Cobalt Air, Cyprus’ largest carrier, will ground its flights from midnight tonight (Wednesday, 17th October 2018), after reports said it had failed to reach a deal with a major European investor.
Reports have suggested that the company has only €15 million its accounts, which are expected to be used to pay the employees of the company.
The Cypriot Transport Minister, Vasiliki Anastasiadou, could neither confirm nor deny reports that the airline would be suspending flights.
In May this year, Cobalt’s CEO Andrew Madar was sacked by the airline and Cobalt Air posted losses in 2017. The Air Transport Licensing Authority (part of civil aviation) met with Cobalt officials earlier today for a meeting. This group has been monitoring the airline for a period, to ensure that Cobalt Air met all of its obligations for aircraft maintenance and payments such as employee salaries.
CO327 – currently en-route from London Heathrow to Larnaca International Airport – could prove to be the Cypriot carrier’s final flight, currently estimated to land in Cyprus at 00:10am.
I flew with Cobalt Air between Manchester and Larnaca last year – I found the experience to be a fantastic blend between low-cost and premium, with enthusiastic and hospitable cabin crew. The airline also boasted what is arguably the most competitive intra-European Business Class of all the major carriers.
This is a regrettable situation for all of Cobalt Air’s employees and the people of Cyprus – who will lose their largest national airline again after the liquidation of Cyprus Airways in 2015. The airline had ambitious growth plans and operated to 23 destinations this year. Unfortunately, those plans now stand little chance of being initiated.
The Lufthansa Group is arguably the largest and most influential grouping of airlines across Europe with the group’s three network airlines offering a network comprising of 263 destinations in 86 countries last year. Now, Lufthansa Group has revealed their growth strategy for the future and announced how they will be optimising their hubs and preparing for the 2019 season. Their goal? To increase quality and on-time punctuality across all of Lufthansa Group’s network airlines.
which airlines are part of Lufthansa group?
Lufthansa Group comprises of five airline ‘brands’ – three of these are referred to as ‘network airlines’ and two as ‘point to point’ airlines.
Network airlines offer connecting hubs and a premium onboard experience. These include:
Lufthansa German Airlines
The two remaining airlines are ‘point to point’ airlines. These airlines are designed to appeal to price-sensitive customers and tap into the growing direct traffic segment, with low-fare travel at its heart.
The route network of the Point-to-Point Airlines is served from a total of eleven bases and in the summer flight timetable 2017 comprised 192 destinations in 62 countries. The airlines are:
The Eurowings Group (Eurowings, Germanwings and Eurowings Europe)
Consequently, Lufthansa Group’s main hubs are Munich, Frankfurt, Zürich and Vienna. Notably absent is Brussels, which is home to Brussels Airlines, which is classed as a ‘point to point’ airline. Going forward, it seems as if Brussels Airlines will be more closely integrated to Eurowings – rather than the mainstream network airlines grouping. So what is Lufthansa Group’s plan to optimise operations in each of these hubs?
Although ‘Lufthansa’ is most closely related to ‘Frankfurt’, the airline has decided to focus on and accelerate growth in Bavaria’s capital; Munich. Specifically, Lufthansa Group wants Munich to become a strategic hub for flights to Asia. Increased frequencies will be offered from Munich to Seoul and Singapore, Summer 2019 will see the first ever daily connection from Munich to Bangkok as part of this transformation. Additionally, the Frankfurt-Osaka flight will be moved to depart from Munich.
Five of Lufthansa’s Airbus A380-800s have already been transferred from Frankfurt to Munich. Lufthansa aims to transfer even more by 2020. Three Airbus A320s are being moved from the Frankfurt hub to Munich to support the expansion of feeder traffic while three smaller Bombardier CRJ900s will be transferred from Munich to Frankfurt in exchange. The airline says Munich is a ‘five-star location’. As a result, the majority of Lufthansa’s first-class configured Airbus A340-600s will operate to/from Munich, rather than Frankfurt going forward.
Contrastingly, Lufthansa will be curbing its growth in Frankfurt, to improve on time performance. However, the airline is still growing. Eilat (Israel), Agadir (Morocco), Trieste (Italy) and Thessaloniki (Greece) are new additions to the flight programme from Frankfurt this year. Lufthansa is also expanding its footprint in the US. From 3rd May 2019, the airline will inaugurate its flight from Frankfurt to Austin, whilst terminating the Frankfurt to San Jose, CA route.
For 2019, there will only be low single-digit year-on-year growth at Frankfurt, which may come as a surprise, as the airport is Germany’s largest and one of the busiest across the European continent.
Zürich has been growing moderately over recent times. As the home base of SWISS, the airport has grown as an attractive connecting hub. Now, however, the main focus will be on expanding European flights, rather than long-haul. For next year, this modest growth will continue and new routes will be added across Europe (Bremen has already been announced) but, given Lufthansa Group’s intentions, it is unlikely that SWISS will be flying any new long-haul routes soon.
Similarly to Zürich, Vienna will see moderate growth. Austrian Airlines will be adding new flights across Europe and is already increasing frequencies to destinations such as Athens and Kiev. This aims to strengthen Vienna’s hub status – given its strategic location in Central Europe, providing quick and easy connections from eastern Europe to the US and Canada. Austrian Airlines will continue to optimise its network in North America. Recently, for example, the airline has announced new services from their hub to Montréal – with Air Canada replacing services on the Vienna-Toronto route.
Lufthansa group’s fleet plans
Lufthansa has a firm order for 34 Boeing 777-9X aircraft, to be delivered from 2020. Whilst these aircraft are designed to replace the airline’s ageing jumbo-jet fleet, Lufthansa Group has not decided how they will be distributed between network airlines. The group says that they will be making a decision based on each hub’s performance next year as to which airport the new Boeing 777X will takeoff from initially. Whilst the majority of the aircraft are almost certainly going to be a key component in Lufthansa’s core fleet, there is a strong possibility that some aircraft could operate under the ‘Austrian Airlines’ banner, given Austrian’s lack of long-haul aircraft on order and existing Boeing 777-200ER fleet. SWISS has recently replenished its fleet with new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft so it is unlikely that any of the new aircraft will operate from Switzerland for the foreseeable future.
We do know one concrete fact about the 777-9X, however. It will feature Lufthansa’s new onboard product, featuring direct aisle access to every seat for the first time in Lufthansa’s fleet in Business Class.
If the new aircraft are to operate for Austrian Airlines, this onboard product will represent a significant upgrade over the current experience.
All in all, Lufthansa Group clearly has a robust strategy for the future and focusing on consolidation and improving punctuality in their largest hub -Frankfurt – can only be a positive thing for passengers. As previously, Berlin still remains woefully underserved by Germany’s national airline – although this is probably in part due to the constant delays in the opening of Berlin’s Brandenburg airport. Whilst Brussels Airlines could feasibly be a ‘network airline’ – with a fully-fledged Business Class product and a developed hub in Brussels – Lufthansa Group clearly anticipates further alignment with Eurowings as a low-cost carrier.
Last year, Primera Air shook up the transatlantic market once again with a raft of new low-cost flights from Europe to the US & Canada with newly delivered Airbus A321neo aircraft.
However, Primera Air’s transatlantic plans were hampered by delivery delays and shambolic management. Throughout this year, these issues have resulted in:
flights from Birmingham to Boston were cancelled before their launch
flights from Birmingham to New York and Toronto were cancelled soon after launch
flights from London Stansted were operated by a leased Boeing 757 aircraft for a short period
a myriad of flights cancelled, delayed and rescheduled from Paris-CDG
customers misled after flights from London were scheduled to be operated by a Boeing 737 NG aircraft, which would stop for refuelling in Reykjavik
The reliability of the airline has been appalling, and there has been no real strategy for sustainable growth throughout the airline’s foray into long-haul flying.
Primera Air continued with its rapid yet illogical growth strategy and, since this summer, has announced transatlantic flights from Berlin, Frankfurt and Madrid with Boeing 737 MAX-9 aircraft – to be delivered next year. These new routes were announced less than a month ago, with eye-catching fares Primera Air has become known for.
This rapid growth and lack of proper financing has proved too much for Primera Air. The airline will be filing for bankruptcy and ceasing operations in the next few hours. Primera Air and IATA codes PF and 6F have been suspended as of today, October 2nd, 2018. In a letter sent to employees of the airline, Primera Air’s Director of Flight Operations said:
It is with regret I am reaching out to you all this dark day. We have just been informed that both Primera Air Nordic and Primera Air Scandinavia will file for bankruptcy tomorrow October 2, 2018.
Currently flights are operating as normally and OCC, Crewing and Travel are working on arranging travel home for crews who happen to on outstations.
Reasons I am sure are many but very high cost for the aircraft with corrosion last year as well as the delays of our new Airbuses lead to too high costs for wet lease and cancellations which in the end became too much for the airlines. Our owner was working on securing financing but was not able to in the end. This is what was stated during today’s staff meeting in the Riga office.
All the staff in the Riga office have been informed but official information will not be sent out until midnight by our owner.
Whilst this was an unofficial statement, the airline has since confirmed this to be the case in a press release on Primera Air’s website:
It is unlikely that the airline will secure financing at this late stage, so it is almost certain that Primera Air will cease to exist within the next few days – just like Monarch Airlines, a British carrier, did one year ago. This will of course have unfortunate impacts on Primera Air’s employees and passengers – who will now have to amend their travel plans going forward.
If you were scheduled to fly with Primera Air in the coming months, you are advised to visit www.primeraair.com for updates over the next few days. Tour Operator passengers are advised to address their Tour Operators and Agents for further information and actions.
One year ago, Air France launched its next-generation flying experience: JOON. JOON is designed to appeal to millennials, attracting a ‘young, working clientele’ with a chic, unique brand and several on-board innovations such as USB ports and VR-headsets.
Launched in September 2017, Joon has carried more than two million customers in Europe and worldwide from the airline’s base in Paris-Charles de Gaulle. JOON’s fleet consists of Airbus A320s and A321 aircraft on its medium-haul network and multiple Airbus A340-300s on its long-haul network.
Air France anticipate that JOON’s fleet size will reach 28 by 2020 – so, one year on, where is JOON expanding to?
In their second summer season, JOON will serve another 6 destinations across Europe, the Caribbean and South America. In Europe, JOON will operate Air France’s existing flights to Manchester (UK), Stockholm (Sweden), Prague (Czech Republic) and Madrid (Spain), with Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 equipment, offering up to 212 seats, all starting in Summer 2019.
Saint Martin in the Caribbean will also receive the next-generation travel experience that JOON offers, whilst Quito – in South America – will be an entirely new venture for Air France from Paris-CDG. JOON’s flights to both of these inter-continental destinations will be operated by Airbus A340-300 aircraft.
Complimentary drinks and a range of gourmet snacks, available for purchase
Access to JOON’s entertainment system – YouJoon.
YouJoon will enable customers to access in-flight streaming, on their own smartphone, tablet or laptop. Once on board, they will be able to connect directly to the Joon login portal and choose from a wide range of TV series, animated series, Web TV and kids’ programmes. YouJoon also offers customers the opportunity to browse a range of magazines and newspapers – innovations that simply aren’t available on legacy airlines on the majority of intra-European flights.
Another benefit of flying with JOON over EasyJet or Ryanair, for example, is the fact that you can still access all of Air France’s onward connections through Paris-CDG and – when flying Business Class – you can also access Air France’s Business Class lounges.
Essentially, JOON is Air France’s swanky little sister – offering a more up-to-date flying experience. In a world where our lives increasingly revolve around technology, JOON’s onboard product is a refreshing change for European travellers, allowing every customer to stay entertained, refreshed charged up whilst in the air – yet still offering low fares.
As we slide into Autumn, airlines are rushed off their feet – planning new additions and making difficult cuts, in preparation for the Summer 2019 season. Take a look at my top picks of the most recent developments in aviation…
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines bets on Las Vegas
The Dutch National carrier – KLM – has added an 18th North American destination to its portfolio. By summer 2019, the airline will offer three-weekly flights from Amsterdam to Las Vegas – utilising Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner equipment seating 294 passengers on-board (30 World Business Class seats, 45 Economy Comfort seats and 219 Economy Class seats). The new route will initially launch on a twice-weekly basis in June 2019, before expanding to three-weekly on 2nd July 2019.
As a result of slot restrictions at KLM’s home airport – Amsterdam Schipol – the airline will have to make adjustments to its current route network to accommodate this new flight. From 29th March, KLM’s flights to Monrovia and Freetown will cease to operate – launched only in 2017. The airline says that, under normal circumstances, the route would have been allowed more time to grow but believes its slots can be utilised more profitably on a different route.
Air France ventures to Dallas-Fort Worth and Quito, Ecuador
KLM’s fellow SkyTeam partner, Air France, is also developing its flying programme for Summer 2019. The airline will be launching flights to two-new long-haul destinations.
Air France’s 13th US destination – Dallas Fort-Worth – will be served from Paris CDG, beginning 31st March 2019. The new route will be operated with the airline’s Airbus A330-200 aircraft, with five-weekly flights in peak season, configured with three cabin classes.
Air France has also announced services to a new South American destination – to be operated by its subsidiary, JOON.
The new Paris CDG-Quito service will operate three-times weekly with Airbus A340-300 equipment, with 30 seats in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy and 227 in Economy Class. This new development means that Air France will join European partner’s KLM in operating to one of the world’s highest altitude cities – the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.
Aer Lingus launches 2 NEW North American destinations
These latest plans for transatlantic expansion come after years of steady, yet sustained growth in the North American market. The carrier has expanded even more rapidly since IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and others) bought it – with new routes being added to Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Hartford, New York Newark, Philadelphia, Seattle and Miami since 2015.
With 12 Airbus A321LR aircraft on order, the future looks bright for Aer Lingus – who are likely to take advantage of the aircraft’s qualities and launch more “long and thin” routes to destinations that simply weren’t feasible with larger aircraft such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Air Belgium goes seasonal with Charleroi-Hong Kong service
Air Belgium has confirmed that it will temporarily pause its flights from Brussels South-Charleroi to Hong Kong, effective from 1st October through to March 2019 – after operating for just one season. The airline says that the pause is due to the ‘non-respect of contractual terms’ by one of Air Belgium’s major commercial partners.
The airline, however, reiterates its commitment to continue operations after this pause and its ambitions to launch services to Mainland China destinations such as Zhengzhou.
Deliveries & Other Aviation Stories
Shanghai Airlines receives Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Shanghai Airlines – subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines – has recieved its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, registered B-1111.
The aircraft is the 100th Boeing-manufactured aeroplane in their fleet, powered by General Electric GEnx-1B engines. Shanghai Airlines is expected to operate the aircraft from Shanghai to Chengdu, Beijing, Japan and Korea.
Delta’s first Airbus A220 makes an appearance
Delta’s first Airbus A220-100 has emerged from the paint shop at the final assembly line in Mirabel, Québec.
The airline has 75 of the Airbus A220 series aircraft on order – the most of any airline – and is the first US airline to operate the variant. The aircraft will carry out its maiden flight in Autumn, before being delivered to the airline next year.
First Airbus A380 for All Nippon Airways takes flight
ANA’s first Airbus A380 “Superjumbo” has taken flight, before it is deployed on the Tokyo-Honolulu sector early next year.
The first of three Airbus A380s for the Japanese airline on the orderbook, is now awaiting painting of its livery and installation of cabin products in Hamburg, Germany.
In January 2018, IndiGo – India’s largest passenger airline – began to seek regulatory approval to operate flights from New Delhi to London, Paris, Madrid and Hong Kong. Now, it looks like IndiGo’s aspirations may be one step closer to reality.
The budget carrier, whose operations revolve primarily around short haul flights within the Indian subcontinent, has reportedly secured a slot at London Gatwick airport from the beginning of 2018’s winter season.
IndiGo is planning to launch the new route with its Airbus A321neo aircraft, scheduled for delivery this November, which will be configured with over 200 seats, sources say.
However, there is an added complication. IndiGo does not have any Airbus A321neoLR aircraft on order – the variant other airlines such as Primera have used to facilitate their foray into long-haul flying. Instead, the budget carrier has only ordered the standard A321neo, which offers significantly diminished range. This, coupled with a dense seating configuration, means it is clear that IndiGo will not be able to operate its new Delhi-London service non-stop.
Istanbul has been proposed as a potential refuelling stop for IndiGo’s new route to London. Under this scenario, the airline would be able to carry passengers between Delhi and Istanbul – in addition to passengers bound for Gatwick.
However, routing via Istanbul would add around 200 miles and inconvenient extra travel time, when compared to rival’s Delhi-London flights. It is also uncertain as to whether the airline would have fifth-freedom rights to carry passengers solely between Turkey and the British capital, removing an opportunity to top up revenue.
Regardless of whether IndiGo launches flights this winter, a new trend of low-cost Indian airlines setting their sights on Europe is evident. Rival to IndiGo, SpiceJet, has previously voiced its ambition to launch long-haul budget flights to Europe and has preemptively secured slots for Delhi-Manchester flights on numerous occasions.
Additionally, Singapore Airlines subsidiary – Scoot – wants to operate its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners on Singapore-India-Europe routes, utilising fifth-freedom rights (the freedom that allows airlines to fly from their home country to a second nation and then carry passengers from there to a third nation).
“We can look at Singapore-Delhi/Mumbai/Chennai/Kolkata-Europe/Gulf flights. We can fly to places like Zurich, Paris, Manchester (not London), Abu Dhabi and Bahrain”
-indian manager of scoot, Bharath Mahadevan
Of course, Air India and Jet Airways would be badly affected by the advent of low-cost, long-haul flights. The cost structure of both airlines is simply too high to compete with fares offered by the likes of IndiGo and their profit margins would likely be slashed. For low-cost airlines, the road to long-haul flying could be fraught with challenges too – Primera’s disastrous transatlantic launch proved this. However, with LCCs controlling more than 65% of India’s domestic market, the trend towards budget flights to Europe is unstoppable.
As we edge into autumn, airlines are already planning their summer 2019 flying programme (United and American have both announced a deluge of service changes for next year) so the next couple of weeks promise to be filled with new route announcements helping to shape airlines’ operations for the coming year. In this Aviation Round-Up, I outline my picks of the biggest route development stories of recent weeks.
Iceland’s low-cost carrier to launch flights to Orlando
Icelandic carrier, WOW Air, has announced its next new destination to be launched this December. The airline will operate three-weekly seasonal flights from its Reykjavik hub to Orlando-International, utilising Airbus A321neo equipment. Blocked at 8hrs25mins westbound and ~3,534 miles, this route will be one of the longest to be operated by the Airbus A320 family when it launches on December 18th.
This is the latest instalment in WOW Air’s rapid expansion; since launching their first US flights to Boston in 2015, the airline now operates to 15 North American cities from Washington D.C. to San Francisco – with the primary goal of opening up transatlantic flying to a larger audience. Keen to demonstrate this, WOW Air is offering promotional fares starting from just £129.99 one-way between the UK and Orlando, connecting through the airline’s Iceland hub, to celebrate the new route.
United Airlines announces a trio of new routes to Europe
United Airlines has announced a trio of new routes to Europe from various hubs across the US – two new summer seasonal destinations and one new year-round route. The airline will be the only US carrier to offer nonstop flights to Naples, launching a new route to the Amalfi Coast from New York Newark. United’s new service to Naples will be its sixth nonstop service to Italy and is conveniently timed for connecting customers from more than 60 destinations across the United States. Elsewhere in Europe, Prague will gain a new summer seasonal connection to New York Newark. Both of these new routes will operate with Boeing 767-300 equipment and will inaugurate in summer 2019.
United will also launch a new year-round connection between San Francisco and Amsterdam, building on existing services to the Netherlands from New York, Chicago, Houston and Washington D.C. The new flight will utilise United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner equipment, operating on a daily basis from March 2019.
British Airways Cityflyer heads to Rome; says more new routes to come
During 2019, British Airways Cityflyer is set to base an additional four Embraer E190 aircraft at London City Airport, increasing the number of aircraft in CityFlyer’s fleet to 26. The first new route as a result of this expansion will be a connection to the Italian capital, in the form of a six-weekly London City to Rome Fiumicino flight beginning this November.
In a teasing statement, British Airways promised that there were more new routes to come – saying that Rome is “the first of a number of new routes and extra flights to be announced for next year” – implying that CityFlyer’s tally of destinations from London City will increase further.
American Airlines alters its European network
AA has made a host of modifications to its European network for next summer’s flying programme, including nine new routes to meet customer demand.
The airline will begin two new seasonal routes from Dallas-Fort Worth to Dublin and Munich, both operating with American’s Dreamliner aircraft and expand its footprint in Greece with an additional seasonal Boeing 787-8 service from Athens to Chicago O’Hare. Four new routes will be launched from Philadelphia – to Edinburgh, Berlin Tegel, Bologna and Dubrovnik – all of which will operate on a seasonal basis. American Airlines will complement its joint-venture partner with a new daily seasonal frequency from Phoenix to London Heathrow, utilising Boeing 777-200ER equipment. Finally, the airline will be launching just one year-round route from Charlotte to Munich, operated by ex-US Airways Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
Unfortunately, to facilitate this expansion, AA will be cancelling a number of European routes. The long-standing Chicago-Manchester flight will be cut – leaving the North of England without a link to the Windy City – 3 routes will be cancelled from Philadelphia, to Glasgow, Munich and Frankfurt and American will further diminish JFK’s importance as an East Coast connecting hub with flights to the Irish capital, Dublin, and Edinburgh both coming to an end.
Other Aviation Stories
Flybe refreshes its livery, in sync with new ‘Close To You’ branding
Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has announced a new livery to be applied to its fleet of Bombardier Q400 and Embraer E175 aircraft. The airline anticipates that 10 aircraft will be repainted every year, with the entire fleet repainted by 2025.
The new scheme, designed to appear sharp and sleek, will be applied at no extra cost to the business and is being implemented in spite of the fact that Flybe’s fleet has not yet been fully repainted in the previous livery redesign. The new look harmonises with Flybe’s new ‘Close To You’ brand message – which conveys the airline’s ambition to connect all regions of the United Kingdom and deliver a friendly, personable service.
LATAM embarks on $400m cabin upgrade programme
Latin America’s largest airline has embarked on a $400 million investment to upgrade its onboard product. The passenger experience on both long-haul and short-haul aircraft will be improved, with over 150 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft being retrofitted with Recaro seats and USB outlets and Boeing 767, 777, 787 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft set to receive new cabins in all classes.
Business Class travellers will see the biggest upgrade, with new Thompson Aero seats offering direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration, 18″ IFE screens and fully-flat seats.
“On-board experience is one of the most important differentiators in choosing an airline and the most relevant factor in customer satisfaction, and so it was essential that our passengers were involved in the development process of our new cabins.”
-Claudia sender, president of latam airlines group
Come back in two week’s time for your next aviation round-up.
Last week, London’s Luton Airport was named as the worst UK airport for the third year running. In an annual passenger satisfaction survey by Which?, just 35% of passengers said they were satisfied with the experience of travelling through London Luton. It is understood that some 521 passengers were asked about their experience at London Luton, between April and May of this year. Passengers were asked to rank aspects of the airport experience such as toilets, bag drop queues, staff, shops and seating. Luton Airport scored one star in all of these categories.
can Luton’s fortunes be turned around?
However, Luton is embarking on am ambitious redevelopment project (work which may have negatively impacted on this year’s survey results), designed to enhance accessibility and modernise the airport. Therefore, on the 80th Anniversary of London Luton Airport, our Editor – Ethan Chandler – had the chance to interview Kimberly Kennedy, Head of Terminal Operations at Luton to find out whether Britain’s worst airport can turn around its fortunes, with its upcoming redevelopment plan.
Ethan Chandler: You are investing £160m into improving the London Luton Airport experience for your travellers. Can you briefly outline what changes you are implementing within this programme?
Kimberly Kennedy: London Luton Airport’s £160m redevelopment is nearing completion. This is the single largest investment in our history, and will increase annual capacity to 18 million passengers. As part of the
transformation, LLA has more than doubled the retail and dining space in the terminal to offer passengers a greater variety of choice.
Since the start of 2018, more than 30 new stores have opened at the airport, including Chanel, Hugo Boss and Oliver Bonas. A new boarding pier containing eight new boarding gates. In addition the redevelopment has delivered a new dual carriageway access road, a multi-storey car park, re-modelled coach and bus interchange, new taxiway extension, additional aircraft stands and a
larger security hall.
Work has also start on the DART (Direct Air Rail Transit) that will replace the current shuttle bus between Luton Airport Parkway station and the terminal, with a journey time of less than four minutes. This is expected to be in service by 2021.
EC: Luton Airport is 34 miles from Westminster and the centre of London. How will you work with Govia Thameslink and the Government to deliver faster services to the capital and what are you doing to improve the passenger experience when travelling between Luton Airport Parkway and the airport terminal?
KK: LLA is already really well served by rail, but is the only London airport without an express-style rail service. This is why we are calling for four fast trains per hour to call at Luton Airport Parkway (LAP) station under the new East Midlands rail franchise. The change could be made through a simple
timetable change which requires no capital expenditure. A more frequent train service would reduce the journey to central London to under 30 minutes and
would encourage more passengers to travel to the airport by rail, cutting congestion and emissions on local roads.
EC: This year Luton Airport has seen more expansion with new flights with Wizz Air to Athens, Bari, Larnaca and more, with direct services to Tallinn, Eliat, Verona, Grenoble and Tromsø yet to launch. What steps is the airport taking to cope with additional passengers in key areas like the security hall and how will Luton Airport ensure ample seating capacity and dining optionsfor all customers?
KK: As part of the current transformation, we have expanded the terminal building, which includes increasing the number of seats available for passengers and providing a greater variety of shops and restaurants. More seats will be added in the main departure lounge this year. Across the airport we now have 18 food outlets (the same number as Stansted) these include, Bella Italia, Oriel Grande Brasserie and The Smithfield pub and kitchen.
We have also changed the layout of the terminal to make it simpler to navigate for passengers. The security area has been relocated downstairs and the number of security lanes has increased, while new equipment has sped up security checks.
EC: In recent months, London Stansted has gained new long-haul flights to Dubai and to key citiesin North America. Does Luton Airport have ambitions to gain long-haul flights in the near future and, if so, which destinations and airlines are being targeted?
KK: We are always considering new ways to improve our passengers’ experience, which includes planning new routes and offering a greater choice of destinations. However, there are no immediate plans to introduce new long-haul flights from the airport and our core business will always be low-cost flights to Europe.
EC: So do you view low-cost flights to the US as a concept that could work from London Luton, given the tide of low-cost transatlantic flights we have seen launched from the UK in recent years?
KK: There are no immediate plans to introduce this service. However, we are always listening to what our passengers want and this may be something we consider in the future.
EC: In a Which? survey in 2018, London Luton scored just 35% for customer satisfaction and was named the worst airport in the UK. Luton scored low in categories for range of shops and food outlets and toilets; some called it ‘chaotic’ and ‘crowded’. Going forward, how will the redevelopment programme address these issues and transform Luton into one of the UK’s leading airports, rather than one of its worst?
Which? polled 521 of its subscribers who had travelled through the airport between May 2017 and May 2018, just 0.003% of all passengers in that period. During this time we’ve undergone a period of significant change, investing £160 million redeveloping the airport to increase capacity and
transform the passenger experience. In the first six months of 2018 alone, 1.2 million passengers responded to our customer service tracking, 70 per cent of whom told us they were happy with their experience. As we near the end of our transformation we’re proud to have recently opened 30 new shops,
restaurants and additional toilet facilities. We’ve added close to a thousand new seats throughout the terminal and doubled the size of our security search area.
Evidence of our focus on improving the passenger experience is paying off, as we were recently voted the best airport in London in survey comparing objective data.
Our advice is people should come and experience LLA for themselves.
EC: Thank you. I’m pleased to say I’ll be taking you advice and travelling on Wizz Air’s inaugural flight to Tallinn in September! I look forward to seeing the positive changes Luton is making.
Thank you to the team at LLA, who granted me this Q&A with Kimberly Kennedy. Photos courtesy of London Luton Airport.
The aviation industry is constantly evolving, with faster, safer, smoother and more efficient aircraft. In recent years, you only have to look at the new aircraft models on the market to see the progress being made: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A350 (both of which are designed to revolutionise long-haul ravel) and the newest players in the short-haul scene – the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo. So why, in an age when air travel is more advanced than ever before, are airlines claiming that it takes longer to get from A to B than a decade ago? There is one simply answer. An industry-wide practice, known as ‘schedule padding’.
What is schedule padding?
An investigation by Which? has revealed that flight times this summer are up to 35 minutes longer than they were in 2008.
It’s clear that planes aren’t physically flying slower. In fact, in January of this year, Norwegian set a record for the fastest subsonic transatlantic flight recorded on a commercial aircraft – taking 5hrs13mins to fly from New York-JFK to London Gatwick. The journey was blocked at 6hrs30mins – a difference of 77 minutes between actual flight time and scheduled flight time. This meant that, although the flight left the States 24 minutes behind schedule, it still arrived 53 minutes ahead its allotted arrival time.
This is the art of schedule padding: Norwegian was able to turn an initially delayed flight into a record-breaking one.
A different example is Aer Lingus’ flights from London Heathrow to Dublin. EI151, operating daily between London and Dublin, is blocked at a flight time of 80 minutes:However, the actual average flight time for this journey is 51 minutes, just under 2/3 of the scheduled time set by the airline.
Therefore, under normal circumstances, this allows Aer Lingus to leave London up to 29 minutes late, yet still claim to be on-time upon arrival in Dublin.
Who are the perpetrators and why do they do it?
According to flight timetables, approximately 76 out of 125 flights take longer now than they did a decade ago. According to the Which? study, EasyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair are all guilty. The report found that British Airways’ flights from London to New York-JFK, Singapore and Bangkok all took 20 minutes longer this year, than in 2008.
It will take you longer to get to Berlin this year, too: London to Berlin Schönefeld flights operated by both Ryanair and EasyJet took 10 and 19 minutes longer, respectively. And no, this can’t be blamed on Brexit. It is because airlines are becoming more savvy with their punctuality. Increasing the scheduled time for a flight gives them more margin for error and makes a delay less likely to cause a damaging knock-on effect throughout the day. Additionally, it allows them to bolster their punctuality ratings.
Last year, Hong Kong Airlines flew to the top of the punctuality league tables, with a whopping 94.8% of all flights being reported as arriving ‘on-time’. To begin with, the airline was praised until it emerged that they had simply extended flight times. To his credit, the airline’s vice chairman, Tang King-shing, was honest. He admitted, ‘We saw on-time performance was a problem, so we allowed extra time.’
Another potential reason is to avoid paying out compensation. Under EU regulation 261/2004, if you are delayed by more than two hours an airline has to provide you with:
two free phone calls, faxes or emails
free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay
free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.
Compensation is even more costly if the delay in question is longer. If an airline allows itself more time to reach its destination, they are less likely to be delayed. Hence, they are less likely to have to compensate customers in any way.
Finally, one potential explanation could be that airlines are flying planes slower than they can actually fly. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair all suggested that this is something they do.
The concept behind this is that airlines reduce fuel consumption, translating into less fuel use, cheaper operating costs and – for the consumer – cheaper tickets. This could be one potential upside of schedule padding for the average passenger.
Are there any excuses for schedule padding?
British Airways has said that routings to and from the Far East have had to be adjusted for security reasons, including the tragedy of MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine.
European airspace is also busier now than it was in 2008. Flight taxi times at congested airports, such as London-Heathrow have increased dramatically and airlines are clearly compensating for this.
It has also been argued that padding airline flight times gives customers more reliable indicators on which to plan meetings, onward transport or flight connections as a small delay wouldn’t necessarily cause disruption.
Schedule padding isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, due to the reasons mentioned above, it isn’t always an airline’s fault. However, there are clearly ulterior motives for schedule padding and airline’s should be transparent with their customers about how long they’ll spend in the air.
Britain’s Flag Carrier continues its rapid expansion in the US this month, with the announcement of a new connection between London-Heathrow and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. British Airways will operate 4x weekly services on a year-round basis, from 2nd April 2019. Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner equipment will operate the new service, with 35 Business Class seats, 25 Premium Economy seats and 154 Economy Class seats.
BA will face competition from WOW Air, Condor and Delta (whom all operate seasonal flights across the Atlantic) to Reykjavik, Frankfurt and Paris-CDG respectively. However, British Airways will provide Pittsburgh’s only nonstop connection to Europe throughout the year.
Qantas – A fifth International destination for the 787 Dreamliner
Qantas’ 787-9 Dreamliner is set to be deployed on selected rotations from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to Hong Kong. This marks the fifth international destination for the Dreamliner, which currently operates the non-stop Perth to London flight. The Dreamliner will represent a significant upgrade for passengers on Australia-HK routings, as they will have access to the Australian carrier’s newest products in all cabin classes.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – Resumes flights to Boston
The Dutch national carrier has announced that it will be resuming flights to the US city of Boston, beginning in Spring 2019, from its Amsterdam-Schipol hub.
The three-weekly services (KL617/618) will be operated by Airbus A330-300 aircraft, and will add to existing frequencies operated by KLM’s joint-venture partner, Delta. From July 2019, the service is planned to increase to four-weekly – with an additional frequency on Mondays.
Cathay Pacific – Opening a NEW U.S. Gateway
Cathay Pacific will launch a new service to Seattle, beginning next Spring, from its Hong Kong hub. The flight will represent Seattle’s only connection to Hong Kong, as Delta recently withdrew its flight between the two cities and will be operated by the Airbus A350-900, featuring three cabin classes. The expansion means Cathay Pacific will now serve 10 destinations in North America.
Thomas Cook Airlines – Manchester Transatlantic Flights Tweaked
Thomas Cook Airlines has amended its summer 2019 schedules for its transatlantic flights from Manchester.
The headline changes include an increase from 2 to 3-weekly flights on the recently inaugurated Manchester-Seattle route, and increases in flights to New York JFK and Orlando International. The airline will also resume a once-weekly flight from Manchester to Jamaica, choosing Montego Bay as its Jamaican gateway.
Wizz Air – A raft of new U.K. expansion
Following year of rapid expansion in the U.K. market, low-cost carrier Wizz Air has announced an additional five new routes.
The airline will operate daily services from London Luton to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon and thrice weekly flights to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. From Liverpool, the airline is also initiating expansion – to the Romanian cities of Bucharest, Iasi and Cluj.
Jet Airways – Increases Manchester operation
Jet Airways has taken the decision to increase the frequency of its upcoming Mumbai-Manchester link – 3 months prior to its launch. One additional weekly frequency will be added, meaning the flight will operate five times per week. The Indian airline will operate an Airbus A330-200 on the route, in a two-class configuration.
China Eastern – Gatwick gains Shanghai link
China Eastern will launch a new nonstop route to Shanghai Pudong to London’s second busiest airport – beginning December 7th. The new flight will operate on a thrice weekly basis, with Airbus A330-200 equipment. Gatwick’s CEO – Stewart Wingate – said the following:
”I’m delighted to welcome China Eastern to Gatwick and look forward to the start of this vital new link to Shanghai which, like London, is undoubtedly one of the world’s most important cities and business hubs”
-STEWART WINGATE, GATWICK CEO
Qatar Airways – Heads to Gothenburg, Sweden
Qatar Airways has operated flights to the Swedish capital, Stockholm, for over 10 years and operates nonstop connections from Doha to Copenhagen, Oslo and Helsinki. However, this year, Qatar Airways will expand further in Scandinavia, with the launch of a new nonstop flight to Gothenburg. The 5x weekly operation will inaugurate on 12th December, operated by Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner equipment. It is thought that the new route will provide easier connections from Gothenburg to the Middle East, Africa and Asia – with no competition from Qatar Airways’ Gulf rivals at present.
The last few weeks saw more Airbus A320neo aircraft emerge from factories in Hamburg and Toulouse, including Lufthansa’s first example adorned with the airline’s new livery.
German flag-carrier Lufthansa has recieved its first Airbus A320neo, featuring the airline’s reimagined livery in the past month.
The aircraft is registered D-AINK and becomes Lufthansa’s 11th example of an A320neo, marking the first new delivery of a short haul aircraft for the airline since November 2017.
Other Aviation Stories
American Airlines Makes Changes to ‘Basic Economy’
American Airlines will make its ‘Basic Economy’ product a little more bearable, with a new change coming into effect as of 5th September. Basic Economy fares will once again include the ability to take one carry-on bag onboard, free of charge.
American’s President claims this is about making basic economy more ‘competitive’, although this is clearly a climb down from the initial proposals for Basic Economy.
“Basic Economy is working well in the markets where we offer it, and we continue to see more than 60 percent of customers buy up to Main Cabin when offered a choice. Removing the bag restriction will make Basic Economy more competitive, allowing us to offer this low-fare product to more customers.”