• Bmi Regional is planning an increased service next summer on routes from Bristol to Aberdeen, Frankfurt and Munich, and from East Midlands and Newcastle to Brussels, all of which will have thrice-weekday services.
• British Airways launches four leisure destinations from Heathrow next May. Corfu will receive four weekly flights, while Kos, Olbia and Split will be served twice weekly.
• KLM is launching an Amsterdam–Edmonton service next May, operated four times a week.
• Virgin Atlantic is cancelling its “Little Red” Heathrow–Manchester service at the end of March. Other route cancellations will follow.
Well, actually the British flag because the American golfers flew into Edinburgh on a specially-chartered BA 777.
British Airways must have offered the Americans a very good deal but you have to wonder why the supposedly madly patriotic US golfers thought it was a good idea to fly with a British airline on their way to the big show-down with the cream of European golfers.
For an airline, flying a sports team can be a mixed blessing. BA wasn’t interested in getting involved with the English World Cup football team this year, or the last time either. Logistics, the poor image of the team and the fee deal demanded by the FA made it a most unappealing prospect. Virgin Atlantic learned that lesson the last time they flew the football team.
Golfers, rugby teams and Olympic athletes are generally a better proposition. Much more wholesome image, less reputational risk and governing bodies that do not demand so much.
Atlanta is the home of Delta. They must have been offered the chance of flying the US Golf team. Why they thought it was a good idea to let BA fly them, goodness knows. They could surely have let their UK subsidiary take the deal.
As it is, BA might have paid, but they have priceless publicity throughout the US, and the middle class heartlands where their potential customers are, as well as the UK.
Normally airlines that fly sports teams like to fly a winning side because they get to share the adulation when they return home. In this case, BA is on to a winner whatever happens.
Hilton HHonors and British Airways have come up with a special offer that seems generous enough to bother about, but it has just three days left to run so you must move quickly…
All you have to do to save £100 per person on a British Airways Club Europe flight is book your travel before midnight 27th September 2013 via this website and enter the offer code to claim your discount. Travel must be completed before 31st March 2014.
The April edition of Inside Traveller is being mailed to subscribers today and will be available on-line from Friday 29th March.
Amongst the subjects covered this month are:
• British Airways’ plans for its new A380s – test flights start this summer. • Why it’s useful to appreciate the differences between the major Gulf carriers. • “The more rooms a hotel has the worse the service will be” – true or false? • www.dealangel.com – a really useful hotel comparison website. • What to look for in longhaul economy, AND • What to look for in premium economy. • Another way to judge airline safety. • Collecting Avios demystified.
British Airways is keeping British Midland’s summer timetable in operation but they are moving fairly quickly to make sense of their purchase.
The first of British Midland’s Airbuses is now being repainted in BA colours in Shannon with several others to follow this month. If they are going to use these on European routes in the BA name in future they will have to alter the seating configuration so that the rows at the front of the aircraft, used for Club, have 34 inches legroom as opposed to the 31 inches that is standard on the British Midland fleet.
They have also just announced the first new route resulting from the extra Heathrow slots. From this winter, they will be flying six times a week to Seoul. We would not expect a huge rush of new longhaul routes. It would be foolish to launch too many so quickly and, anyway, they do not have sufficient aircraft, but there no doubt other new destinations in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the situation for the other two British Midland group companies looks pretty grim. It is hard to see anyone buying BMIBaby by the end of October when BA has said it will close the airline. Already, easyJet and Flybe are moving in on their routes. If someone does not make a move soon, there will be little left to buy. Nor can we see much of a future for British Midland Regional. If the rumoured deal does go ahead, then the buyers would surely have to slim the airline down substantially and, even then, it would face a very challenging future.
In recent years, Virgin Atlantic has done very little to increase its business but has spent an inordinate amount of effort in attacking British Airways for its attempts to grow. The latest effort to try to block their takeover of British Midland is no different.
Over the years, Virgin have had ample opportunities to buy or merge with British Midland but have – probably very wisely – not gone ahead. Now they are upset about BA getting British Midland. They don’t really want it themselves but don’t want BA to have it.
The argument they are using to block the deal on competition grounds does seem to have some superficial logic. They say that concentrating domestic routes on BA will lead to reduced choice and higher fares.
Unfortunately, this is a complete misunderstanding of the situation.
British Midland thrived as a shorthaul competitor to BA – in much the same way as Virgin did quite well as their longhaul competitor – but the airline business has changed. British Midland lost their position to easyJet who now provide much more effective competition to BA on shorthaul than British Midland ever did. That is why British Midland is in such a financial mess.
EasyJet currently operate 13 flights a day between London and Glasgow. That is more than enough competition for BA. The only other thing that can destroy these domestic routes is the government’s determination to tax domestic air travel out of existence. If BA take British Midland, Virgin will lose the opportunity to sell domestic add-ons to their longhaul flights but that is their problem. It really is not an issue for the competition authorities.
However, I have a solution which, if Virgin are serious, should keep everyone happy.
British Airways should be allowed to take British Midland but give up enough slots at Heathrow to allow Virgin to operate four return flights each day between Heathrow and Glasgow and Edinburgh. In return, Virgin should sign an agreement that they will operate these flights for at least five years.
That would have Richard Branson running for cover to his Caribbean tax shelter faster than you can say Virgin Cross Country Trains.
Interesting comments from BA’s Chairman, Martin Broughton, about the need for airport security and why we should not “kow-tow to the Americans”.
It is easy to agree with many of the points he makes. Current security systems have been set up in a haphazard manner in answer to each new threat. No one has ever sat down and tried to devise a comprehensive plan from scratch for aircraft security. Also, he is quite right to point out that the current standards are set by the US (“if you want to fly to our country, follow our rules”) and that security is less stringent for US domestic flights. This was an oblique reminder that the 9/11 hijacks would probably not have occurred in most other countries and were very much down to the lax domestic security systems of the US.
In other words, the current aviation security system is a US-led mess.
All fair enough, but would he have raised these points before British Airways had secured US immunity for the three-way tie-up with American Airlines and Iberia?
The week has started on a rather up-beat note with easyJet coming to an agreement with their truculent founder, Stelios, that avoids any further legal action. The only losers in this will be the lawyers and the on-lookers who found it rather entertaining to view the public display of dirty linen by the airline and its ex-boss. As an outsider, I would suggest this goes down as a narrow victory for Stelios because the airline are going to have to pay him very heavily for the use of his easy logo.
And do I hear sounds of peace breaking out between British Airways and their cabin crew? The union was about to ballot for another strike but has postponed this because of some “positive moves” from the airline. It is unlikely that any further industrial action would be supported by more than a minority of the total cabin staff of the airline so Unite no doubt wishes to avoid a possibly humiliating strike. We have heard optimistic noises before but, this time, it does sound as if something positive might happen. Let’s hope so because the majority of the airline’s crew deserve better leadership than they have had from their union – and they need support to stop the airline destroying their terms and conditions completely. Starting rates for new crew with the airline make one wonder how anyone can live in London on such a figure.