The UK Electronics Ban is Being Lifted

In March 2017, the Electronics Ban made travel from the Middle East & Africa much harder for business people, as large electronic items had to be placed in the hold – although any policy that keeps our way of life safe has to be welcomed.

Airlines introduced initiatives, wherefore you could keep your laptop until your departure gate, helping to ease concerns over theft, but it still made working on the go inefficient for frequent business flyers. Both the United Kingdom and the United States introduced bans, presumably off shared intelligence, however the US ban included destinations that the UK ban did not (such as the UAE and Qatar), whereas the UK didn’t and vice versa.

Throughout July, the US electronics ban was lifted on an airline-specific basis, with Saudia & Egyptair being some of the last airlines to have the ban lifted. The United States then added additional security checks as a consequence and has now prohibited laptops being transported in the hold

Saudia’s flights from Manchester & London to Jeddah & Riyadh are still affected. Image from Boeing.

However, as of now the UK electronics ban remains in place, for most countries. On July 28th 2017, the ban was lifted for Turkish Airlines Pegasus departing out of Istanbul & Izmir to the UK. Then, on 4th August 2017, the ban was lifted for Thomas Cook flights from Dalaman, EasyJet flights from Bodrum and Amman Queen Alia Airport had it’s ban lifted with Royal Jordanian flights to the UK no longer affected.

Turkish Airlines posted the above, to inform passengers of the Electronics Ban being lifted.

These flights will, however, will be subject to additional tough security measures, including explosive trace detection and ‘enhanced surveillance’. Here is what the British Transport Secretary – Chris Grayling – had to say:

“Having looked carefully at the changes introduced in March, and working with our international partners and the industry on tough additional security measures, we can now lift the ban on electronic devices in the cabin on a small number of UK-bound flights from Istanbul and Izmir. The remaining restrictions will be lifted only when we are satisfied it is safe and proportionate to do so.

-Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary-

It sounds like the UK will be pursuing a country/airline specific drawback of the electronics ban, akin to the US.

Note that British flag carrier – British Airways – are still subject to the ban out of Jordan and Turkey, and so are flights from Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

British Airways is working with the UK government to get the ban lifted on it’s services.

British Airways said that they are ‘working with the UK government’ to ‘assess the security requirements in all of the countries where the UK government restrictions currently apply’.

I expect there will be more news regarding this shortly, however, for now, travelling with your laptop is becoming much more efficient.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion with the tag #LONDONSPOTTERCOUK on your Instagram stories.

Featured image by CNN.

June & July 2017: Route Report

Here is my monthly summary of route development in the UK for June and July 2017. We are now well in to the summer season and approaching the main route development season for next year.

Route Launches

FlyOne – A Moldovan carrier launched the first connection to a UK airport outside of London, with a Birmingham-Chisinau route. The service will operate with A319/A320 aircraft.

EasyJet – EasyJet have launched additional services for their summer programme from Manchester, including Dubrovnik and Granada.

Norwegian – Norwegian launched it’s long anticipated transatlantic routes with the Boeing 737MAX aircraft. UK wise, they launched flights from Belfast and Edinburgh, with routes from the latter to Hartford, Providence and New York Stewart Airport.

Norwegian’s very nice celebratory cake! Image from anna.aero

Saudia – Saudia began their seasonal Riyadh-Manchester connection on 23rd June 2017, operating twice-weekly, with their brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. This route opens up more connection opportunities and new business ventures, building on strong UK-Saudi diplomatic relations. This makes Saudia’s overall Manchester operation daily (5x weekly Jeddah/2x weekly Riyadh)

Saudia’s opulent Dreamliner now operates into Manchester daily. Image from Boeing.

Route Announcements

British Airways – British Airways have been making some big changes this July.

They have cut Bergen, Stavanger and Paris Orly from London Heathrow, instead relocating their Orly connection to London City.

In addition to this, they announced new routes from London City to Reykjavik (amongst others) and Manchester to Chambery/Salzburg, to commence on December 16th 2017, continuing their northern Cityflyer base into winter.

They have also made several changes for the winter 2017 season, to their long-haul operations. Some of the most significant include the 787-9 replacing the 747-400 on the Heathrow-Beijing Capital route, increases to double-daily on the Las Vegas route, and the 747 operating to Tel Aviv, once a week!

In addition, British Airways will be using the 787-9 on the Heathrow-Madrid route. A great short-haul European widebody jaunt!

BA’s First cabin. Photo from Londonspotter

Ryanair – Ryanair’s long anticipated Ukraine routes have been suspended – thanks to a dispute with the Ukrainian aviation authorities, they will no longer be able to launch flights from Kiev or Lviv.

United – As I wrote about last month here, United have had a drastic change of plan in the UK regions. Glasgow and Shannon to New York Newark have been made seasonal and Birmingham’s New York connection has been cut, ending on the 5th October 2017.

However, whilst retreating from regional UK operations, they are adding a new Denver-London route, competing against British Airways. The service will operate with Boeing 787-8 aircraft. It will operate seasonally – from 24th March to 26th October.

Thomas Cook – As I wrote about a couple of days ago, Thomas Cook announced a new Manchester-Seattle route. Read more here.

American Airlines – American have announced that they will be rostering the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on the Manchester-Chicago O’Hare route from June next year.

China Airlines – China Airlines have announced a resumption of flights to the UK market, with four-weekly services from Taipei (TPE) to London Gatwick (LGW). The flights will operate with the airline’s Airbus A350-900XWB, from 1st December 2017.

The Airbus A350 of Taipei-based China Airlines. This is the 100th A350 to be manufactured and delivered. Take a look at more recent deliveries in Raj’s monthly review! Photo from Airbus.

Primera Air – Scandinavian carrier, Primera, is entering the transatlantic market with routes from Paris, Stansted and Birmingham (partially filling the void left by United). They will operate from Stansted and Birmingham to New York Newark on a daily basis from May 2018, and to Boston Logan on a four-weekly basis from June 2018, operating with brand new A321neo aircraft. The services will have evening departures from the UK, a rarity from regional UK airports, and operate year-round. The aircraft will feature power ports and Wi-Fi, but lunch could cost you up to $70!

Primera Air’s render of their new A321NEO aircraft. Photo from Primera Air.

Norwegian – Norwegian, in addition to announcing several new transatlantic routes from Paris Charles de Gaulle, announced a new route from London Gatwick to the Argentinian city of Buenos Aires. The services will be Norwegian’s first to South America, from February 14th, 2018, on a four-weekly frequency. Norwegian will also create an Argentinian subsidiary to offer domestic feeder services within Argentina.

Watch out, Aerolineas Argentinas!

Hainan Airlines – Hainan Airlines, who already serve Manchester-Beijing, have applied to serve the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou from Manchester. We will wait and see for any development on this front, but at least we are now seeing the beautiful Kung Fu Panda 787s in Manchester

Thanks for reading this month’s route review by me, Ethan! Have any thoughts on these routes? Get in touch by social media and tag your instagram stories with #LONDONSPOTTERCOUK to join the dicsussion!

 

Featured image by Gatwick Spotter on Instagram

NEW ROUTE: Seattle Calling from Manchester

Thomas Cook are the largest long-haul carrier flying out of Manchester. Of course there are others with a sizeable presence such as American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, but Thomas Cook really are a prized possession at the Northern Hub. Manchester Airport even refers to them as ‘the gift that keeps on giving’ on Twitter.

In recent years, they have embarked on mass route development, and now offer many long haul routes from Manchester which generally increase year-on-year. In summer 2017 they will be offering the following routes to the US, with many more to Mexico and the Caribbean:

  • New York JFK
  • Boston-Logan
  • Orlando International
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Las Vegas
  • Miami

And if that isn’t enough, beginning 27th May 2018, Thomas Cook will offer 2x weekly flights between Manchester and Seattle. Flights will operate on Thursdays and Sundays, with the Airbus A330-200 aircraft. As it currently stands, there will be some flights operated with Thomas Cook’s own A330 aircraft and others operated by A330s that Thomas Cook leases for the busy summer period.

It’s every av-geeks dream to visit the Boeing Factory in Seattle and now, with a comparable product to other full-service airlines, Thomas Cook offers much better value than the one-stop competition

The services will:

  • Leave Manchester (MAN) at 1210, arrive Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) at 1340.
  • Leave Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) at 1540, arrive Manchester (MAN) at 0845 the next day. 

What is interesting about Thomas Cook’s growth at Manchester is the amount of transfer passengers they are receiving. Many passengers are connecting through Manchester, using Flybe’s regional network, which has lead to the marked turn away from the purely tourist market, and following Condor’s model serving destinations such as Seattle. It is also exciting for Manchester, as Seattle is only served from MAN outside of London throughout the UK and the tech links between the two cities are prominent.

Thomas Cook’s CEO – Christopher Debus – said:

“We are proud to be continuing our expansion to the USA by launching Seattle as a new destination next year. Our German Condor operation has served Seattle for many years and the year-round service has been really popular with our passengers. We work closely with partner airlines, such as Alaska Airlines, based in Seattle is an important partner offering our customers even more choice to the likes of British Columbia, Alberta, Alaska and Hawaii.”

Manchester Airport’s Managing Director  – Collette Roche – said:

“To secure a direct route to Seattle is further testament to the role Manchester Airport plays in the North and UK as a whole. We have grown the number of seats on sale to US destinations at a greater rate than any other UK airport this year. This is hugely positive news for the 22m passengers in our catchment area – which spans from Scotland to the Midlands and Merseyside to Yorkshire, and the millions of people a year who connect to our long haul network from locations across the UK and Europe.”

There are still some gaps in Thomas Cook’s schedule for their A330 aircraft, and widely tipped is a Manchester-Tampa route, so we will have to wait and see. But what is certain is that Thomas Cook has shown Manchester can be made into a long-haul hub for the North and other airlines are following.

Is anyone excited about Thomas Cook’s expansion at Manchester? Do you think they will continue to expand? Get in touch via the comment section below or social media to have your say.

Featured photo from ethanegcc Instagram.

United Airlines: Drastic Change of Plan on the UK Regions

Over the last couple of years, much has happened to disrupt the transatlantic market. The so-called ‘Trump Slump’, the effect of last June’s Brexit vote on the value of the Great British Pound, and much more. There have been casualties, such as American’s Birmingham-New York JFK route, but it is fair to say no carrier has taken such a drastic u-turn on operations in the UK Regions as United.

Earlier this year, United announced that it would axe it’s Belfast-New York flights – which were Northern Ireland’s only link to the US – and it’s Newcastle-New York flights wouldn’t be returning for the summer season. This left Newcastle and Belfast without a link to the US.

Shortly afterwards, United announced that the Manchester-Washington D.C. route wouldn’t be returning for this summer.

If you thought the drawback was over, you are mistaken.

Three new routes are now casualties of United’s misfortunes.

Birmingham-New York Newark is ending on 5th October 2017. United had served this route for 20 years, up to daily, and most recently with Boeing 757-200 aircraft. Following American axing their transatlantic link to Birmingham, they are left with just one link to the USA; TUI’s 787 service to Florida. A poor state of affairs for an airport that serves the UK’s Midlands region. Poor financial performance was cited as the reason to axe the route.

“We have regretfully taken this decision because of the route’s poor financial performance. We will contact customers with bookings for flights beyond this date to provide refunds and re-accommodate where possible.”

-United

In addition to this, United’s Shannon-New York Newark route will go seasonal, resuming in March 2018 and their Glasgow-New York Newark route will take an even bigger break, resuming in May 2018.

So is this an ideological change for United – only wanting three UK gateways, MAN, LHR & EDI – the effect of low cost airlines such as Norwegian and WOW encroaching in on traditional markets, or the geopolitics of 2017? One thing’s for certain, this change has left some UK airports in a tricky position, in terms of their connections across the pond, and it remains to be seen whether this is the end of the cutbacks for United.

What do you think? Will more United UK routes get the chop? 

Photo by Michael Ward (Planespotter.net)

El Al Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner: A Dramatic Improvement in Onboard Product

Over, the last week, Israeli national carrier – El Al – has announced it’s new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner cabin interiors. Considering the previous onboard product, this is a massive improvement and the new cabins are actually competitive and aesthetically pleasing.

It also seems the El Al Dreamliner aircraft will also have a modified livery, which is slightly more eye-catching:

Business Class will be in a 1-2-1 configuration and, whilst in a similar setup to United’s new Polaris seat, is not the same hardware. It provides direct aisle access to every passenger and is an immense improvement to the previous product.

El Al will also introduce Premium Economy. It will be in a 2-4-2 configuration, with 38″ seat pitch. This will help El Al compete with Cathay Pacific’s A350 product on the Tel Aviv-Hong Kong route.

The Economy cabin will be in a 3-3-3 configuration, with 31″ seat pitch. Although not the most spacious seat, it looks extremely modern with large IFE screens and a clean, bright look.

Apparently, the first route will be London-Tel Aviv (beginning in Autumn 2017), with Newark-Tel Aviv and Hong Kong-Tel Aviv to follow. The choice of routes is interesting, as El Al faces direct competition on both of these routes. United recently announced it would deploy its new Boeing 777-300ER (with Polaris seats) on this route and Cathay Pacific recently began Airbus A350 service to Israel, from their hub in Hong Kong. Perhaps, for El Al, this is about taking back market share from the airline’s home market with a more competitive product and, thus, deploying their new kit on the most competitive routes from Tel Aviv.

All pictures courtesy of El Al Israel.

Oman Air launches Muscat-Manchester Daily flights from May 1st

Oman Air has launched it’s flights between Muscat and Manchester (from May 1st) operating with Airbus A330-200 aircraft, on a daily basis.

The inaugural flight was operated by A40-DA, which I was lucky enough to be able to see arrive on the runways of Manchester for the first time.

The new flights were announced in May last year, and as a spotter, I have been waiting a long time to see this beautiful livery 😉

“The daily flight to Manchester, operated by an A330-200, is Oman Air’s third daily frequency to the UK and will further boost the already strong political, economic and social links between the two countries. As well as being the only direct service between Muscat and Manchester in the north of England, the flight will open up easy access to Oman Air’s outstanding range of destinations for customers from both Muscat and Manchester with over 27 destinations having connectivity inside of three hours in both directions. Manchester is one of the UK’s most dynamic cities; youthful, diverse and bursting with character. Manchester city centre is jam-packed with unique and eclectic restaurants, cafés, shops, museums, galleries and hotels and is also home to an historic university.”

-Times Of Oman

It is great to see yet another new service to Manchester, and to a new country also. This flight will provide great connections to India and Asia, through Muscat. And, with it’s new airport opening soon, I only predict Oman Air will continue to grow.

It was also reported on the internet that the inaugural flight had 195 passengers on the Muscat-Manchester sector and 208 passengers on the Manchester-Muscat sector. For a 216-seater aircraft, this is very promising!

Who is excited about Oman Air’s Manchester launch?

Where does the Air France Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Fly?

Myself and Raj both flew on the Air France Boeing 787-9 between London and Paris on the 25th February 2017. We both flew in the Premium Economy cabin and both really enjoyed what was a fantastic experience. The new Premium Economy cabin is gorgeous. To see Raj’s full review of the aircraft, click here.

So, to give other people the great experience we had on the French Dream, I wanted to write a blog post: where does Air France’s 787-9 actually fly?

Over the course of the year, the Air France 787 will be operating short haul routes such as Paris-Lyon & Heathrow, which presents a superb opportunity to try out the aircraft! On these short-haul flights, you can also select a premium economy seat as an “Economy Plus” seat, which is a superb trick!

Routes that Air France’s 787-9 flies:

Short Haul Routes: Bordeaux, Nice, Lyon, Milan & London Heathrow

Paris CDG-Bordeaux – operates 16th and 17th June 2017

Paris CDG-Nice – operates 28th and 29th May 2017

Paris CDG-Lyon – operates daily as AF7640/7641 from 29th May to 28th October 2017

Paris CDG-London Heathrow – operates daily (except Wednesdays) as AF1680/1681 until 28th October 2017

Long Haul Routes: Bamako, Abidjan, Boston, Sao Paulo Guarulhos, Cairo and Montréal

Paris CDG-Sao Paulo Guarulhos – from 5th February 2018, as AF456/459, daily (except Wednesdays)

Paris CDG-Montréal – AF344/345, daily

Paris CDG-Bamako-Abidjan – from 9th October 2017, as AF520/521, daily

Paris CDG-Cairo – until 29th October 2017, as AF570/567, six-weekly (except Wednesdays)

Paris CDG-Boston – from 29th October 2017, daily

Paris CDG-Freetown-Conakry – from 21st November 2017, three-weekly

Paris CDG-Nouakchott-Conakry – from 20th November 2017, four-weekly

Who would like to fly on the Air France Dreamliner? It was a great experience.

Hainan Airlines & Cathay Pacific Battle It Out at Manchester: both roster new equipment and increase to daily

In December 2014, Manchester experienced the resumption of a Cathay Pacific service to Hong Kong – the only direct service from the UK Regions to the Far East. It operated four-times weekly with Boeing 777-300ER equipment.

In October 2015, Manchester secured the first flight from the UK Regions to Beijing with Hainan Airlines. It began in June 2016, four-times weekly with Airbus A330-300 equipment.

Credit to anna.aero – Hainan Airlines Inaugural Flight to Manchester (10th June 2016)

Since then, it is fair to say, that both routes have been performing very well for both airlines. In February 2017, Cathay Pacific carried 10,056 passengers on it’s four-weekly MAN-HKG route (according to CAA Provisional Statistics) – based on four-weekly 77W.

Both airlines are in a sort of competition, whereby they are not competing directly, but mirroring what eachother does:

  • In December 2016, Cathay Pacific announced an increase to five-weekly from June, operating with new equipment: the A350 XWB.
  • In early 2017, Hainan Airlines announced an increase to five-weekly in June
  • Also, in early 2017, Cathay Pacific announced that they would go daily from December, operating with the A350 XWB.
  • In April 2017, Hainan Airlines also introduced new equipment from May (B787-8/-9) and announced that they would go daily from July through September

“This added frequency shows Hainan Airlines commitment to the UK market and it responds to the increased demand for this route from Manchester Airport. This has been a successful route for Hainan Airlines since its inaugural flight on the 10th of June 2016, and as we approach our 1st year anniversary, an increased frequency is a wonderful way of celebrating such success.”

-Loic Gao, UK General Manager for Hainan Airlines, commenting on the increased frequency

So both airlines are steadily increasing their offering at Manchester. It is great to have daily links to Beijing and Hong Kong and new equipment from both airlines!

Has anybody flown on these flights from Manchester? What do you think about the expanded operation?

Qatar Airways announces new route to the UK; amid 11 other new route announcements

Doha based Qatar Airways currently serves 4 UK destinations: London Heathrow (served on a six-daily basis), Manchester (served up to eighteen-weekly), Birmingham and Edinburgh (both served daily). However, this is about to change, with Qatar announcing a brand-new route to the UK.

Cardiff, Wales will become Qatar’s fifth destination in the UK, planned to begin in 2018. Other new routes announced by the airline include Accra, Kiev, Mykonos, Malaga, San Francisco and Chittagong.

As of yet, however, there is no official launch date, frequency or aircraft announcement for the route, so the new Cardiff-Doha route could become a victim of Qatar’s notorious announcing, then delaying of new routes. For example, Qatar announced plans to launch flights to Las Vegas to begin in January 2017; a route that is now expected to launch in June 2018.

“It is fantastic that we will now be able to offer our customers more choice of travel with a world-class airline providing easy connections to destinations across the world.”

There is clearly work to be done on the part of Cardiff Airport, in providing the services to support a long-haul route, with a premium airline but the importance of this new connection to the region and Cardiff’s standing as a gateway cannot be underestimated, especially since it was widely seen that Bristol would be the number one candidate for a new MEB3 route to the UK, given Thomson’s 787 operations and the now-cancelled Continental Bristol-New York Newark route.

My Conclusion:

It is superb to see Qatar Airways branching out to serve so many smaller destinations worldwide –  including Cardiff. It is likely to increase investment to the South Wales region and increase inbound tourism, thus providing an economic boost to the area. It will also provide unprecedented levels of connectivity to the population, who will be able to connect to over 150 destinations via Doha. I, for one, can’t wait to see Qatar gracing Welsh ground.

Who else is excited that Qatar is reaching out to Wales?