London Southend: Simply Easier

During December of last year, I had the pleasure of passing through London Southend and receiving a tour of the airport’s fantastic facilities. The airport bases everything it does around the simple but effective slogan: ‘simply easier’. The strapline couldn’t be more apt. 

Although the airport in its current form is a new entrant to the aviation scene, Southend Airport has a deep rooted history. It originated as an airfield, in World War I and the airport was officially opened as a municipal airport on 18 September 1935. However, World War II reared its head and the airport was requisitioned by the Government’s Air Ministry – being referred to as RAF Rochford. Fast forward six decades, to 2008, and the airport was bought by the Stobart Group for £21 million. This is where the transformation began to form the best and fastest growing airport in the British capital.  Between 2008 and 2012, the airport underwent a game-changing transformation. As the replacement control tower began to operate, passenger flights returned in March 2011. In 2012, the runway extension was opened – allowing flights to destinations further afield like Lanzarote – an on-site railway station and, ultimately, the new airport terminal was opened by the Transport Secretary in February 2012.

Flybe & EasyJet are the largest clients at the airport.

To understand why Southend Airport is the Which? Best Ranked UK Airport for 4 years in a row, we have to look at its history. Whilst London Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and others have grown rapidly – they have experienced growing pains. After cobbling together new terminal buildings, all of which are now running at full capacity, most major British airports are bursting at the seams. But not Southend. London Southend was designed in 2008 – with the future in mind. It is built around the customer’s needs and conveniences. On the ground floor, you’ll find a land-side café, along with car hire desks and a handful of check-in desks. You then ascend the escalators and reach the security area. No signage is needed, because the process is so simple.

Southend has a rather ambitious target for it’s security checks. Their promise to you; pass through security in under 4 minutes. This is a pledge to customers Gatwick & Heathrow could only dream of. Sure enough, I was through security in not 4, but 2 minutes. As you exit security, you are presented with an airy mezzanine level, looking down on the departure lounge.

The departure lounge at Southend is strategically located next to the departure gates, with the passenger in mind

As if the LSA experience wasn’t relaxing enough, there is also the option to kick back in the SkyLife lounge.  While they don’t offer hot food, if you have a long layover the lounge can’t be beaten for a calm atmosphere and a feeling of exclusivity. The gates are located around the main departure lounge area. Whilst it is small, space has been found for all the necessities of modern travel. The obligatory airport WHSmith shop is present and so is a Duty Free section. The stylishly designed Bourgee (which I’m told is a favourite among TOWIE “stars”!) offers an inventive change from the usual airport eatery.

The swish Bourgee set-up!

Next to this is the Lakers Bar & Restaurant – inspired by the famous aviation entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker, whose Southend Airport connections go back to the 50s and 60s, with operators like Channel Air Bridge, when the airport was the third busiest in the UK. In tribute to Sir Freddie, you’ll find the walls of Lakers lined with images that recall the golden age of flight.

LSA’s biggest asset, though, is the on-site railway station. It is located literally steps from the airport terminal and offers up to eight trains per hour to central London. Liverpool Street is 53 minutes away – and you could reach East London in Stratford in just 44 minutes! From here, you can connect onto the vast TfL network (including Overground & Underground) and step off in central London. Anecdotally, I’ve heard people say “Southend Airport is in Essex – not London”. Firstly, none of the major London airports – apart from London City – are actually in London. Secondly, catching the Tube from Heathrow to Paddington takes as long as the transit from Southend. It is clear that this railway station essentially allowed Southend to call itself a London airport. When I spoke to the Marketing Manager about Southend’s status as a “London Airport”, the railway connection was the first thing he mentioned. The train has certainly been instrumental in Southend’s success.

easyJet on apron (c) London Southend Airport, 2017.jpg
EasyJet begun a 10-year partnership with LSA in 2011.

This year, Southend will welcome even more growth. After launching connections to Manchester, Dublin & Glasgow in October, Flybe will offer a new connection to the Belgian city of Antwerp from March. The new flights to Manchester & Dublin were crucial in allowing the population of the South East to avoid London altogether, instead flying from Southend and connecting to long haul flights from Dublin (using US Border Pre-Clearance) and Manchester. EasyJet will base another aircraft, launching flights to Bordeaux, Prague, Dubrovnik & Pula, and only today three new routes were announced with Air Malta. As London’s capacity crisis only grows, I hope London Southend can realise its potential with even more growth, while keeping it’s gold standard in customer service. I would have no hesitation about recommending Southend to anyone who is exasperated with the chaos of major airports.

Southend continues to attract new airlines, with it’s top-rated customer service

Southend Airport is also experiencing unprecedented growth; it is now considered to be the capital’s fastest growing airport. Flybe, operated by Stobart Air, and easyJet, already cover 34 popular domestic and European destinations including Amsterdam, Groningen, Prague, Budapest, Cologne, Tenerife, Lanzarote and Ibiza – all from London’s most punctual and most customer-friendly airport. However, in the announcement of a new partnership, Southend will offer it’s passengers access to three Mediterranean destinations. Air Malta will launch three destinations from London Southend, beginning this summer.

A new partnership will allow Southend to grow even more.

Specifically, they will operate:

  • Twice-weekly from Southend to Cagliari (Sardinia)
  • Twice-weekly from Southend to Catania (Sicily)
  • Three-weekly from Southend to Valetta (Europe’s 2018 Capital of Culture) on the island of Malta

The flights are already bookable on Air Malta’s website and start from just £35. Dr Charles Mangion, chairman of Air Malta believes these flights will not only benefit British travellers, but also Maltese, Sicilian and Sardinian tourists visiting London. Glyn Jones, the CEO of London Southend,  looks forward to providing an excellent service for it’s new customers. Ultimately, this is a big occasion for London Southend. They are benefitting from the endless capacity crisis amongst London’s larger airports and providing a real alternative – expanding their route portfolio.

 

Primera Air expand Stansted and cut-back Birmingham

Last year, Primera came to Birmingham’s rescue. At a time when the West Midlands airport had lost American Airlines & United flights to New York, it looked like Primera could both fill the void and stimulate new demand. But, since Primera came to the fold, Air Transat have cut their Birmingham-Toronto services and the airport has lost its Icelandair link to Reykjavik. If you thought Birmingham’s transatlantic woes would stop here – with the introduction of a vibrant, modern brand with low fares – you would be mistaken.

Primera’s onboard product for it’s transatlantic services.

When the services were first announced, Primera Air planned to operate:

  • London Stansted & Birmingham to Boston (4x weekly), New York Newark (daily) and Toronto (3x weekly)

Primera looked to be off to a positive start, with low-fares, a modern on-board product, with brand new equipment – the A321neo. They launched campaigns across Britain, in the effort to fill the seats onboard.

However, it doesn’t seem that Primera’s market research team did their job correctly. In early 2018, the airline decided to cut the Birmingham-Boston route before it even began. The programme was always ambitious – Primera planned to operate year-round flights on this route. Manchester-Boston, a much bigger market, served by both Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic in peak season, does not generate enough demand for service in the winter months. Originally planned to begin in June, the route was shelved, with minimal communication from the airline – leaving them with a tricky PR situation.

Primera is a relatively unknown brand in the UK. Bad experiences being broadcast on social media, wouldn’t help the profile of the company.

Then, just as it seemed things had hit rock bottom, Primera reduced frequencies for their Birmingham-Newark route from daily to just 4x weekly. Compare this to 2016, when in the peak season, Birmingham had Icelandair flights to Reykjavik, Air Transat A330s to Toronto, and double daily legacy operations to New York with American & United. Now, a token operation with an unknown low cost carrier – 4x weekly New York and 3x weekly Toronto.

At Stansted, however, Primera do seem to be succeeding. They have recently announced Stansted-Washington D.C. flights – operating 5x weekly and an increase to their Stansted-Toronto operation to 5x weekly (frequencies made available as a result of the Birmingham cuts).

With Primera Air succeeding in Stansted – and to a lesser extent, Paris – it begs the question: can Birmingham sustain regular transatlantic services? If not, the airport needs to change its focus to get ahead of the game.

Jet2 celebrate 15 years of flying

Yesterday Jet2.com celebrated 15 years since the airlines very first flight departed Leeds Bradford Airport bound for Amsterdam. With a fleet of just two Boeing 737-300 aircraft, the airline carried 360,000 passengers in it’s very first year. Fast forward 15 years and the airline are expecting to carry over 12 million paying customers in 2018.

Operating from 9 UK bases Jet2 have grown to become the United Kingdom’s third largest airline whilst sister company Jet2holidays have become the UK’s 2nd largest Tour Operator.

G-JZHN wearing the Jet2holidays livery

Passengers travelling from Leeds Bradford yesterday were greeted by a morning filled with celebrations as airline executives, current and former employees and even Peter Andre were present to mark this momentous occasion. The Australian born singer surprised guests checking in to their flights, and boarded a Jet2 flight before it’s departure to give crew and passengers a private concert by singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

The airline has grown rapidly over the past few years, with 2017 seeing the airline expand it’s operations south by opening new bases at Birmingham Airport and London Stansted. These saw brand new Boeing 737-800 aircraft located at the respective airports, just some of the 34 Jet2 has on order with Boeing. These aircraft will replace the ageing 737-300  aircraft in the fleet, and come equipped with the modern ‘Sky Interior’ cabins.

G-GDFO seen here in Malaga, Is just one of the 737-300’s soon to be replaced by the new Boeing 737-800’s

More recently Jet2 have announced they will be upping their Transatlantic schedule with more flights than ever departing the UK destined for New York/Newark. Jet2holidays have marketed the flights as “affordable shopping breaks to the Big Apple from your local airport”. In a recent Interview, Commercial Director Steve Lee ruled out the airline launching a full long haul service, stating that they would “focus on growing capacity where it’s needed in the western and eastern Mediterranean”.

Airbus A330 G-VYGL was leased by Jet2 for the summer flying season in 2017

The low cost carrier’s roots can be traced back to former scheduled service and freight airline Channel Express. This is still evident today as Jet2 still carry the Air Traffic Control call sign “Channex”. With 15 years having flown by, everyone at TripAdvisor’s favourite UK airline will no doubt be looking forward to the next 15!

 

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Hainan to Expand UK Network with a UK-DUB Route in Development

The privately owned Hainan Airlines who are currently China’s fourth biggest carrier have announced plans to expand their UK Network.

The news comes after Britain and China signed a deal to increase flights between the two countires by 50% to 150 per week. The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling said that the the agreement will support a rise in routes from regional airports.

Hainan’s ultra-modern business class! Looks amazing.

The route application Hainan have put to the UK government includes three new routes, all of which are currently unserved. They are as follows:

1.  Changsha – London on a three times weekly service starting in March 2018

2. Beijing – Edinburgh – Dublin / Beijing – Dublin – Edinburgh on a twice weekly service starting in June 2018

3.  Guangzhou – Manchester on a three times weekly service from December 2018

Hainan currently serve England on only one route: Beijing to Manchester. The route is operated by the airlines A330 aircraft and is reported to be worth £250 million in economic benefits to the UK over the next decade.

The Chinese market has been hotting up over the recent years with eight airlines currently operating direct routes to China, three to Hong Kong and one to Taipei.

While Hainan will be the only airline operating the above routes, they face heavy competition on all Chinese routes from major competitors such as Air China (who I will be reviewing this summer), British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, China Eastern, Capital Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and China Southern (who I will also be reviewing on several aircraft this summer).

Hainan’s economy product on the A330

If these routes are accepted, it will result in Hainan operating an Edinburgh – Dublin route with, hopefully, a Boeing 787 aircraft. This will undoubtedly pull aviation fanatics from all over the UK and Ireland in! With taxes in Ireland being as low as they are, you could be flying the 787 for a real bargain.

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Air Belgium: The Belgian Start-Up Flying to Hong Kong

At a time when the amalgamation between Brussels Airlines and Eurowings is an option being considered by the Lufthansa Group, there could be a new poster airline for the Belgian nation. Imaginatively named ‘Air Belgium’ is a new long-haul carrier that hopes to start operations within the next month – between Brussels South/Charleroi and Hong Kong.

Charleroi Airport at present. Not very fitting with Air Belgium’s new business model…

The brand was reborn in 2016, having also been used as a leisure airline in the ’80s and ’90s. This time, it is designed to be a full-service carrier, offering long-haul flights out of what is currently a Ryanair dominated airport. Brussels South Charleroi airport is actually located nearly 70km away from the centre of Brussels and its main purpose is currently to accommodate the majority of Ryanair’s flights to Belgium, along with other low-cost carriers such as Wizz Air and Pegasus. At present, they offer no long haul or premium flights. To accommodate Air Belgium, the airport will be making some important changes to its terminal, and says it will be ‘pulling out all the stops to welcome every passenger in optimal circumstances’. Specifically, the airport will:

  • Create a premium terminal, to meet the needs of Business and Premium Class travellers, which will offer a car to plane transit time of just 20 minutes.
  • Offer a Business Lounge, which will ‘offer extensive comfort options’

However, it is worth remembering that construction on these projects will only be finished by May 2019 – so business customers on the first Air Belgium flight will have to use the low cost terminal, in addition to travelling 70km out of Brussels.

They intend to operate a fleet of four Airbus A340-300 aircraft, all from Finnair – who are retiring the inefficient, unprofitable aircraft in favour for the Airbus A350 XWB.

Air Belgium’s planned livery.

The airline believes they will receive the first A340 (adorned with the national colours of Belgium) at some point during this month, with the ambitious goal of launching these flights between Belgium and Hong Kong from late March. I find Air Belgium’s business model particularly interesting. Recently, most new long-haul airline ventures have focused on the low-cost sector of the market – but Air Belgium will retain similar cabins to Finnair, offering three cabin classes. Economy class will be in the standard 2-4-2 configuration.

The Economy Class onboard.

Premium Economy will be offered (something that Brussels Airlines does not presently offer it’s customers) in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Air Belgium’s Premium Economy

Business Class will offer lie-flat seats, on par with other major airlines across Europe, alternating between 1-2-1 and 2-2-2 in a staggered set-up.

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Ultimately, start-up airlines find it notoriously difficult to be sustainable. Although, more recently, airlines like Cobalt  – the CAPA start-up airline of the year 2017 – have been successful and they too have big ambitions for the future. Crucially, Air Belgium will offer a national brand, with a clear “Belgian” identity and competitive onboard products and this might just give them the home advantage.

Fare Finder: February 2018

YOUR GUIDE TO THE BEST VALUE AIRFARES FOR THE MONTH AHEAD!

We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. February 14th as we all know is Valentine’s Day, so this months Fare Finder is dedicated to flights for short romantic getaways. (Excellent for those of you out there who haven’t found the perfect gift for your partner yet!)

PARIS, FRANCE:

We couldn’t start off a Valentine’s themed Fare Finder without including Paris at the top of our list, could we? With the picture perfect Eiffel Tower setting the back drop for the French Capital, what could be more romantic than a stroll down the Champs-Élysées whilst watching the sun set?

This one is for our Irish readers, with direct flights from Dublin provided by Dutch owned low cost airline, Transavia. Understandably Paris is very popular at this time of year, and the flight prices reflect this. Nevertheless for just £113 per person return, you could be enjoying a 3 night break in this wonderful city. The link to Transavia’s website can be found here.

Paris’ most recognisable land mark, the Eiffel Tower dominates the city’s skyline!
Edinburgh, SCOTLAND:

Perhaps a surprising inclusion on this list, but Edinburgh has a lot to offer that may not always be obvious at first glance. With everything from candle lit dinners to stargazing at the cities observatory, there is no shortage of activities to keep you entertained during your time here. Lovers of the great outdoors will feel right at home here, with Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat offering superb views of the city for those who reach the top.

Flying from Bristol, easyJet are willing to whisk you away on a 2 night stay in Scotland for just £65 per person return.  Readers living in the South East of the country who prefer a London airport as their departure point, the easyJet stronghold of Luton is offering a return ticket for £66 per person. As usual, easyJet can be reached at their website www.easyjet.com.

Edinburgh as seen from the top of Calton Hill
london, england:

Most will think that the River Thames would be a no go in February, but they’d be wrong to think that. A Thames Dinner Cruise would be a fantastic way to end your 2 night stay in the city, taking in world famous landmarks such as Big Ben and The London Eye whilst enjoying a live band playing in the background. If the thought of sailing doesn’t float your boat, then evenings can be spent enjoying a West End show following a day of Oxford Street shopping!

Yet again easyJet are offering cheap flights into London. This time anyone fancying a last minute trip to London from Edinburgh can reach the capital for just £71 per person return. These flights are based on flying into Luton, so who knows, you may even see some of your fellow Fare Finder readers heading up to Scotland when your flight arrives. For easyJet’s website click here.

 

Reykjavik, iceland:

Our last offering is most definitely a wildcard. Perhaps not necessarily a destination that most would assume is a romantic destination, but instead one that is filled with activity and exploration. Much like Edinburgh, couples who feel at home whilst experiencing what Mother Nature has to offer, will certainly not be disappointed with Iceland‘s offerings. With lava tunnels of extinct volcanoes waiting to be experienced and tours of the Game of Thrones filming locations allowing you to see where the action happened, travelers heading north and braving the cold will not leave feel unsatisfied.

Another reason to feel satisfied is the price of the flights. Departing with TUI from London Gatwick, you will almost certainly have a smile on your face after having paid just £49 per person return for your flights. What’s even better is that this fare is based on a 7 night stay in the land of Ice and Fire, giving you ample opportunity to discover one of the worlds most scenic countries! Flights are bookable through the TUI website.

The Northern Lights draws thousands of tourists to Iceland each year
in next months fare finder:

We will be  looking to find you affordable flights to jet you off during the Easter school holidays.

 

Please note that all pricing and availability is correct at the time of publish and is subject to change. This is an independent article and is no way endorsed by any airline or tourist board.

 

 

 

January Delivery Report: A Slow Month All Round

At the end of my December delivery report I made a joke which went along the lines of: “Will Airbus and Boeing workers be slow under the extra weight of Christmas pudding?”.

When rounding up this month’s deliveries I was surprised to say that I think they might have done! January saw three A350 deliveries compared to eight in December, eight 787s compared to 12 in December and five 737 MAXs compared to 20. What happened?

So let’s kick off the month in Seattle on the production line of the B737MAX. The first MAX delivery went to Aerolineas Argentina as they received LV-HKU. Three other airlines made the headlines as they received their first MAX variant. These were TUI (OO-MAX), SmartWings (OK-SWA) and Oman Air (A4O-MA).

pic: TUI

Airbus rivaled this very slowly as they delivered only three A320NEO variants. These went to Thai AirAsia, AZUL and SAS Ireland who operate as a subsidiary company to SAS with Irish registered aircraft.

Air Asia’s first NEO seems like a long time ago now!

The slow month in Toulouse wasn’t just for the NEO. Airbus rolled out only three A350s in January, too. These went to China Airlines, Lufthansa and Thai (who I will be trying this summer!)

Thai’s A350 economy class. Voted the world’s best!

The 787, however, did have a good month. Boeing took a lead in the 787 vs 350 race as they delivered eight Dreamliners to seven airlines.

United took the lead with two while Air Canada, Aeromexico, Norwegian, Qantas and KLM all received one. In addition to this, Virgin Atlantic took delivery of their first Dreamliner since March 2017 as they received G-VWOO.

Photo: Virgin

The B777 production line churned out three 777s to two new airlines this month. Swiss took delivery of HB-JNI while Air India received both VT-ALV and VT-ALW.

Photo: TPG

The A330 was arguably Airbus’ best performing model of the month. The European manufacturer delivered five aircraft to four airlines. Avianca took home two while Biman Bangladesh, Shenzhen Airlines  and China Eastern all settled for one.

No A380s were delivered in January.

Airbus production line by Airbus

On another note, EasyJet acquired three British Aerospace 146-200 aircraft. While these aircraft are by no means new aircraft it is interesting to see their long histories. D-AWBA, D-AWUE and D-AMGL joined EasyJet’s fleet January 10th and are being leased from WDL Aviation. The aircraft are being used to fill the void left by Air Berlin. The oldest (D-AWUE) has been flying since February 1986!

Looks strange right!

That is all from me this month! I’ll be back next month to see if Boeing and Airbus bounce back from their slow starts to the year!

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Privatisation on the horizon for debt-laden Air India?

During the heydays of privatisation, in Thatcher’s Britain, our national carrier was turned around. Like many nationalised companies in Britain, our national carrier had its focus on their demoralised staff rather than customers, operating without an ounce of consideration for making a profit and wallowing in its losses. Privatisation gave British Airways a new start – shifting its focus, resetting the agenda and ensuring the airline made $284 million in profit within the first year of new management.

With privatisation, BA was given a new lease of life. Could Air India do the same?

Around the world, airlines such as South African, who are owned fully or partly by their respective governments are flailing. Nationalised airlines are forced to operate politically motivated “prestige” routes which don’t make economic sense and simply don’t have the fresh ideas and logical leadership to take them forward.

Since their bailout in 2012, Air India has relied on taxpayer funds to stay afloat. However, in mid-2017, the Indian cabinet agreed that the process to privatise Air India should begin. Whilst Air India remains the largest international carrier in India, they have suffered a collapse in their market share due to the rise of low-cost airlines and the competition from other full-service airlines such as Jet Airways and Vistara whom have more economic competence. They only occupy 14.6% of the domestic travel market and, internationally, competition has come from the Middle Eastern airlines who have attracted customers through their Gulf hubs, travelling to Europe & North America. The bottom line is: under government ownership, Air India has failed to evolve and adapt around the changing dynamics of the aviation industry.

Middle Eastern airlines have adapted much more quickly, and taken much of the international market share from Air India.

Recently, further developments have been made and it is now expected that the Indian government and advisers are to analyse the shareholders’ agreement and other details to ensure that the board and key management personnel are appointed by an Indian entity. The government has also taken steps to ensure that the majority shareholder remains an Indian entity (with a 49% stake being offered to a foreign investor). The decision to allow foreign companies to invest is a marked change of tone from the Indian government, presumably to allow sufficient changes to be carried out in order to turnaround the troubled carrier. It has been reported airlines such as Vistara and SpiceJet (some of Air India’s main competitors) are interested in purchasing, and the former’s parent company Singapore Airlines may also be interested.

Air India does have a more modern flight than airlines such as Jet Airways, with A320NEO and B787 Dreamliner aircraft becoming increasingly prominent. Photo by: FlightGlobal

Ultimately, privatisation looks like the best option for Air India. Its a chance for the national carrier to shred their reputations, put their debt behind them and truly take-off. But with the process already attempted before in 2001, and constant obstacles such as parliamentary panels advising that Air India should be given five years to revive under government ownership and the unions’ holding of anti-privatisation rallies, the process is likely to be pain-staking and drawn out.


What do you think? Will privatisation help Air India rectify its problems? Get in touch with us, we’ll be happy to hear your opinions.

Route Review: January 2018

My first pick of the most important new routes for 2018; from Ryanair to Singapore Airlines, here are the newly developing markets in the aviation industry.


Ryanair – At the end of January, the Irish Low Cost Carrier announced $300 million investment in Manchester airport, with 10 new routes and increased capacity on existing connections. New routes from Manchester include Agadir, Almeria, Barcelona Reus, Cagliari, Palermo, Rhodes (all 2 weekly), Porto, Venice Treviso (both 3 weekly), Ponta Delgada (once weekly) and Belfast International (daily). Throughout the summer season, they will offer more flights on routes to Bologna, Chania, Alicante, Faro, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Malaga, Lisbon, Majorca, Naples, Tenerife and Fuerteventura. The boost for Manchester capacity represents 300,000 extra seats, an extra 9 million customers p.a. and 3,675 new ‘on-site’ jobs.

Ryanair will boost it’s Manchester operations.

Hainan Airlines – Hainan Airlines will be launching direct services from China to the industrial Northern German city – Hamburg. They will move two weekly of the present frequencies between Beijing and Berlin Tegel to Hamburg, from August 2nd. The only direct connection between China and Hamburg will be operated by a mix of Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner equipment.

It is feasible that a combination of 787 and A330 equipment will operate the new route to Hamburg.

Alaska Airlines – As Alaska Airlines pushes Seattle-Tacoma Airport to capacity, they have announced new routes from Everett Paine Field, to begin in autumn 2018. Alaska will operate 13 daily flights to 8 cities from the two gates at the newly constructed passengers terminal. Specifically, Alaska Airlines will fly to San Jose, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego & San Francisco. Alaska’s Chief Commercial Officer said “We’re proud to become the anchor tenant of the new terminal at Paine Field. With so many new possibilities for business and leisure travel, we believe this will bring increased opportunities to our communities.”

Alaska initially plans to operate Embraer 175 aircraft from Everett.

Southwest – Similarly to Alaska & United (who will operate services to Denver and San Francisco), Southwest will also begin to fly to Everett. it will operate five flights daily after the new terminal opens in September. It will fly Boeing 737s, larger than the Embraer E175 regional jets that Alaska Airlines and United plan to operate initially. The Dallas-based low cost airline will be the third to announce flights from the new airport, which will have just two gates. Furthermore, the announcement of these flights pushes Everett’s passenger capacity to the limit, with 24 daily departures (50% above the levels airport officials predicted last year).

Singapore Airlines – The ‘Capital Express’ – a route between Singapore, Canberra & Wellington launched with much fanfare not too long ago, with the concept of connecting the capital cities of Australia and New Zealand. Now, Singapore Airlines will change the routings for these flights, but continue to serve both capital cities. The new routings begin on the 3rd May 2018, operating as SQ247 (with a Boeing 777-200) between Singapore-Melbourne-Wellington and SQ288 in a triangular routing between Singapore-Sydney-Canberra-Singapore – increasing the frequency to daily and operating with a newly refurbished four-class Boeing 777-300ER.

The 777-300ER and daily frequency represents a capacity increase for Canberra.

Cobalt Air – From 27th March 2018, the newly emerging national airline of Cyprus, Cobalt Air, will launch services from their Larnaca hub to a third London airport. Adding to Gatwick & Stansted, Heathrow will become their fourth UK destination and will operate with the new Business Class product Cobalt offer. I will be flying the CAPA Start-Up Airline of the Year in February, from Manchester to Larnaca so stay tuned for my review.

Cobalt already flies from Larnaca to Manchester, Stansted & Gatwick in the UK.

That’s it for this month. Next month we’ll see many more new route opportunities for the upcoming summer season!

Another Lifeline for the A380: Fresh British Airways Order Imminent

Airbus’ grand double-decker plan – in the form of the A380 – never really gained traction as the manufacturer hoped it would. Crucially, it was Boeing who judged the mood of the aviation industry more accurately, with its decision to focus on a mid-size, long range, technologically advanced aircraft that could open ‘long and thin’ routes – tapping in to the increasing propensity to fly from local airports non-stop, rather than connecting via a major hub. Boeing withdrew from the ideological and prestige-driven race for the first double-decker aircraft, but Airbus pressed onwards. From a PR standpoint, the A380 with its luxurious apartments and glamorous feel has personified airlines such as Emirates and Etihad. But, this doesn’t translate into versatility or profitability for the airline company. In fact, Reuters even reported that the A380 programme was on the verge of extinction in December:

“If there is no Emirates deal, Airbus will start the process of ending A380 production,” a person briefed on the plans said. A supplier added such a move was logical due to weak demand.

Luckily for A380 enthusiasts, Emirates signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire up to 36 additional Airbus A380 aircraft. The airline has committed to purchasing an additional 20 Airbus A380s, and has an option for 16 more, with deliveries to start in 2020. John Leahy, Airbus’ COO, said that the order ‘underscores Airbus’ commitment to produce the A380 at least for another ten years’.

Emirates A380 leaving London Gatwick.

In addition to this, last Friday, John Leahy suggested another A380 order would come soon. The industry is never usually this specific, when in open conversation with the media, but it looks like we may have a clearer idea about what this order might be.

British Airways is in talks with Airbus over an order for new Airbus A380 aircraft, according to Bloomberg.

Airbus SE is in talks to sell new A380 superjumbo planes to British Airways this year after securing a program-saving deal from Persian Gulf operator Emirates, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.K. carrier, which currently has 12 A380s in its fleet, had said in the past that it was looking for six to seven second-hand A380s. Now it’s considering taking a larger number of new ones, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

BA currently operates A380s to destinations such as Johannesburg, Los Angeles & Vancouver. 

IAG has previously indicated they might be interested in purchasing second-hand A380s from airlines like Singapore Airlines (who began to retire their oldest models in 2017). These aircraft are heavier and perform less well than newer examples of the A380, and would also be costly and time-consuming to reconfigure. When all of this is weighed up, it may make more sense for British Airways to simply buy new aircraft directly.

In my opinion, the A380 was designed for airlines like British Airways – with an almost exclusive ‘hub and spoke’ model at a slot constricted airport like London Heathrow. There is clearly a benefit to eliminating two Boeing 777 flights and replacing it with just one A380 frequency. However, with corporate contracts from the city of London in the hands of British Airways, frequency is key – BA have even held back from rostering the A380 on the London-New York route, instead favouring additional timing options for business travellers. British Airways can also control the majority of the market in London Heathrow, meaning they could increase prices with less capacity on a route. So, although further pursuing the A380 may be of benefit to British Airways, perhaps Airbus didn’t weigh up the other factors of running a route dominated by business passengers.

Is the A380 really the best option for British Airways at Heathrow?

Willie Walsh has also indicated that any new A380s could be devolved to other IAG airlines, like Aer Lingus or Iberia. Dublin Airport is currently without commercial A380 operation and, quite frankly, I don’t see a trunk route with enough demand from the Irish capital. Iberia, on the other hand, could use A380s on routes to Latin America – replacing multiple frequencies on routes where sheer capacity matters more than flexibility.

Time will tell whether any new A380 orders from the International Airlines Group materialise but if and when they do, it will be interesting to see how British Airways deploy the new equipment and whether the group sees some use within Iberia or Aer Lingus.