May 2013

The first Airbus A350 rolled out of the paint shop on 13th May.

Completion of the paint job is described by Airbus as another important step towards the maiden flight of the A350 XWB.

British Airways parent company IAG and Airbus have signed a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of 18 A350 1000. The A350 1000 will be considerably larger than the A350 900 pictured here but the planes will have much more in common than not.

So for now, here is a photo of the lovely A350 900 from the rear, backing out of the hanger and some other photos..

A350 XWB backing out of painting hanger

Backing out gracefully

A350 XWB freshly painted from the front

From the front










A350 XWB from the side

Is this my good side?

A350 XWB from the other side

Or is it this side?


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And some video showing the production process through to painting.






Photos courtesy of Airbus S.A.S.

Flight tax (Airline Passenger Duty -APD) affects nearly all of us when ever we take a flight from the UK.

Flight tax was introduced in 1994 and has, like many taxes, risen sharply since its introduction. When first introduced passengers paid between £5 and £40. Now it is between £13 and £188 with further increases in the pipeline. How much you pay depends on the length of your flight and the class of your ticket (to qualify for the £13 rate lowest class rate, the seats must be spaced at less than 40 inches, otherwise it is £26).

It is opposed quite vocally by four major airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Easyjet and Ryanair. Who are so opposed to it they have gone as far as co-operating with each-other to campaign for its abolition.

So what is it for?

The arguments for the tax centre on revenue, as the primary benefit, and environmental issues.

On the revenue benefit, as the UK is currently strapped for cash raising revenue is high on the Government’s agenda.   APD is considered an important way of doing so, currently raising around £3bn per year. Any environmental benefits are a secondary. But amazingly it is only very recently that the treasury thought charge  the passengers of private jets  APD and even then any airplane under ten tones and with less than 20 seats is exempt.

The environmental campaign think that APD helps combat global warming. Richard Dyer of Friends of the Earth is quoted as stating: “Air Passenger Duty plays an important part in tackling aviation’s significant impact on climate change..” The logic being that the increase in the cost of traveling by air reduces its attractiveness to the consumer.

The argument against

The argument against, led by a powerful lobby by the four airlines, have centred around its negative impact for the British tourist (by which we can only think that they are referring to the negative effect on the airlines) and for tourism into the UK. In the past Michael O’Leary  has been quoted as saying that 30 million less tourists over 5 years have come to the UK as a result of the tax. This sounds like a rather arbitrary figure, but in Ireland the tax has been reduced, due to fears of the negative impact on tourism.

A poll tax on flying


Willie Walsh describes it as an “unfair tax on family holidays” and a “poll tax on flying”.

From an environmental viewpoint, the newer planes like the A380 and Boeing Dreamliner (when its teething troubles have been sorted out) claim significant reductions in fuel efficiency. The Dreamliner has been designed to be 20% more fuel efficient than the 767 it replaces and the A380 makers claim a decrease in fuel consumed per passenger and cargo when compared to the latest 747. Interesting in the case of the A380 if airports could accommodate a plane with longer wings, a 10% increase in fuel efficiency – and thus reduction in carbon emissions could be made.

A restructuring of the tax towards promoting fuel efficient aviation may have more kudos from an environmental perspective.

What is happening now?

In a recent salvo from the four airlines it was claimed that scrapping the tax would result in a net tax gain for the Government and the production of around 60,000 new jobs over the period of years from now to 2020. The boost to the UK economy could be as much as 0.46 of the GDP. In an economic environment where we are bumping along around zero and negative growth, this may seem quite attractive.

But the study, carried out by Price Waterhouse Coopers was paid for by the four airlines, so the results have to be viewed with this in mind.

On the environmental side, the Government’s position appears muddled. On the one hand, it appears to recognise that the demand for air-travel is continually rising and is in consultation to increase capacity of the airports in the UK to cater for that demand. Any rise in capacity will naturally, without improvements in the environmental efficiency of the planes themselves, increase carbon emissions. The current environmental benefit, if any, of taxation is simply in reducing demand. So are they really trying to cut tourism into the UK? Hopefully not.


The Davies Commission, brought about to look into future UK airport capacity, has just published its first discussion paper.

The Commission will not publish its official recommendations until 2015, after the next general election, but on Thursday published its first discussion paper which lays down the key issues, discussion points and problems that the nation faces in respect of future airport capacity.

At no point does this initial paper deal with any specifics – ie there is no mention of plans for a 3rd or 4th runway at Heathrow nor the alternative plans for a new airport to the east of London – although it does identify the two key, conflicting business models that makes any future planning such a difficult task.

Heathrow Terminal 5 view of runwayOn the one hand there are airlines, such as British Airways, that have nailed their colours very firmly to the Hub model.  Although British Airways operate flights out of London Gatwick & London City airports, the vast majority of its flights operate out of London Heathrow with, to a large degree, short-haul flights from the UK and Europe feeding its long-haul route network and vice verse. Capacity constraints at Heathrow mean that British Airways now serves less UK destinations than it did ten or twenty years ago and, with pressure to use each slot as efficiently as possible (ie operate bigger aircraft to long-haul destinations), there are fears in the likes of Belfast & Leeds/Bradford that, without an increase in runway capacity, they will soon lose connectivity to Heathrow altogether.

British Airways 787 DreamlinerThe second and contrary model, is that the future of aviation will see a marked increase in direct, point-to-point flights as travellers and airlines seek to avoid busy, expensive hubs and simply fly between far more different destinations. In the past, the relatively size small of the aviation market and limitations in aircraft design meant that this wasn’t really an option. However, with the increase in the world’s population and, in general, its wealth, together with the advent of aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 which can fly long distances much more economically than before, long-haul, point-to-point flights are becoming increasingly viable.

The question for the Davies Commission is, broadly speaking, which model is right for the UK and, equally importantly, whether the UK government and various airports are really in a position to shape the future. We can increase hub capacity at Heathrow or look to add capacity at regional airports such as Birmingham & Manchester; what we can’t do is tell passengers, especially from outside the UK, how and where they fly.

British Airways Heathrow

British Airways parent company, IAG, announced this week that it had raised 390 million euros in convertible bonds to facilitate the takeover of Vueling.

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

IAG already owned just under 46% of the Spanish carrier and, following an increased offer of 9.25 euros per share that finally won the backing of the board, will now see its stake rise to over 90%. Commenting on the bond issue, Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG had this to say: “We are raising cash to fund our acquisition of Vueling, an airline that will be a great addition to IAG. It will also enable IAG to have cash available to improve general liquidity and improve the credit profile of the group.”

Mr Walsh has already made it clear that Vueling will be run as a stand-alone business within IAG, and not as part of sister Spanish airline, Iberia.

The bonds are due to be issued on 31st May, with Banco Santander, UBS, Morgan Stanley & Barclays jointly managing the transaction.

IAG shares are currently trading at 275.50 pence, a substantial rise from a price of 152.30 pence exactly one year ago. At current prices the airline group is worth just under £5 billion.

Vueling is part of British Airways parent group IAG

Announcing the details of the luxury travel sale, discounts are available on Club World and First-Class flights, as well as luxury holidays around the globe.

If you are in the market for any of the above you have until Midnight 4th June to take advantage of the sale.

Just like home only better..

Just like home only better..

By the looks of it the discounts look pretty deep with “up to” 40 per cent on regular First and Club World fares to a large number of worldwide destinations.

You could also take advantage of the offer and fly closer to home via Club Europe flights.

For more details you can go here.



What do Orlando Bloom, Bear Grylls, Amanda Kerr and Elle MacPherson have in common?

They have all signed up to represent airlines with interests Down Under and in the Land of the Great White Cloud and hobbits (New Zealand).

Orlando Bloom is the new face of British Airways, having recently signed up to promote the London to Sydney route. He is quoted as saying that he will enjoy the first class service on the way out to Australia. Apparently one of the factors which led to his being chosen was that Orlando regarded as being quintessentially English.

Orlando Bloom

He’s just gagging for a nice cup of tea

The move signals a new phase in the post Qantas-British Airways long-haul partnership (which will also see Australian bound and returning flights using Terminal 5 at Heathrow).

It is also interesting because Amanda Kerr, who is married to Orlando, signed up to promote Qantas in 2012 and continues as the ambassador for Qantas.

British Airways and Qantas enjoyed a long, long-haul partnership but have recently split and gone their separate ways, each pairing up with new partners.

So which other celebrities are linked to Airlines?

The Bear

The Bear








We can think of Bear Grylls who appears on Air New Zealand’s ever inventive inflight safety videos, leaping from peak to peak like the super human that he undoubtedly is.

The Kiwi airlines safety videos are worth seeing, being about as entertaining as a safety video can reasonably be expected to be (Here is the body painted one which the writer personally found hilarious, for some reason which currently escapes him, when on holiday in the land of the hobbit.).

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Virgin Atlantic has the ever present bearded one as its figurehead but Elle MacPherson launched Virgin Blue’s uniforms in Australia in 2011.

Here is a photo of Elle, looking meditative, just so you know who we are talking about.










If you can think of any other interesting airline/celebrity signings let us know…

Vindicating the long held views of British Airways, the UK’s Transport Select Committee have come out in favour of expansion at Heathrow and rejected proposals for a brand new airport to the east of London.

Heathrow Terminal 5 view of runwayAlthough the Committee have no control over government policy, the findings of the cross-party groups of MPs will come as a major blow to Boris Johnson and his supporters who have been arguing that the UK should build a brand new airport somewhere to the east of London.

The Committee’s conclusions were that a new airport to the east of London would be too expensive to build, require huge subsidies and damage the local environment. Instead, as the majority of the business community and airlines such as British Airways have long argued, they came out in the support of Heathrow, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of international aviation, and backed plans for an additional 3rd and perhaps even 4th runway.

The bridge at Gatwick Airport North Terminal

London Gatwick

Indeed not only did the Committee call for an increase in capacity at Heathrow, they also encouraged Gatwick, the UK’s second busiest airport, to press ahead with plans for its own second runway. Again, such development has been rejected both by local residents and Boris Johnson.

Faced by strongly conflicting positions, David Cameron has done what successive governments have done over the years, run away from the problem. The government has therefore asked Sir Howard Davies to form a commission to look into airport capacity in the south east but to delay its final report, ready or not, until 2015, after the next General Election. The problem for David Cameron is that many of the parliamentary constituencies in west London that would be most affected by increased aircraft noise are currently held by the Conservatives…….but only just.

British Airways said the report ‘backs up our  view that a Thames Estuary airport is not a credible option’.

Heathrow Terminal 5 view of runway










British Airways to lose Mumbai lounge?

British Airways Concorde Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5

Heathrow Lounge

India’s Business Standard has run a story suggesting that operators of Mumbai’s new Terminal 2, which opens later this year, plan to offer a single common business lounge for all airline passengers.

There are currently 6 business lounges at Mumbai’s international airport, 2 of them operated on a general, non-aligned basis and the other 4 operated by British Airways, Air India, Lufthansa & Emirates for use by their own, and alliance member, passengers. Not surprisingly, the airlines in question are said to be strongly resisting the move.

We have no way of authenticating this story but surely, one would imagine, such a radical departure from the norm would have been discussed and finalised a long time ago?

Barclaycard to offer British Airways deals

Barclaycard is to join the ‘daily deals’ market, most commonly associated with the likes of Groupon & Wowcher. Its own ‘Bespoke Offers’ service launched this week and, according to the press release, will include some 5,000 deals from a wide variety of companies including British Airways.

These bespoke offers are available to all UK customers, not just Barclaycard holders, and will, so they say, be expertly tailored to individual customers’  specific spending habits and selected preferences. Click here for more details.

British Airways parent IAG reports drop in traffic

IAGFor April 2013, group traffic at IAG, measured in Revenue Passenger Kilometres, was down 5.6% compared to April 2012. This reduction comprised a 6.9% decrease in non-premium traffic against a 1.8% increase in premium traffic. Much of this is down to the different dates for Easter although IAG has also stated that it reflects a policy decision to improve yields at the expense of load. No breakdown has been provided for the respective performances of British Airways against Iberia.

British Airways increases flights to Tripoli

Effective from 2nd September, British Airways will increase the frequency of its service between London Heathrow and Tripoli from 3 to 4 flights a week. The additional Monday service means that British Airways will now fly to the Libyan capital every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Sunday.

British Airways new service to Larnaca

Gatwick North TerminalCommencing 30th June, British Airways will launch a new, thrice weekly service between London Gatwick and Larnaca in Cyprus. This is in addition to the airline’s summer service between Gatwick & Paphos which operates twice a week.

British Airways have just released their latest Hello Weekend offers for the coming weekend with a mix of European & Gulf destinations.

Offers available this week include Dublin from £119, Madrid, Edinburgh & Milan from £139, Lisbon from £149, Munich from £179, Rome from £189, Abu Dhabi from £529 & Dubai from £599. Prices quoted are the per person cost based on two sharing and include British Airways flights plus 2nts hotel accommodation (3nts for Abu Dhabi & Dubai). Further details can be found by clicking on the link here.

Those travelling to Rome may want to be careful where they buy their ice-cream from although, from a personal viewpoint, Rome is one of our favourite cities in Europe.

This week’s pictures are from the hotel Dar Said just outside Tunis. British Airways fly direct from Gatwick to Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, in under 3hrs making this an excellent, although unusual, weekend break.



Unconfirmed reports suggest that Qatar is interested in becoming the largest shareholder in IAG, parent company of British Airways & Iberia, by buying the 12% stake currently held by Spanish bank Bankia.

IAGThe report emerged from the Financial Times last night although, as yet, there has been no confirmation of the story nor any clear indication as to exactly who in the oil rich state would make the investment. Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, and a close ally of Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG, has said that his airline is not interested in buying a stake in IAG and that no other Qatar organisation would involve themselves in such a process without first consulting him, something he claims has not yet happened.

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

In the fraught world of airline politics, Willie Walsh & Akbar Al Baker are about as close to being friends as one can reasonably expect. While the heads of other European airlines have criticised Gulf airlines, complaining of unfair competition and state support, Willie Walsh has always been broadly supportive of their goals, methods and achievements. Indicative of the close working relationship between the two men is the fact that Willie Walsh has convinced Qatar Airways to join the One World alliance of which British Airways was a founder partner.

What is certain is that Bankia’s 12% stake in IAG is definitely up for sale and that, due to the perilous state of the bank’s finances, it will need to find a buyer sooner rather than later. Easier said than done. IAG lost almost 1 billion euros last year and, in an industry in which profits tend to be the exception rather than the rule, potential investors are likely to be few and far between. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that current regulations do not allow non-EU companies or airlines to buy a majority stake in an EU airline. Although Bankia’s 12% stake in IAG is only worth around 700 million euros, and Qatar has very deep pockets indeed, it is still hard to see the logic in them taking a small stake in a loss making airline group they can never own or control.

Willie Walsh and Akbar Al Baker may be friends but asking Qatar to stump up the cash may be asking a favour too far.

Heathrow Terminal 5 view of runway







British Airways’ South Africa subsidiary, Comair, has this week re-launched flights between Johannesburg and Maputo, the capital of neighbouring Mozambique.

The airline had withdrawn the service in January 2012 citing low demand and high taxes but, with the strength of the Mozambique economy, has decided to try again. The new service will operate daily with a double daily service on both Tuesday & Saturday that has been timed to provide easy connections for passengers for travellers arriving from London. The route will be operated by 737 with a choice of either economy or business class.

Commenting on the new service, Shaun Pozyn from British Airways had this to say: “We are excited to commence with this new route to Maputo as it allows us to grow our footprint in Africa.”

Johannesburg is British Airways single most important route in Africa with some 15 flights a week from Heathrow. The airline had operated a double daily service but recently announced that the additional thrice weekly ‘seasonal’ service would continue throughout the year. British Airways operates a combination of 747 & 777 aircraft between Heathrow & Johannesburg and, with slots so hard to come by at its London base, we predict that Johannesburg will be one of the beneficiaries of British Airways new A380.

By operating the A380 to Johannesburg (replacing the 747), the combined capacity of a daily A380 / 777 service would be similar to that of the current 15 flights a week and would free up 3 valuable slots at Heathrow. The appeal of the A380 (including the airline’s brand new World Traveller & World Traveller Plus cabins) would also give British Airways a significant competitive advantage over Virgin Atlantic & South African Airways, the only other airlines to offer direct flights between London & Johannesburg.

British Airways first A380 on tarmac

British Airways offer of a free one way upgrade from Club World to First Class class expires tomorrow, 7th May.

Customers who book an eligible, semi-flexible, published Club World return ticket in C,D or R class, for travel between now and 31st August 2013, will receive a free one way upgrade to First Class. In addition, those customers who book a return published fare in Club World J class have until 4th July to take advantage of the free upgrade.

The upgrade to First Class can be for either the outbound or inbound flight although inbound travel must be completed by 8th September and, as with any special offer, is subject to availability at the time of booking.

Details of British Airways First Class, together with all the airline’s other cabins on both short and long haul flights, can be be found in the Cabins section of our website.

For further details, or to book, simply phone British Airways on 0844 493 0787.

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It was double success for Heathrow at the recent World Airport Awards, with British Airways’ Terminal 5 winning the award for the best individual airport terminal in the world and Heathrow overall winning the award for best airport shopping.

Heathrow Terminal 5

The annual awards are carried out by SKYTRAX and are based on the responses of over 12 million people from 108 different countries. Overall, Heathrow was voted the 10th best airport in the world and 4th best in Europe, with Singapore’s Changi Airport reclaiming the title as the world’s favourite airport. Details of all the awards can be found here.

The award for Terminal 5 in particular is a marked turnaround for both Heathrow & British Airways after the fiasco of its opening in 2008; problems with the automated luggage system meant that many people left without their bags or weren’t able to travel at all. There were even those who suggested that both British Airways and Heathrow would never really retrieve the situation. These awards prove what most people knew then and now, that the opening itself was an ill-prepared shambles, but that the terminal itself was, bar a few mistakes, a wonderful achievement, a great introduction to the country and a huge improvement on the cramped conditions British Airways passengers had endured at Terminal 4.

Together with its IAG partner, Iberia Airlines, British Airways is the sole tenant at Terminal 5. Since its opening in 2008, an additional satelite terminal, 5C, has been added, with talk of a further extension, 5D, being added in the future. With the recent news that British Airways flights to Bangkok, Singapore & Sydney are all being moved from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5, by the start of November it should be that all British Airways long-haul customers are able to enjoy the Terminal 5 experience.

Photo of a beautiful British Airways lounge

Terminal 5 Concorde Lounge

British Airways will take delivery of its first A380 in July, followed later this year by the 787 Dreamliner. In so doing, it will be the world’s first airline to operate both aircraft types.

British Airways first A380 on tarmacBritish Airways Engineering, an MRO provider (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul), will open up its Learning Academy to engineers from other airlines looking to qualify in maintenance for the world’s 2 newest aircraft types.


British Airways has already trained its own engineers to work with both aircraft and is the first approved training school in the world able to deliver training on both aircraft types. British Airways A380 & 787 fleet will both operate Rolls Royce Trent engines.

British Airways 787 DreamlinerThe first courses offered by the airline will be for the 787, with courses for the A380 set to follow later in the year. David Smyth from British Airways Engineering had this to say: “With so many operators integrating 787s into their fleets in the coming years, there will be a huge demand for associated training courses. We have invested heavily in our training infrastructure and personnel over the past few years to ensure that we are well placed to take advantage of this commercial opportunity. Our mix of operational experience and skilled instructors will prove highly beneficial as we launch these services. We have already run the 787 course four times for British Airways engineers, meaning that our customers will benefit from what is already a mature course”.


British Airways have teamed up with boutique hotel specialists Mr & Mrs Smith to give their customers the chance to stay at some of the world’s most enchanting and stylish hotels.

Mr & Mrs Smith feature over 300 hotels worldwide and, combined with British Airways extensive route network, fans of both can now enjoy a wide range of stylish holidays staying in some of the world’s most highly regarded hotels.

By booking flights and accommodation at the same time, customers will enjoy guaranteeed savings, financial protection and the rewards of both companies loyalty programes.

Click here for more details.

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Welcome to May and, more importantly, Wednesday. British Airways latest Hello Weekend offers are now out although, to be honest, they do bare a vague resemblence to last week.

British Airways holiday offers for this weekend include Glasgow from £119 per person, Alicante from £139 per person, Brussells from £139 per person, Rotterdam from £139 per person, Copenhagen from £169 per person and Munich from £169 per person. With the money saved on the holidays to Copenhagen, why not treat yourself to dinner at NOMA?

Click here here for more details of all British Airways Hello Weekend offers.

For those interested, the photo for this article is of the night market at the Jemaa El Fna in Marrakech. British Airways fly between London Gatwick and Marrakech 3 times a week.