December 2017: Route Review

As we edge closer to the beginning of the Summer Season, airlines are getting prepared with their route portfolio for the peak season of 2018. Here is my pick of the month’s route development highlights.


BMI Regional – Launching on the 22nd January 2018, BMI Regional will operate a twice-weekly connection between Bristol and Gothenburg, bringing the number of cities served by BMI from Bristol up to nine. Bristol is BMI’s biggest UK hub, but Gothenburg is already served from neighbouring UK airport,  Birmingham, by the airline. The route faces no direct competition and marks Bristol’s only direct connection to Sweden.

Norwegian – Expanding its transatlantic network to 61 routes, Norwegian announced new flights from the US to Amsterdam, Milan and Madrid. The airline will use its Boeing 787 Dreamliner equipment on all of the new routes. Four-weekly services will be launched between New York JFK-Amsterdam & Milan and Los Angeles-Madrid, in addition to a less frequent New York JFK-Madrid service – operating three-weekly.

Norwegian’s transatlantic network now consists of 61 routes.

Wizz Air – In a further move to bolster its position in the UK market, Wizz announced even more expansion from London Luton next summer. Flights will be launched from London Luton to Athens, Reykjavik & Bari throughout Spring. Furthermore, the newly announced Luton-Larnaca connection will be increased to a ten-weekly frequency before the flight has even launched. These new routes will give passengers the choice of 78 routes from nine UK airports with Wizz Air.

Wizz Air is the second largest carrier at London Luton Airport.

Cathay Pacific – Cathay Pacific has announced it will be the first airline to connect the US Capital and its Hong Kong base, from autumn 2018. Being the longest flight across Cathay’s network, the new flight will take over 17 hours to complete and will complement existing services to the East Coast of the USA, which operate to New York Newark, JFK and Boston. The airline has announced that the service will be operated by the new A350-1000 aircraft, the first of which is due to be delivered in Spring.

Meridiana – This Italian leisure airline – has long been known for its unique VFR and leisure-orientated routes across the atlantic from Naples and Palermo, with outdated 767 equipment. However, this may all be about to change, following the recent acquisition of the Italian carrier by Qatar Airways. In a move which sees the airline join five more established airlines on Italy’s prime long haul business route, Meridiana will launch regular services between Milan Malpensa and New York JFK – using Qatar Airways’ Airbus A330-200 equipment. It will also launch services from Milan to  Miami, again competing against American Airlines. Unlike other airlines on the route, Meridiana will add feeder flights from five domestic destinations in Italy including Rome, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Lamezia Terme. More details of the onboard product that will be offered on these new routes, will be revealed in the unveiling of the airline’s new business plan.

Meridiana uses Boeing 737 aircraft to operate its extensive network of internal Italian flights.

Scoot – The Singapore Airlines subsidiary recently launched services to Athens, and in December, they set their eyes on yet another European destination: Berlin. The four-weekly service will be operated with Boeing 787 Dreamliner equipment, and will take up to thirteen hours. Singapore Airlines currently flies to Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich in Germany – so it is likely business travellers to the German capital may still choose to travel with mainline Star Alliance carriers.

Scoot already serves Athens in Europe, Jeddah in the Middle East and Honolulu in North America – all with Boeing 787 equipment.

Fly Dubai – The Dubai based low-cost airline, whom recently increased their ties with Emirates – are expanding their flights across the European continent.  From April, they will launch flights with their Boeing 737 MAX from Dubai to Krakow – then, in June, to Catania. The new services will feed onto Emirates’ vast network of onward destinations from Dubai. The new flights to Krakow in Southern Poland will give Polish travellers the ease of flying to Asia without travelling to Poland and give overseas visitors easier access to one of the most visited destinations in the country. Fly Dubai is using its narrowbody aircraft to serve smaller, more niche, European destinations to account for Emirates’ lack of suitable equipment – essentially giving the Middle Eastern giant more leverage over its competitors.


That’s all for this month! If you want to receive our monthly newsletter and know when new articles are published then sign up below! In the meantime, if you’d like any specific routes to be covered here, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Our Most Read Moments of 2017

2017 has been a massive year for all of the team here at LondonSpotter. Firstly, and most importantly, in February 2017 myself and Raj launched what you now know as LondonSpotter.co.uk. Since then, we’ve added two new team members (James and Callum) who both contribute massively to the content we give you. Other initiatives included a new ‘guest review’ scheme. Throughout the year we have broken exclusive news, reviewed many airline products, posted several of our unique monthly reports on routes, deliveries and fares and missed flights (well, some of us did, I’m looking at you – Raj & James). But crucially, our site has gone from strength to strength and its all down to your support – so thank you all.

What a year 2017 has been for us.

Looking back on our year, here are our ten most-read moments of 2017.

1. Stewart Airport: The Airport that Could Change How we Travel

Our most read moment comes from September, after Raj experienced New York like no other aviation enthusiast has ever done before. After flying on the Norwegian 737MAX, staying with the flight crew and enjoying a helicopter tour over New York City, this in-depth analysis of the trends we see in transatlantic travel today shot to the top of our statistics.

2. BA Customer Service Shambles

Raj did get to review BA’s 767 – 2 months later than originally planned

In May, James and Raj planned a trip to Edinburgh to review the British Airways Boeing 767. Unfortunately, saying it didn’t go to plan is an understatement. Missing their flight meant Raj wrote about the shambolic experience with British Airways’ customer services. Whether out of humour or concern, this post became one of our most read in 2017.

3. Norwegian 737 MAX Review

Norwegian 737MAX on Raj’s trip from Edinburgh to Stewart

In early Summer 2017, Norwegian made its 737 transatlantic debut with brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Raj flew the new aircraft to New York in August and produced a thorough review. Being a new flight meant this post attracted a lot of interest and was a key moment in the growth of our blog. The article still reaches the top of many google searches and attracts more views every day!

4. The Demise of Monarch

A Monarch Airbus A320 at Birmingham International

On the morning of one of the most significant happenings in the aviation world this year, Raj wrote a detailed report of what happened. After flying Britons abroad since 1967, this news came as a shock to the UK and the wider industry in Britain.

In November, we were lucky enough to welcome Callum Johnson to the LondonSpotter team –  a former Monarch cabin crew member – who shared his thoughts in this article. 

5. EasyJet launching flights to Volos

Taking delivery of new aircraft such as the Airbus A320NEO (above), enables EasyJet to expand into new markets with exisiting equipment

In December, I broke the news of a brand new flight with EasyJet from London Gatwick to Volos. It would become Volos’ first and only scheduled flight to the UK – starting in June. As the local community had lobbied for this flight, my news break was shared on their pages – becoming our 4th most viewed post of the year.

6. Norwegian 787 Dreamliner Review

Norwegian’s 787-9 taxiing at Gatwick

Flying home from what was probably one of the most exciting trips reported on LondonSpotter this year, Raj flew in Norwegian’s Premium Cabin aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This is another post that reached new heights in our statistics, with many of you interested in whether paying for Premium was worth it.

7. JOON Unveiled

JOON’s Fleet will initially comprise of the A320 and A340, before expanding to the A350

Air France unveiled their new brand this year, aimed at millennials on a budget, named JOON. I wrote about my thoughts on the new scheme, and reported on the launch of two new destinations with the airline; Fortaleza and the Seychelles. Since then, JOON has launched its short haul operations and announced new destinations such as Tehran and Cape Town for 2018.

8. Virgin 787 Dreamliner Review

In October, James made his way to California to attend United’s 747 Farewell event in San Francisco. To get there, he flew on Virgin’s newest aircraft type – the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. After writing a report on the service, many were interested in Virgin’s quirky and trendy experience.

9. The Inaugural Flight of JL42 – Japan Airlines B787

In October, Raj was invited by Japan Airlines to attend the inaugural ceremony and fly onboard the the first 787 service between London and Tokyo. The trip was an amazing experience as he got to spend some time in Tokyo, too. The trip reports were shared widely on social media, thus putting it in our top 10.

10. Inaugural LOT B737 MAX

In early December, James was lucky enough to be onboard the first ever trip of LOT’s 737 MAX from London to Warsaw. This trip had the added bonus of being filmed for the show Britain’s Busiest Airport. You can see his experience live on TV in March! Yet another MAX trip climbed up the statistics soon after posting.

Personal Highlights

For me, my personal highlight had to be my airside inspection of Aer Lingus’ ATR-72 aircraft in Dublin. As an aviation enthusiast, to be out on the apron, get up close and personal with the aircraft and spend an hour talking to the Captain was a superb experience – even if it was just a turboprop.

Up close and personal!

Raj’s highlight was the helicopter tour of New York that was organised for him by Stewart Airport. The 2.5 hour trip included flying over New York JFK, LaGuardia and the city itself. He hopes to be invited back soon (hint, hint).

New York LaGuardia underneath – Spot Trump’s 757.

James’ highlight was his trip to America in October, where he attended United’s Farewell 747 event and got to take a helicopter tour over LAX.

The cockpit of United’s 747.

Seeing as Callum only joined the team recently, we’ll be seeing his highlights appear over the coming months with lots of cool stuff planned.

What can you look forward to in 2018?

As we move forward into 2018, our readers can expect more than ever from the LondonSpotter blog.

In January, I’ll be putting your questions to the Jet Airways UK Manager – Lydia Nazareth and finish writing up the last of my articles on my recent Southend trip. On January 13th, Raj will travel to Madrid on British Airways’ 787-9 (hopefully he won’t miss this flight) and Callum will conclude his transatlantic game-changer series as he reviews the hopes and chances of new airlines trying to break their way into our packed market.

In February, I’ll be reviewing the new start up in the Cypriot market – Cobalt Air – whom have ambitious expansion plans and in May, I’ll travel on Air Transat (a major player between Canada and Europe), seeing how their service compares to full-service carriers. James will be trying out Air Baltic’s flagship aircraft, aboard the Bombardier CS300 and its going to be another travel-filled year for Raj, too, as he plans trips to China, Italy, Greece and Germany before going to University. It doesn’t stop there, with so much more being organised day by day for our readers, I have lots more plans to reveal for next year – including the upcoming foray into travel blogging in 2018 as aviation and travel come hand in hand.

We’d like to thank you for all the support we have received this year in starting up this website. It is moments like landing in New York to see a message from Brian Kelly (ThePointsGuy) on Instagram that really made Raj and all of us at londonspotter.co.uk realise what we’d made over the past year.

If you want to stay up-to-date with what’s to come at LondonSpotter.co.uk then add your name and email to our subscriber list below and you’ll never miss a beat.

Primera: Transatlantic Game Changers?

Gone are the days where your only options to fly from the United Kingdom to the United States were dominated by the likes of British Airways and American Airlines.  Despite the fantastic service and benefits that these airlines offer throughout your flight, not everyone wants to or can afford to pay the price this comes at. The good news is they no longer have to. Why? The low cost carriers are coming…

Last week we brought you our take on WOW Air’s chances of establishing themselves as the UK’s number one low cost carrier across the Atlantic. If you haven’t already read it, you need to stop what you’re doing and click here to do so!  Now that’s sorted, this week it’s the turn of Scandinavian based Primera Air, let’s see what they’ve got to offer…

OY-PSA of Primera which has been operating for Jet2.com over Summer 2017

PRIMERA AIR.

UK DEPARTURES FROM: BIRMINGHAM (BHX) & LONDON (STN).
CONNECTING VIA: NONE, ALL FLIGHTS DIRECT!
FLYING TO: NEW YORK (EWR), BOSTON (BOS) & TORONTO (YYZ).

 

I’m sure the vast majority of you reading  this will be clueless as to who Primera are, some may have not even heard of them until this very moment. With a fleet of only 9 Boeing aircraft and around 300 employees on the payroll, you’d be forgiven for not knowing about them.  Primera primarily operate charter flights for travel companies, mainly across Europe and Asia. With the opening of bases in Birmingham, London Stansted and Paris, it’s clear that the owners are looking to expand and make the airline a house hold name in the market.

Tickets across all three routes start from under £200 on the carrier’s Light package. Travelers will find themselves with 10kgs cabin baggage and a randomly assigned seat in the economy cabin. Seating in this cabin offers a guaranteed 30″ of legroom.

The Comfort package offers 10kgs cabin baggage and 23kgs checked baggage. Seat selection and an in-flight meal are both complimentary to passengers travelling on this fare basis. Seating upgrades to XL seats with a legroom of 32″ legroom are charged at £34.99 per seat and exit row seats are available for £44.99 offering a whopping 49″ of legroom. (Well worth the price in my opinion).

For anyone who may have to alter their travel plans at the last minute, Primera offer a Flex package across both their Economy and Premium cabins. Name changes are free of charge, the tickets are fully refundable and travel dates can be amended with travelers only having to pay the difference in fare cost (If there is one). Economy passengers will find it includes all the benefits of Comfort and also find themselves being able to choose standard, extra legroom or exit row seats for free.

Seating Comparison (Credit: primerair.co.uk)

Premium seating is located in the first 4 rows of the aircraft and offer extra wide seats with a legroom of 39″. Premium cabin passengers will find themselves guaranteed a window or aisle seat as this exclusive cabin is in a 2-2 configuration. Premium meals are available to be selected at the time of booking, as well as all other meal options available to customers. Priority boarding of the aircraft is included.

 

FLYING DIRECT?

Unlike rival carrier WOW Air, Primera will be offering direct Transatlantic flights from their UK bases of London Stansted and Birmingham. These routes will be served by Airbus A321neo aircraft. Equipped with drag reducing Sharklets, industry leading fuel efficiency and an enhanced new engine option (hence neo), these aircraft are going to be some of the newest and most modern flying across the Atlantic. The airline will be taking delivery of 8 Airbus A321neo’s in 2018, as well as leasing 2 Airbus A321neo Long Range aircraft from leasing company AerCap. Primera also have an order with Boeing to take delivery of up to 20 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft which will compliment the airlines long haul fleet.

 

WHY FLY PRIMERA?

First and foremost, the non-stop services that Primera offer from their regional UK bases are undoubtedly the primary reason that people will book with them. London Stansted already has WOW Air offering Transatlantic connections but being able to reach New York without having to transfer in Keflavik already puts Primera ahead of their Icelandic competitors. Being able to fly direct from Birmingham is a massive selling point for the airline as well. Earlier in the year, United and American Airlines pulled out of Birmingham leaving them without a direct Transatlantic route for the first time in almost 30 years. More recently, Icelandair announced they were axing the Keflavik-Birmingham route leaving passengers unable to connect to Icelandair services to the USA and Canada. In my opinion, it’s a smart move from Primera taking advantage of a significant gap in the Midlands air travel market.

The on-board experience with Primera will feature USB ports in every row of seating allowing travelers to charge their gadgets whilst enjoying their favourite movie or album. This is very important as Primera doesn’t not offer an entertainment system that passengers can use to view the latest movies or television box sets. In the place of In flight Entertainment, the airline will offer Wi-Fi across it’s fleet of Airbus A321neo aircraft, so that both business and leisure passengers can stay connected to social media or their emails, even at 38,000 feet.

Just one of the tasty meals available to enjoy on-board!

Catering on-board will feature a meal service that will either be complimentary or paid for, depending on the ticket type purchased. This will give the option of either a chicken or beef dish, or a suitable alternative for anyone with special dietary requirements. A high quality range of snacks and drinks will be available to purchase throughout the flight , all of which are described as “great items at great prices”  by the airline.

Ticket prices for most people are the major factor in deciding who to fly with. Primera offer fantastic value across their routes to the USA and Canada. Boston starts from just £149 one way when travelling on the Light package, and both New York and Toronto start from just £169 one way when travelling Light. A return trip from Birmingham to New York will cost £278 on the Light package, this can be compared to the £339.98 that Thomas Cook Airlines will charge on the same dates when travelling from Manchester to New York. The £61.98 saving could be put towards seeing a show on Broadway or admission to the Rockefeller Centre!

 

SUMMARY!

To summarize, I believe that Primera have a strong product to offer on the most modern single aisle aircraft out there. Understandably the companies low cost business model may not appeal to everyone as people come to expect IFE and meal services to be complimentary on long haul flights. However, the option to pre-purchase your tasty meal and the availability of Wi-Fi on-board will be acceptable by most as the airline is low cost after all. Being able to fly direct from two regional UK airports will be a key selling point, especially with both having no direct Transatlantic services.

Just one of Primera’s Airbus A321neo’s which will be in the skies in 2018

To put Primera Air’s chances into one sentence; I believe that they have a strong chance to crack into the market and with a few adjustments made to features such as Wi-Fi (perhaps offer an IFE system that is streamed to the users device), Primera could be here to stay.

 

Visit Primera Air’s website to book your next Transatlantic trip and to take advantage of their low cost fares to Barcelona, Malaga and Majorca!

Love this article? Stay up to date with the latest posts from the team at londonspotter.co.uk, by subscribing below!

WOW Air: Transatlantic Game Changers?

THE TRANSATLANTIC MARKET IS CHANGING.

Gone are the days where your only options to fly from the United Kingdom to the United States were dominated by the likes of British Airways and American Airlines.  Despite the fantastic service and benefits that these airlines offer throughout your flight, not everyone wants to or can afford to pay the price this comes at. The good news is they no longer have to. Why? The low cost carriers are coming…

2018 is set to be a big year for Transatlantic air travel, new entrants into the UK market Primera Air and WOW Air will look to assert their authority as the ‘go to’ budget carrier. They will face some tough competition though, with Norwegian successfully establishing themselves as the airline of choice for reaching the US East Coast on the cheap. It won’t be easy.

Over the next three weeks, we will review WOW, Norwegian and Primera and look at their chances of changing the way we look at flying across the Atlantic.

EC-MIN of WOW Air which is now registered as TF-LUV

WOW AIR.

UK DepartURES from: EDINBURGH (EDI), dUBLIN (DUB) & LONDON (LGW/STN).
Connecting in: keflavik (kef).
FLYING TO: BOSTON (BOS), CHICAGO (ORD), CINCINNATI (CVG), CLEVELAND (CLe), DALLAS (DFW), DETROIT (DTW), LOS ANGELES (LAx), NEW YORK (JFK/EWR), PITTSBURGH (PIT), ST. LOUIS (STL),  WASHINGTON D.C. (BWI), TORONTO (YYZ) & MONTREAL (YUL).

 

WOW have long been living in the shadow of Icelandair as Iceland’s second choice airline for both flying to Europe and across the pond. However, with the opening of their second London base (London Stansted) in April 2018, WOW will be offering daily flights to their home of Keflavik International Airport where passengers will be able to connect to a number of flights departing to destinations listed above and more!

With WOW Basic fares starting as little as £99 one way, the price alone could be reason enough to book. The WOW Basic fare only permits passengers to carry on one personal item of hand baggage, and will find them seated in WOW Air’s standard economy seating with a seat pitch of between 29″ – 31″ depending on aircraft type. All catering options on board must be payed for.

For anyone wanting optional extras such as checked baggage and seat selection to be included then the WOW Plus fare offers exactly that. All baggage options are included: Personal Item, Carry On Item and Checked baggage. The option to pre-select your seat is also included, however this is only the airlines standard economy seating, any XL or XXL seats carry a further surcharge to purchase. As with WOW Basic, all catering options must be payed for.

WOW Biz seating offers 35″ + legroom

The airline does offer their take on business class, marketed as WOW Biz it includes all of the extras marketed in the WOW Plus fare and more.  Cancellation Protection is included meaning that if passengers have to cancel their ticket due to unforeseen circumstances, they will be able to reclaim the cost of it through the airline. As apposed to the standard economy seating, Biz passengers will be able to pre-select their very own XXL seat which features a legroom of 35″ + or The Big Seat with a legroom of 37″ + if traveling on Airbus A330 aircraft.

CONNECTING IN KEFLAVIK

Transiting through any airport can be either a joyful experience, or total chaos. Luckily for passengers in transit, Keflavik international Airport was named the BEST airport in Europe (In the under 5 million passengers per year category). This was awarded by the Airports Council International Europe in 2016. It was awarded due to the airports ability to perform exceptionally during their peak times of the year. This isn’t the first time the airport has been commended for it’s performance, it has previously won the award no fewer than 3 times (2009, 2011, 2014) and in 2015 came third in the category. The terminal building is host to a wide range of duty free shops, bars and restaurants so boredom certainly isn’t an option!

WHY FLY WOW?

When flying with WOW an indirect routing from the UK is the only option. This coupled with some undesirable connection times could result in an instant no from passengers. For example, passengers flying from London Stansted to Los Angeles via Keflavik will look forward to an unenviable connection time of 19 hours. However this shouldn’t put you off flying with them as to compensate for this, WOW offer travelers the option to add a lay over in Iceland before their connecting flight to the USA or Canada. They do this by not charging any additional fees for the difference in dates between the flights. Any accommodation costs will have to be paid for by the traveler, but even just one night in Iceland is worth the cost of a cheap city motel.

Skytrax rate the airline 3 stars out of a possible 5. They score highly in the Staff Service category, meaning that the airlines friendly staff will be on hand to assist in any way they possibly can. A down side to this is the lack of In flight Entertainment, only 1 star was awarded for this. Why? Well, WOW doesn’t offer any. Anyone traveling had best bring along their laptop or tablet to keep them entertained throughout the flight. In an effort to compensate for the lack of IFE, they offer charging ports under every seat so that devices never run out of juice just as the movie is reaching the best bit!

One of WOW’s tasty meal options

The on board meal services are offered with the option to pre-book your meal 48 hours prior to departure, or to pay on-board. The airline does offer a wide range of tasty options with sandwiches to pizza and everything in between included. The options do vary depending on availability and the destination that the airline is flying to. Much like British Airways’ meal services, cash is not accepted on board. Transactions are processed in US Dollars and all major credit and debit cards are accepted.

Ticket prices play a major part in anyone’s decision to commit to booking the journey. A WOW Basic fare from London Stansted to Chicago’s O’Hare will cost £299 return plus any additional fees for extras added onto the booking. An American Airlines flight from London Heathrow to O’Hare direct will cost £440 return when compared to the same dates. With a potential saving of almost £141 and a wait of only 90 minutes in Keflavik, the Windy City could be your first destination with WOW Air.

SUMMARY

In summary, I think WOW are offering a good product at some very reasonable prices. Understandably travelers may not rush to purchase tickets due to the lack of IFE and complimentary dining, but as is the case with most budget airlines, you pay for what you get. The low fares will undoubtedly play a major part in anyone’s decision of who to fly WOW, but when compared against a product such as American’s flight to Chicago, the potential saving makes that 90 minute wait worth it. With WOW operating an all Airbus fleet that is one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world, traveling in 5 star luxury will not be the case but modern style definitely is.

WOW Air operate one of the world’s youngest aircraft fleets (Image Credit: wowair.co.uk)

I personally feel that they have the potential to expand their presence within the UK and show that direct isn’t always the best option. Whether they will or not is something that only time will tell.

 

Visit WOW Air’s website to book your next trip and experience them for yourself, click here. Be sure to check out next weeks article on Primera Air’s chances of cracking into the Transatlantic market.

 

Like this article? Read our article on how New York Stewart Airport is changing the way we travel.

Boeing Confirms Talks on Embraer Merger – Exclusive

Boeing is discussing a potential merger with Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer following a Wall Street Journal report. The new comes only 2 months after Boeing’s key rival, Airbus, bought a majority stake in Bombardier’s C-Series programme, the E-Jets direct competitor.

The talks have centered on a takeover, with Boeing offering Embraer a substantial premium over its $3.7 billion market value, the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday. Any tie-up would need to be approved by the Brazilian government, the companies said in a statement.

The direct competitor to the Bombardier C-Series, the Embraer E2

Last night Embraer’s shares soared around 30% after the joint statement was released in Sao Paulo. Boeing would get a bigger footprint in the regional jet industry. That is something that rival Airbus is already attempting to do after buying a large stake in the C-Series programme a couple of months ago. Embraer is, however, highly prized by the Brazilian government and according to the Wall Street Journal has the final say over any sale. The Brazilian government is already signalling opposition to a takeover, according to the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. President Michel Temer expressed that he won’t allow control of Embraer to change hands, Embraer has been a source of national pride since its birth in 1969. However, there is no guarantee that anything will amount from these discussions, both manufacturers refused to comment further on the discussions.

One of the current E-Jets in service

If a takeover emerged, Boeing would have a new presence in the regional market, with control over the E-Jet programme, which has already been bought into by many major airlines. This, furthermore, allows Boeing to directly fight back against the C-Series project which has been the centre of many trade disputes this year.

Bombardiers C-Series, the center of many trade disputes this year

The US Department of Commerce sided with Boeing by upholding a proposed hefty tariff on C-Series aircraft imported into the USA. However, the introduction of the tariff is subject to a final decision by the US International Trade Commission, expected around February 2018. Brazil themselves gave also decided to take action against the C-Series programme on the grounds of unfair state subsidies and a World Trade Organization panel is to investigate these complaints further.

Another UK Gateway: Stansted Secures Emirates

Emirates is fast becoming a household name across the UK thanks to its large share of the market between the UK and the Middle East, Africa, Asia & Oceania. Although competing with many other airlines in this market (most notably Qatar and Etihad), Emirates has mastered scaling a market – serving London 9-times daily and Manchester 3-times daily, all with the Airbus A380. Unlike Etihad, they have also expanded into regional markets such as Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow – a trend we saw extended with Qatar’s launch to Cardiff announced earlier this year.  Many asked where Emirates would go next; now we know.

Emirates will launch daily Dubai-London Stansted services from the 8th June 2018. The aircraft operated will be the new three-class Boeing 777-300ER featuring 6 seats in first class, 42 in business class and 306 in economy class, featuring the revamped cabins in all classes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The new EK33/34 flight will arrive into Stansted at 14:10 and depart back to the UAE at 21:10, arriving into Dubai the following morning.

Emirates says that Stansted serves a “thriving business community in London’s north east and the wider 7.5 million population that fall within its catchment area.” According to research carried out by Emirates, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore and Mumbai are the most popular business destinations from the East of England. All of these are conveniently served via Emirates’ Dubai hub.  In addition to this, more than 25 of the world’s largest corporations have established operations in the wider Cambridge and Peterborough area, with Airbus, Astra Zeneca and GSK amongst the multi-national companies based there. This service is clearly intended to not only appeal to the leisure market of the area but also to the pharmaceutical industries based there.

Although Stansted has enjoyed flights to Asia before, this will be the first and only connection to Dubai.

Ken O’Toole, the CEO of Stansted whom recently transferred from fellow MAG Airport Manchester, said “We’re delighted that Emirates has recognised the strength of London Stansted’s catchment and the opportunity that our available runway capacity gives them to continue growing in the South East of England over the next decade.”

This new expansion will mean that, from Summer 2018, Emirates will offer 10 flights every day from London to Dubai.

Icelandair axe Birmingham route

Icelandair currently offer Birmingham’s only direct service to the land of ice and fire, but almost 3 years after the route was opened in February 2015, the airline are axing it.

Icelandair’s most recognisable aircraft, TF-FIU/Hekla Aurora, flew the Inaugural KEF-BHX route on February 5th 2015.

The route which is currently served twice weekly by Boeing 757-200 aircraft, carrying 183 passengers over the airlines three travel classes: Economy, Economy Comfort and Saga Class. The airline announced plans only a few months ago that they would stop operating the  Boeing 757-200 aircraft to Birmingham and would be replacing it with the most cost-efficient single-aisle aircraft produced, the Boeing 737-Max8.

This news is a big blow for the airport which saw 11.6 million passengers pass through it’s doors in 2016. Earlier in the year American Airlines and United Airlines pulled out of Birmingham, leaving the airport without a direct service to the United States for the first time since the 1990’s. Both airlines stated that “poor financial performance” was a key factor behind the decision to end the airports association with flying direct to New York.

American Airlines had only flew from Birmingham to John F. Kennedy for just 20 months before chopping the route in January 2017.
WHY?

With no official statement from the airline, we can only speculate what the reasoning behind this decision is, however crucial factors such as the Pound Sterling’s poor performance against other currencies and the uncertain issue of air travel to and from the UK post-Brexit must have been taken into consideration by the airline’s officials.

Icelandair also recently announced the closure of its routes from Keflavik to Barcelona, Stavanger and Trondheim. It is widely believed that these simply did not have the passenger demand to sustain the scheduled weekly services that the airline currently operates.

WHAT NOW?

Any passengers who have reservations and have not yet been contacted by the airline should click here to be taken to the airline’s customer support page. If your booking was made via a travel agent, please contact them.

Icelandair continue to fly direct to other airports in the United Kingdom, the closest to Birmingham being Manchester and London Heathrow. If you would like to take advantage of some amazing offers including London Gatwick to Reykjavik from just £153pp return, then follow this link to their website.

The last Icelandair service to Keflavik will depart Birmingham on January 18th 2018.

Minimalistic and Marimekko: Finnair revamps Business Class

Finnair is well known for its minimalistic Scandinavian aura – both on the exterior and interior of its aircraft. Finnair is also proud and renowned for supporting Finnish products; some of its aircraft are even adorned with prints from the iconic Finnish design house Marimekko.

Finnair’s aircraft and cabins have a minimalistic feel. 

Finnair already has an industry-leading reverse herringbone Business Class product on its Airbus A350 aircraft, but this will be redesigned with new cabin textiles and amenities, including new seat covers, and pillows, blankets and chinaware with prints, to be introduced from February 2018.

Finnair will keep its Reverse Herringbone seat in Business Class.

My first impression is that the new cabins are uniquely stunning – replicating the simplistic nature of Scandinavian interior design and landscapes. However, what’s interesting is reading into what Finnair’s Head of Cabin Design – David Kondo – had to say. The cabins draw on two major themes:

  • Nordic Interior Design, aiming to show a ‘fresh and modern aesthetic that is inspired by Nordic homes’
  • Nordic Landscapes, conveying ‘snow and birch trees’ and also the changing face of seasons and light.

    The grey and white colouring is intended to reflect Nordic landscapes.

David Kondo continues, saying ‘Our lives are busy and our time is limited, and the time flying is time just for you, so the aim is for the cabin to be very calm and understated’. The green patterned Marimekko print will also be replaced with a deep blue print, called Kaivo or ‘well’.

I find this concept an interesting one; I love the clean aesthetics of the design and the philosophy behind it is understandable. However, some passengers may find this sterile and unwelcoming – which is the exact feeling airlines want to avoid.

In addition to this, Finnair will be reforming its onboard dining – creating a more flexible on-demand system – with a wider range of options. A seasonal menu will be introduced for both cabins, with Swedish chef Tommy Myllymäki creating the menus for Business Class and top Finnish Culinary Team will create meal options for Economy class. The winter menu, introduced with the product’s rollout, will be followed by seasonal menus for summer and autumn. Drawing on Finnair’s commitment to local cuisine and customs I alluded to earlier, they will also introduce Finnish tradition of “Kahvikutsut”  – a coffee serving with seven different treats – for long-haul flights departing Asia in the morning.

The product will be rolled out from February – intially on flights to Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Overall, I really love Finnair’s approach to branding and customer experience and this redesign reaffirms that unique, but likeable brand profile.


Featured photo courtesy of Joona, @planespotter_hel.

BA Cityflyer Goes Regional: More Flying, Aircraft & Jobs

Last year, British Airways raised eyebrows among the UK aviation industry as it made an important return to the regions of the UK. Throughout the summer, the airline’s Cityflyer “Jungle Jets” flew to Birmingham, Bristol & Manchester over the weekend and offered an array of flights to holiday hotspots across Europe. This was a token presence, but clearly successful, as British Airways Cityflyer will continue to expand its regional offering next year.

The addition of two more Embraer aircraft next summer, will mean British Airways will be able to increase frequencies on existing routes to holiday hotspots, make weekday London City-Milan Linate and Frankfurt more convenient for business travellers and add three new routes. Specifically, they will add holiday services from Edinburgh and Manchester to Florence and a new service from Manchester to Dublin, adding to Aer Lingus’ frequent services, of which British Airways codeshare on.

British Airways is the largest airline at London City Airport where it operates to 33 destinations in the UK and Europe. The newly sourced aircraft will also allow Cityflyer to cement and expand their offering from London.

London City Airport provides convenient access to Canary Wharf for Business travellers.

London City to Milan Linate flights will increase from 11 to 23 flights a week, Frankfurt increases from 20 to 24 flights a week and Dublin increases from 32 to 36 flights a week. This expansion means that business travellers from central London will have more choice to key destinations across Europe.

In addition to the new routes to Florence, from May 2018,  there will be extra weekend flights from Manchester to Malaga, Ibiza and Palma, an extra weekend flight from Birmingham to Palma and an extra weekend flight from Bristol to Malaga.

Could the next step to BA’s regional pursuit venture into long-haul flights? Have your say by contacting us at LondonSpotter.

British Airways will also be recruiting 20 new pilots and cabin crew for this operation – which is great news for the airports which will receive this investment. Whilst some may view this new found presence in the regions pitiful, I think this displays a marked change of strategy for the UK’s national flag carrier and the fact that this operation continues to grow – offering comfort and convenience onboard Embraer aircraft – shows that British Airways is gaining traction in the wider UK market and their operations have been a success.

EasyJet to link London with Volos, Greece

EasyJet has become more adventurous with its destination choices recently, giving Austrian city Klagenfurt its first and only link to the UK, for example. This trend is increasing, and as low-cost carriers continue to grow in popularity across the world, they are seeking to create new opportunities for themselves, even from airports with little to no current air services. With this announcement, it looks like EasyJet is continuing to do just that.

It appears that, in addition to 13 current destinations throughout Greece, in Summer 2018, EasyJet will give the city of Volos  – in Greece – its long-awaited air link to London.

Taking delivery of new aircraft such as the Airbus A320NEO (above), enables EasyJet to expand into new markets with existing equipment

From June, the low-cost carrier will inaugurate the only scheduled link between the UK and Greece’s sixth largest city and important industrial centre. The announcement follows a meeting between the airline’s representatives and Thessaly (a region of Greece) Governor Konstantinos Agorastos in the city of Volos, after previously meeting at November’s WTM exhibition in London.

WTM is a leading global event for the travel industry, well known for playing a major role in the development of new air routes.

The service will initially operate on a seasonal basis, from the end of June to September 2018, with flights on a Wednesday and Saturday from London. The service will operate with one of EasyJet’s A320 aircraft, offering between 180 and 186 seats onboard.

According to reports, the new service will be officially announced in the coming weeks and tickets will be available shortly.

This is a clear sign in the way adventurous route choices can provide vital connections for communities, hopefully in the view to increase tourism and business to the port city of Volos and easily-accessible surrounding tourist hotspots of Skiathos and the Pelion.