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.
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).
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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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.
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.
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.
Premium Economy will be offered (something that Brussels Airlines does not presently offer it’s customers) in a 2-3-2 configuration.
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.
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.
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!). All of these flights are bookable through SkyScanner and other websites.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
That’s it for this month. Next month we’ll see many more new route opportunities for the upcoming summer season!
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’.
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.
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.
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.
According to the Norwegian Facebook page, Norwegian Air will be adding Hong Kong to its rapidly expanding network.
A comment on the airline’s Facebook page asked whether they were planning to expand further into Asia to which Norwegian replied:
“That would be great…actually Hong Kong is about to come…”
It remains unclear exactly when the new route will begin as when we contacted Norwegian for confirmation a spokesperson said:
“As an ambitious airline with a large aircraft order, we’ve made no secret of our plans to expand our long-haul network and deliver affordable fares to other parts of the world, including Asia. However, we have no immediate plans to serve Hong Kong”.
Norwegian already operates to two Asian hubs in Singapore and Bangkok with Singapore only recently taking flight.
If the new route is operated out of London Gatwick then it will, undoubtedly, be using a Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The aircraft is standard for Norwegian’s long-haul network out of London and is fitted in a two class configuration.
Launching this route would put Norwegian in direct competition with Cathay Pacific which operates the Airbus A350 on the Gatwick-Hong Kong route.
You can read our review of Norwegian’s premium cabin here, a review of their new B737MAX here and their prospects of becoming a ‘Transatlantic game-changer’ here.
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Back in 2013 El Al Israel launched a low cost carrier which initially started flying from its base in Ben-Gurion International Airport to Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Kiev and the Cyrpiot city of Larnaca. They began service with fares as low as $69 to compete with other low cost carriers, Wizz, Easyjet and RyanAir. The narrow-body Boeing 737-800 jet was selected to serve the new routes with ‘Up’ borrowing five of the variant from El Al’s mainline fleet. The aircraft were configured with 144 regular economy seats and an upgraded Tourist Plus class with 36 seats. Tourist Plus travelers have more spacious seating and food and beverages at no extra charge, while passengers flying in the lowest fare class will pay extra for food and beverages.
Up followed the trend of other low cost carriers in forcing passengers to pay extra for checked baggage, pre-assigned seats and changes to reservations in their ‘Up Basic’ fare. Passengers also had the option of upgrading their seats on a space-available basis. The Up ‘Smart fare’ class included a range of services such as checked luggage at no charge, seating in the Tourist Plus cabin, use of El Als King David Lounge at Ben-Gurion airport and more flexible ticketing terms.
But what went wrong?
Just this month it was announced that El Al are to discontinue the Up brand. Up will cease operations by mid-October 2018 and all flights and aircraft will return to the El Al mainline fleet. El Al will, therefore, introduce a new fare structure to replace Up.
Up was designed to compete with other low cost carriers and therefore had to keep fares low. They, therefore, lost passengers to the competitors and made Up a loss-making project for El Al.
El Al has stated that in the next few years it plans to renovate the interiors of its European aircraft, including a gradual replacement of the tourist and business class seats on part of its mainline narrow-bodied fleet.
Instead of a dedicated low cost daughter company, El Al says that tourist class passengers will be given a choice of three types of flight package: a basic package that will allow hand luggage only plus a meal with no possibility of cancelling or changing the flight, a package with choice of seat, checked-in luggage, and the possibility of change and cancellation for a fee, and an all-inclusive package that in addition to the above will allow a second piece of hand luggage, and flexibility over changes and cancellations. All of these terms will be subject to the criteria set by the airline for each ticket and the provisions of the law. Ticket sales in the new format will start during the second quarter of 2018, for flights in the fourth quarter of the year. (globes.co.il)
A company memo that was leaked this week has revealed that United Airlines has plans to launch it’s very own Premium Economy cabin. Although the details have not been finalised yet, we do know that United’s Premium Plus cabins will be rolled out across selected International routes by the end of 2018.
When these seats come out on general sale within the next few months, travelers will find themselves travelling in more spacious seating as opposed to the airlines international economy seating which offers a legroom of 31-32″. On-board services will also be upgraded with a redesigned menu being served on china dinnerware. Luxury US department store Saks Fifth Avenue will be supplying blankets and pillows for use during the flight.
A spokesperson for United has confirmed that Premium Plus is coming but has not revealed any details other than those leaked in the memo. The move comes after rival airlines Delta and American Airlines both successfully integrated Premium Economy into their own business models over recent years. The upgraded economy cabin has been operated by various European airlines such as British Airways for a number of years, but it seems that only now the US carriers are playing catch up.
United will certainly be hoping that their Premium Plus cabins are a huge success, especially after the pretty disastrous year that they had in 2017. April saw a passenger forcibly removed from an overbooked Chicago to Louisville flight. Just one month before this incident, United refused to fly two female passengers to their destination as they were “not properly clothed via the Contract of Carriage”. The two passengers in question were not ‘properly clothed’ because they were wearing leggings.
Despite the negative press in recent times, the airline has just launched a new advertising campaign in association with Team USA to celebrate their participation at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. The advert features US athletes such as Jamie Anderson, Gus Kenworthy and Erin Hamlin alongside airline employees with a variety of different job roles. It details their superhero powers necessary for winning medals at the games, and more importantly those needed by United staff to get them and fare paying customers there destination.
The United States Olympic Committee and United Airlines have a long standing history of transporting athletes to and from the games, and this isn’t the first time Olympians have featured alongside airline staff on video. In 2016, Team USA participated in a safety video that was broadcast on the majority of United’s aircraft. As the official airline of Team USA, United flies everything and everyone from athletes to equipment to wherever it is needed.