World Traveller Plus. In both the 747 and 777 the layout is 2-4-2 while for the new 787 it is just 2-3-2. So far so good for those who can afford to sit up front or in the middle.

750x422-a380-world-travellerThe news isn’t so great for passengers at the back. Although the 747 has a 3-4-3 layout, both versions of the 777 have the same 3-3-3 layout…..and they are both wider than the 787. While the airline might claim that the design of the 787 allows for more cabin space, the seats themselves will be exactly the same as both the 787 and 777-300 are to be fitted with British Airways’ new World Traveller cabin.

To be fair to the airline though, they are now in a minority of airlines to feature a 3-3-3 layout on the 777. Many airlines, including Air France & Emirates, already squeeze an extra seat in with a 3-4-3 layout. Perhaps we simply expect too much from British Airways?

British Airways 787 Dreamliner

airbus a350

According to reports coming from the Wall St Journal, British Airways is close to placing a significant order for the new Airbus A350. If true, it will be a major coup for the European manufacturer and a source of great disappointment, and perhaps a little worry, for Boeing.

Although British Airways has ordered 12 Airbus A380, the airline has traditionally been seen as a key customer of Boeing. British Airways is still the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 747, with over 50 in its fleet, as well as 46 777-200′s, 6 777-300′s and 21 767-300′s.

British Airways 787 Dreamliner

British Airways 787 Dreamliner

Many of these aircraft are getting on in age however and British Airways is in the process of a major fleet renewal program. Aside from its 12 Airbus A380′s on order, British Airways has so far taken delivery of 6 Boeing 777-300′s and placed an order for 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, split between the 8 & 9 series models. Most industry observers therefore expected any new British Airways to be for further 787′s and / or 777-300′s, or perhaps even as a launch customer for the new 777-x although this last model hasn’t even been formally offered by Boeing yet and wouldn’t be available until 2019 or 2020 at the earliest; the past delays and current problems with the 787 may have made British Airways more than just a bit nervous.

If British Airways is to order to the Airbus A350 it is likely to focus on the 1000 series, the largest of the 3 models. The A350 is of a similar size to the Boeing 777-300 and will be viewed as a natural successor to the 747 on routes where the A380 is too large; the A350-1000 and 777-300 don’t have the same passenger capacity as the 747 but are far more fuel efficient. The 24 Boeing 787′s that British Airways has ordered will replace the older 767′s and 777-200′s in its fleet which probably leaves space for an order of around 30 further aircraft, possibly split between the 787, A350 and even, still, the new 777-x.

British Airways A380