GUIDE: How To See The Northern Lights On A Budget

The Northern Lights are one of the world’s most mesmerising natural phenomena and are visible between September and April in clear, cloudless weather conditions. The optimum months for Aurora viewing are between December and February, in the Arctic Circle between 66°N and 69°N. So, what better time to publish my guide on the best ways to experience the Northern Lights, with budget flights?


Option 1: Iceland

Tourism is flourishing in Iceland and the possibility of viewing the Northern Lights is a major attraction on the island. Reykjavik is the main gateway for air travel and the economic and cultural centre of the nation, but venture out of the city and you will be rewarded with a much higher chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis.

There is debate as to whether such rapid growth of tourism generated by the aviation industry in Iceland is sustainable.

Whilst Iceland is notorious for its absurdly high cost of living, inexpensive airfares are now the norm due to the fierce competition on UK-Iceland routes.

Flight connections to Iceland 

When flying to Reykjavik, there are a plethora of options flying from a range of UK airports, including Manchester, London, Bristol, Edinburgh, Belfast, East Midlands and more with airlines such as EasyJet, Wizz Air, WOW Air, Icelandair and British Airways.

WOW Air offers budget flights to Iceland from Dublin, Edinburgh, Gatwick and Stansted in the UK and Ireland.

You can also incorporate a visit to Iceland en route to North America, as both Icelandair and WOW Air allow customers to book a stopover in Iceland when connecting in Reykjavik.

For an even better chance of viewing the Northern Lights, you can take a domestic flight to Akureyri, located in the far north of Iceland, with Air Iceland. 

Option 2: Norway

In recent years, the far north of Norway has become synonymous with the Northern Lights and increasingly easy to access.

Tromso is known as the ‘Capital of the Arctic’

Tromsø is the main gateway for any Northern Light viewing trips, known as the ‘Capital of the Arctic’ with its spectacular backdrop of fjords and rural scenery. 

Flight connections to Tromsø

Earlier this year, Wizz Air launched a new connection between London Luton and Tromsø. The non-stop route operates twice-weekly, operating on Mondays and Fridays.

Wizz Air has initiated rapid expansion from its London Luton base in recent years. I sampled the airline’s service from London to Warsaw, in 2017.

Fares start from as low as just £24.99, leaving London Luton on 28th January 2019. Although there are other airlines that offer nonstop air routes between the UK and a Tromsø, namely Norwegian from London Gatwick, Wizz Air’s new route is by far the best option for those on a budget.

Option 3: Finland’s Far North

With the most lakes across all of Europe, Finland’s rural, sparsely populated Northern landscape offers an unbeatable backdrop for the Aurora.

Northern lights over the Pyhae Luosto National Park in northern Finnland.

Even though Finland’s Lapland region has become extremely popular for package holidays and charter trips recently – with many flights from the likes of TUI and Thomas Cook, the area remained hard to access for independent travellers. Now, however, this has changed.

Flight Connections to Rovaniemi

EasyJet has recently started a new scheduled route between London Gatwick and “Santa’s Home Town” in Rovaniemi, Lapland. The new service is expected to carry 13,000 passengers in its first season, with a twice-weekly schedule, operating on Wednesdays and Sundays. EasyJet launched its new route from London Gatwick to Rovaniemi, in October. Image: Anna.Aero

EasyJet launched its new route from London Gatwick to Rovaniemi, in October. Image: Anna.Aero

Of course, travellers can continue to connect via Finland’s primary aviation hub, Helsinki, with Finnair and Norwegian Air.


For budget travellers, the spectacle of the Northern Lights is becoming ever easier to experience, with low cost airlines entering the market. 2019 could be the year where you can experience the Aurora Borealis for yourself.

Ethiopian Airlines Launches Manchester-Addis Ababa Flight

On December 11th 2018, Africa’s Best Airline – Ethiopian Airlines – inaugurated their first flight between Addis Ababa and Manchester.


The new service will operate on a four-weekly basis, utilising Boeing 787 Dreamliner equipment.

ET-AUO – a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – operated the inaugural flight.

Initially, Ethiopian Airlines will operate the flight via Brussels (with no fifth-freedom rights to fly passengers between the UK and Belgium). Flights leave Manchester at 1900, and arrive in Addis Ababa at 0600, the next day. Meanwhile, the return sector will leave Addis Ababa at 0045, before arriving into Manchester at 0745.

Manchester Airport is Britains third busiest and has had great success, developing routes to destinations such as Muscat, Beijing, Hong Kong and Mumbai in recent years.

The route will connect Ethiopian Airlines guests to 58 destinations across the continent of Africa, boosting trade and tourism. Ethiopian Airlines’ hub in Bole Airport allows seamless transfers to onward flights, taking passengers to a plethora of destinations – from the Seychelles, to Namibia.

Ethiopian Airlines has en extensive and ever-growing network worldwide.

Announced in May 2018, Manchester is Ethiopian Airlines’ second gateway in the United Kingdom. The airline has a long established route to London Heathrow, which has operated for 46 years. Manchester Airport estimates that up to 400,000 people from the airport’s catchement area will be able to benefit from using the new route, including Ethiopian diaspora in the North and Midlands.

It is clear that many people are already taking advantage of the connectivity that this route offers, with Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO – Tewolde GebreMariam – stating that he is confident with advance bookings and aims to increase the route’s frequency to daily and remove the Brussels intermediate stop.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO – Tewolde GebreMariam – gave a charismatic speech, describing how the airline would ‘ramp up’ the frequency of the new route to daily.

Andrew Cowan, Manchester Airport’s CEO, said:

“We’re delighted to have Ethiopian Airlines launching its service to Addis Ababa today. It will provide a vital route into Africa for businesses across the North, as well as helping attract visitors and potential investors to the region”.

The inaugural event was interspersed with traditional Ethiopian dancing and a gift giving ceremony, between the management of Ethiopian Airlines and MAG.

The celebratory cake was adorned with Ethiopia’s national colours and a member of Ethiopian Airlines’ fleet in cake form.

The celebratory cake – featuring an Ethiopian Airlines fleet member, depicted in cake form – was cut by Tewolde GebreMariam and crew members.

Let’s Celebrate! Key figures from Ethiopian Airlines cut the celebratory cake, launching the new flight.

Jeremy Lefroy MP – attending as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy –  also spoke of the importance of the new route, highlighting how Manchester Airport – often referred to as ‘the Gateway to the North’ – holds the keys to economic development across the Midlands, in addition to England’s northern regions.

The route launch comes just a month after Addis Ababa was declared the primary gateway for feeder flights into Africa, overtaking Dubai – hub of the aviation heavyweight, Emirates. So far this year, Addis Ababa’s growth rate is 18%,  versus just 3% for Dubai. This is emblematic of Ethiopian Airlines’ fifteen year strategy to win back market share on routes to/from Africa, which it had lost to Middle Eastern carriers. Another catalyst in Ethiopian’s growth has no doubt been the investment in the airline’s hub – Bole International Airport – meaning it is now one of the most modern airports in Africa.

An artist’s impression of Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport, once complete.

Ethiopian Airlines is an airline with dramatic growth plans which are slowly being realised. Ethiopian is now the airline of choice when travelling from Europe to Africa and was even named ‘Best Airline in Africa’ by SKYTRAX at this year’s airline awards. Additionally, Addis Ababa is now the most important hub for air travel to Africa. The airline has a modern fleet, comprised of Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft but has never deviated from its roots, continuing to offer traditional Ethiopian hospitality and cuisine onboard.

Ethiopian Airlines has a modern fleet, including Boeing 787 Dreamliners, Airbus A350s and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

With Ethiopia making the list of the world’s fastest growing economies, it is clear: Ethiopia and its national airline are undoubtedly on the up. I wish the airline many successful years of operating to their second gateway in the United Kingdom.


You can book flights on Ethiopian Airlines’ new flight to Manchester here. Stay tuned for my review of Ethiopian Airlines’ in-flight experience, including in Business Class.

First African Member: Royal Air Maroc Joins Oneworld Alliance

The Moroccan Flag Carrier – Royal Air Maroc – is now set to join one of the world’s leading airline alliances, Oneworld. The airline will become Oneworld’s first African airline, adding 34 new destinations and 21 new countries to the alliance’s network. RAM is the first recruit to Oneworld for six years and is currently the largest unaligned carrier across the African continent.

Royal Air Maroc’s revised livery, revealed this week.

Royal Air Maroc will officially join the alliance in mid-2020, at which point the airline’s regional subsidiary will become an affiliate member.

Royal Air Maroc already has established partnerships with Qatar Airways and Iberia – both prominent members of the Oneworld alliance. Additionally, the airline has a sizable fleet of 55 aircraft, connecting its Casablanca base with 94 destinations,  including the Oneworld hubs of Doha, London Heathrow, Madrid, Moscow Domodedovo, New York JFK and Sao Paulo. RAM’s five-year plan will see it expand even further, aspiring to carry 13 million passengers each year to 121 airports worldwide.

RAM’s network is extensive throughout Europe and the Americas.

The announcement that Royal Air Maroc is joining the alliance also avoids controversy as current member airlines can exercise veto rights over the acession of a new carrier, which is a possibility in the hypothetical case of China Southern and Cathay Pacific – but not an issue here.

Royal Air Maroc offers a competitive onboard product, with the backbone of its long-haul fleet comprised of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The airline also has a 2-2 ‘true’ Business Class onboard its Boeing 737 aircraft, meaning it is a good option when connecting into Europe too.

Royal Air Maroc recently launched flights to the US capital – Washington D.C.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce confirmed at a New York conference, on behalf of Oneworld, that Royal Air Maroc would be joining the alliance, saying :

“We’re pleased to welcome Royal Air Maroc to Oneworld  Africa is the last major region where Oneworld does not have a  full member airline – and has one of the fastest predicted air travel growth rates over the next few decades.  Royal Air Maroc will deliver greater value for more customers worldwide as we expand our alliance network to a new region.”


Ultimately, this is a positive development for Oneworld as it provides member airlines and frequent flyers with better and more convinient access to Africa, with a competitive onboard product. For Royal Air Maroc, Oneworld should be able to act as a catalyst for the airline to realise their ambitious growth plans.

TAP Portugal A330neo Full Cabin Tour

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to visit Toulouse, home of Airbus, where I visitied the TAP Portugal A330neo. The product onboard is fantastic and in this short post I will show you around the aircraft. Below you can watch my video tour of the aircraft.

Business Class

There is only one business class cabin onboard which is fitted in a 1-2-1 configuration.

The new business class cabin

The window seats have alternating setups with one closer to the window and one closer to the aisle.

The real ‘window’ seat
The ‘aisle’ window seat

If you enjoy looking out of the window I would always choose the seat closer to the window. The window seats are in the odd-numbered rows.

In the middle of the cabin the seats alternate between honeymoon seats which are close together and seats which are further apart and closer to the aisle.

Honeymoon seating
More private centre seating

Economy Class

The economy seats are configured in a 2-4-2 configuration.

The green economy cabin

I personally love 2-4-2 setups and these slimline Recaro seats made the aircraft look very spacious. In terms of comfort, I would always choose business class over this economy if I wanted a comfortable flight!

2-4-2 setup

The 2 seats by the window look like this.

Slimline seats

The four middle seats look like this.

Grey economy seating

Each seat is fitted with a personal IFE screen.

Personal monitors at each seat

Towards  the back of the aircraft, the setup becomes a 2-3-2 setup as the aircraft narrows.

This is only a brief tour of the aircraft and I hope to review it sometime in the future.

Visit the Famous German Christmas Markets for ONLY £10 Return

20.11.18 18:31: Update – Price for Bremen return updated to £10 return. This deal will expire at midnight tonight! Book Bremen here.

The shops have started selling advent calendars, the children are making Christmas present lists and the temperature has turned cold here in the UK. In the next few weeks I’ll be jetting off to a few countries and then settling down back home for a nice Christmas break.

Something I love to do at this time of year is visit the best Christmas markets in Europe in their birthplace – Germany. Whether its Berlin, Munich, Leipzig or Hannover, the German Christmas markets have something the English ones don’t have and can be a great place to shop around for presents or treat yourself to some delicious Thuringian Sausage.

Here at LondonSpotter, I have been looking out for the best deals to get to Germany and below you can see how you can visit the markets for as little as £10 RETURN.

Important – how to check price.

Now I highly doubt all of you will read this article as soon as it is published so it is important that you follow the below steps to check the price is still valid. You may even see a decrease in price from what I found.

Step 1: Click the link in the text for your preferred location.

Step 2:  Click through to the travel agent or airline.

Step 3: Book your flight as usual through the airline or travel agent.

Market #1: Bremen !!! SUPER CHEAP £10 RETURN DEAL !!!

The Bremen Christmas Markets sit on a World Heritage site next to the river which creates a perfect spot to sit and watch the lights reflect in the water. Make sure you visit the market square for the main buzz and stalls.

COST: £10 RETURN – BOOK HERE

Market #2: Leipzig 

The Leipzig markets are one of the biggest in Germany with over 300 stands and the tradition dates back 1458. This market also has a hidden secret that not many people know about. The song silent night was first sung here by two brothers who tried to sell gloves at the local market. When the plan ended in financial disaster they began to sing the song which is now sung all around the world at Christmas.

COST: £28 RETURN – BOOK HERE

Market #3: Berlin

The Berlin Christmas markets are a little bit more expensive than the others but are my personal favourite in Germany. I visited the markets last year and made a day trip out of it. Alongside the markets, be sure to visit the Berlin wall, Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building.

COST: £45 RETURN – BOOK HERE

Market #4: Munich 

Munich is one of my favourite cities and Europe and while you’ll probably be drinking more Gluhwein than Beer on this visit, be sure to stop at the Biergartens for a crisp German brew.

COST: £96 RETURN – BOOK HERE

Market #5: Innsbruck 

I’ve never visited Innsbruck but the scenery is simply fantastic. Be sure to eat Kiachln (piping hot doughnuts laced with Sauerkaut). The market is well known for its exquisite handicrafts and ornaments so if you visit Innsbruck, be sure to take some euros to fund the Christmas presents.

COST: £60 RETURN – BOOK HERE

Those are my picks for the best Christmas market deals this December so be sure to check out those fares as they may be coming down as time moves on from the publishing of this post. If you click through to the airline or travel agent from SkyScanner and notice that the price has decreased then drop me an email and I will update the information in this post!

Flybe On Sale Amid Financial Troubles

At a tumultuous time in the European aviation sector, following the collapse of airlines such as Cobalt, Primera Air, Monarch & Air Berlin, the continent’s largest regional carrier has put itself up for sale.

The Exeter-based regional airline confirmed it was “in discussions with a number of strategic operators about a potential sale of the company”, just weeks after a profit warning – stating that the airline would suffer an overall full-year loss of £12m.

The Exeter-based airline is Europe’s largest regional carrier.

The airline has launched a review, considering ‘strategic options’ such as cutting more unprofitable routes in the face of increasing challenges. A spokesman for the airline said that there was no threat to previously purchased tickets as a result of the review.

Flybe’s share price over the past three months. (LSE)

Flybe has been fighting to overcome losses for over 1 year already  – focusing on only the most profitable routes to raise load factors and returning aircraft to leasing companies – but the airline’s financial situation has declined considerably in recent weeks. Since September, Flybe’s share price has plummeted by 75% and the airline is now valued at just £25m – down by £190m since 2010.

what has led to Flybe’s financial woes?

Flybe has blamed the decision to put itself up for sale on the ‘current challenges’ the airline faces. Specifically, higher fuel costs, uncertainty over Brexit and the relative weakness of the Pound Sterling. Truthfully, however, this justification masks the long-term mismanagement and lack of vision at the top of the airline. Flybe has made a string of misjudged decisions over the past few years – culminating in today’s financial woes.

Flybe’s new livery was introduced just months ago. Photo: Melvin Debono

Faced with stiff competition from low-cost airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair and full-service airlines such as British Airways, Flybe has struggled to identify itself in a crowded market. It is unclear whether the airline’s focus has been solely on domestic flights within the UK or more connectivity to smaller airports across Europe. It is on these routes to continental Europe where low-cost carriers are able to undercut Flybe, given their lower operating cost per seat.

Flybe has faced stiff competition from ruthless low-cost competitors like EasyJet and Ryanair.

British Airways’ domestic flights possibly exist only due to the airline’s long-standing commitment to the hub and spoke model, giving passengers the opportunity to connect onto the airline’s wide-ranging network in London. This is something Flybe have attempted to replicate in recent years, with the airline’s ‘One Stop to The World’ campaign, promoting connections to worldwide destinations via Birmingham and Manchester but this was largely unsuccessful. Flybe even attempted to funnel passengers through London Heathrow onto flights with partner airlines, launching flights to Edinburgh & Aberdeen from Britain’s busiest airport.

Despite British Airways having owned shares in Flybe historically, today the airline is not a subsidiary of a major airline group, like IAG. This means that, unlike many smaller low-cost airlines across Europe (e.g. Vueling or Level), Flybe has no security blanket as it is not backed by a larger, more profitable airline group.

who are the potential buyers of Flybe?

British Airways previously owned shares in the airline, however, it seems unlikely that IAG would be a potential rescuer to Flybe. Stobart Group – owners of London Southend Airport – are in the frame as potential buyers, having abandoned a previous bid earlier this year.

conclusion

Ultimately, if Flybe is lost, a large void will be left in the UK domestic market and many smaller airports that Flybe operates from will lose out, including the likes of Southampton, Exeter & Cardiff. Flybe operates 78 aircraft, serving eight million passengers per year, with roots dating back to 1979. If Flybe was to go bankrupt, it would be the largest shock to the European aviation industry since the collapse of Monarch and Air Berlin.

 

Aviation Round-Up: 2nd November 2018

In November, airlines continue to plan and announce their summer 2019 flying programmes – including cutting routes and expanding into new markets. Take a look below at my top picks of all of this month’s route developments…


Routes News

WOW Air Axes Multiple US Destinations

WOW Air is the Icelandic budget carrier whose business model revolves around connecting passengers from Europe to North America. The airline has grown rapidly in recent years, although perhaps it appears that all of that growth was not sustainable.

WOW Air’s primary business model revolves around offering customer’s low fare travel between Europe and North America, connecting in the geographically well-placed hub of Reykjavik.

WOW Air will cancel its Reykjavik-St Louis route this coming January and will not restart its seasonal flights to Cincinnati and Cleveland. Additionally, the future of flights to New York-JFK and Dallas is uncertain. The airline has offset this reduction in its network, by introducing a new flight to Canada’s West Coast – Vancouver.

Hainan Airlines links China and Norway

At the China-Norway Business Summit, Hainan Airlines announced that it would be the first to link Oslo and Beijing non-stop in 2019. Detail on the equipment used or frequency for the new route is scarce – but it seems likely that Hainan Airlines will operate either the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A330 on its first Nordic connection. The new route continues Hainan Airline’s trendsetting attitude to the aviation industry – providing Manchester, Edinburgh, Dublin and others with their first connection to China’s capital in recent years.

Delta & Virgin Atlantic Expand in The Scottish Capital

Delta Airlines – in cooperation with its joint-venture partner Virgin Atlantic – have announced a second route to Edinburgh, joining existing flights to New York-JFK. From May 24th 2019, Delta Airlines will launch a new route from Boston Logan to Edinburgh, to be operated by Boeing 757-200 aircraft configured with 16 Business Class seats.

Delta Airlines owns a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic and the joint-venture has become a force to be reckoned with in the Transatlantic market.

This development means that Edinburgh will join Manchester in offering the only non-stop flights to Boston Logan from the UK, outside of London.

British Airways Launches London-Charleston Route

British Airways has announced yet another new pioneering route to the US, from its London base. The airline will launch a twice-weekly Heathrow-Charleston service, to be operated with Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. Coupled with British Airways’ new route to Pittsburgh announced earlier this year, the airline will now offer 29 destinations in the USA – more than any other European airline.

Ethiopian Airlines Connects L.A. and Lomé

Since 2015, Ethiopian Airlines has had fifth-freedom rights to sell tickets for passengers travelling between Dublin and Los Angeles, as part of the wider Addis Ababa-Los Angeles flight. However, Ethiopian Airlines has recently stopped accepting reservations for the Dublin-L.A. flight, meaning that the airline was planning to alter the intermediate stop between Ethiopia and California.

Ethiopian Airlines’ Addis Ababa-Los Angeles route will now operate via Lome, Togo – replacing Dublin, Ireland.

The new flight will route via Lome, Togo and will continue to operate with Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. Consequently, Los Angeles will now have non-stop service to the continent of Africa, South America, North America, Oceania, Asia and Europe – putting it amongst a select group airports around the world.


Deliveries & Other Aviation Stories

Ryanair and Wizz Air Introduce Controversial New Baggage Policies

Two of Europe’s largest low-cost airlines have both initiated new cabin baggage policies, aimed at decreasing baggage related delays.

The changes in onboard luggage allowance are aimed at reducing delays.

Ryanair will limit non-Priority customers to just one small item onboard, with dimensions less than 40cmx20cmx25cm. They will be able to purchase a 10kg checked-bag for £8 at the time of booking, although it is important to note that this will have to be checked at the bag-drop desk. Priority customers will continue to carry one two pieces of onboard luggage.

WIZZ Air’s policy is broadly similar, but allows for a slightly larger small item onboard and allows non-Priority customers to purchase a 10kg checked-bag for just €7.

Etihad Airways receives first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner

In the past week, despite their ongoing financial issues, Etihad Airways recieved its first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner – registered A6-BMA.

 

The aircraft will be configured with 304 seats in Economy Class and 32 seats in Business Class. Initially, A6-BMA will replace the Boeing 787-9 in operating flights from Abu Dhabi to Jeddah. Etihad Airways’ Boeing 787-10 will fly to Seoul Incheon from December 1st.


Get your next round-up of all the latest news, within the aviation industry, in two weeks’ time. 

Cobalt Air Grounds Flights & Ceases Operations

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.

Cobalt Air will cease flight operations at midnight (local time in Cyprus).

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.

CO327 from London’s Heathrow Airport to Larnaca could prove to be the airline’s final flight.

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 one airline I am certainly sad to see go.

Cobalt Air’s fantastic Business Class in a 2-2 configuration, was one of the most competitive in Europe.

This is, of course, also 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.

Lufthansa Group Reveals Future Plans: Where Are They Headed?

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’ are Lufthansa Group’s more traditional members: SWISS, Lufthansa and Austrian.

Network airlines offer connecting hubs and a premium onboard experience. These include:

  • Lufthansa German Airlines
  • SWISS
  • Austrian 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.

Brussels Airlines and Eurowings are the brands that make-up Lufthansa Group’s ‘point to point’ airlines.

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)
  • Brussels Airlines

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?

munich (muc)

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.

Munich has recently recieved more growth from Lufthansa, with A380s being transferred from Frankfurt successfully.

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.

Frankfurt (FRA)

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 (zrh)
SWISS has been the recipient of a number of new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft recently.

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.

Vienna (vie)
Vienna is Austrian Airlines’ home base.

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.

Lufthansa will offer a 1-1-1 configuration on some rows in Business Class, with this intelligent design. 

If the new aircraft are to operate for Austrian Airlines, this onboard product will represent a significant upgrade over the current experience.

conclusion

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.


 

 

Primera Air Ceases Operations

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.

Primera Air’s transatlantic flights were significantly disrupted by delays in the delivery of their new 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 had hoped to expand their operations further with the Boeing 737 MAX-9 – with flights already announced from Madrid, Frankfurt and Berlin. It is certain that those plans will not materialise now.

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:

Dear colleagues,

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.