Another Lifeline for the A380: Fresh British Airways Order Imminent

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

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

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

Emirates A380 leaving London Gatwick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

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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.

Emirates Announce $15.1bn Aircraft Order and ‘Game-Changing’ New Cabins

The Dubai Air Show is taking place and Emirates have shocked everybody with their $15.1bn order for 40 Boeing 787-10 aircraft and unveiling of their eagerly-anticipated new First Class Suites – set to rival Singapore Airlines’ new product, just days after their release.

Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner order

Yesterday, Emirates reached a deal with Boeing for 40 Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft, worth $15.1bn. The aircraft will be delivered from 2022, building on Emirates’ relationship with Boeing, being the largest client of the Boeing 777 family, with 164 additional 777 aircraft on firm order. Since the retirement of Airbus A330/A340 and Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, Emirates have been restricted in their route development opportunities due to the only aircraft being available boasting large seat capacities which are perfect for a high volume route like London Heathrow or New York JFK to Dubai but not so great for new marginal opportunities. They’ve missed out on key new ventures such as Cardiff and Helsinki (the former having secured daily services with Qatar to rival hub – Doha) due to their obvious lack of suitable aircraft. Furthermore, prime destinations to funnel passengers to Europe such as Kathmandu aren’t able to handle the Boeing 777-300ER or Airbus A380, whilst Qatar, Etihad, Oman Air and others have been able to survive in the market. The Boeing 787-10 improves this dramatically, but personally I would have liked Emirates to choose the -8 variant, to connect smaller markets for this aircraft order to truly be a ‘game changer’.

Emirates’ render of their new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft.
new first class suites cabin

Emirates has long been a primary purveyor of luxury in-flight, from onboard showers to a slick-understated brand. After the initial WOW-factor, however, their previous Suites cabin appeared not glamorous, but tacky and rather brash. With this new cabin, I’m happy to see a toned-down colour palette, with welcoming tones of light cream, still with a touch of luxury. To introduce the new product, take a look at the promotional video below, highlighting some revolutionary features such as individual temperature controls and ‘virtual windows’ in the centre suites:

Some of the main features include:

  • 40 Squared-feet of personal space
  • Floor to ceiling sliding doors for full privacy
  • 1-1-1 configuration, replacing the former – more densely packed – 1-2-1 setup
  • Mercedes-inspired soft leather seats
  • The introduction of a Zero-Gravity position, inspired by NASA
  • Centre Suites will sport virtual windows, with real-time views generated by live camera technology
  • Window Suites will be fitted with binoculars, for guests wishing to take in the view
  • A video-call function to request service from the cabin crew, without leaving your suite. An audio-only call option is also available
  • Each suite has an “inspiration kit,” featuring a luxury skincare collection,  moisturizing pyjamas, and Bulgari amenity kits
  • In a further nod to the Emirates-Mercedes collaboration on this product, chauffer services from Dubai airport will come in the form of S-Class Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

The first routes to receive the new product, will be Dubai-Geneva and Brussels from 1st December 2017. Under current plans, it is only the 777-300ER that will receive the refit – not Airbus A380s.

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what about the rest of us?

Despite boasting a sports car style seat, that’s where the luxury ends. 7 abreast configurations in Business Class are not convenient, let alone luxurious and it staggers me that Emirates still advertise this sub-par product. It does, however, feature lie-flat seats and Emirates’ world-renowned hospitality onboard.

Emirates’ new 777 Business Offering

Economy Class will feature a new colour scheme, creating a refreshing spacious feel. The ergonomically-designed seats come with full leather headrests that have flexible side panels and can also be adjusted vertically for optimum support.

Economy has got a facelift too!
my view

There’s no denying that this product is a new-height in luxury. I love individual features such as light and temperature adjustments for your personal suite, virtual windows (I wonder if they’ll have a wing view!) and beautiful seats. This product seems painfully well-thought out for Emirates’ customers and I really feel this will show as a First Class passenger enters the aircraft for the first time. The suites are much larger than the previous counterpart – but Singapore’s new suites will sport a much larger footprint. Another possible downfall of this product, is it doesn’t really cater for those travelling together, unlike Singapore’s new Suites which can be converted into a double bed. What disappoints me though, is that Emirates still continues to pursue 7 abreast seating in Business Class on 777 aircraft, and that only 9 Boeing 777 aircraft are planned to be refurbished in the next two years, so the question arises – will this product make headway in Premium Class travel or will it become a gimmick? Only time will tell.

All images and featured image courtesy of Emirates.

September 2017: Route Review

As we glide into Autumn, airlines are well and truly giving us some great excitement with route planning for next summer. Here’s my monthly pick at the most important news.

Route Launches: 

Norwegian – Yet again, Norwegian dominates the route review – with new services from London Gatwick to Denver and Seattle both launching this month. Both services are to be operated by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, and compete fiercely with BA’s current London Heathrow-Denver service and the plethora of carriers serving London Heathrow-Seattle. With Thomas Cook starting Manchester-Seattle services next May, one may ask, is the UK-Seattle market becoming oversaturated? The proof will be in the figures.

In addition, on 28th September 2017, Norwegian launched their new Gatwick-Singapore connection – the first long haul flight to be operated under the Norwegian UK subsidiary. This flight will also operate with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner equipment, and marks the entry of Norwegian into the Singaporean market.

Norwegian operates their Boeing 787-9, equipped with Premium Economy on both new routes. Image: @londonspotter

Loganair – Loganair broke free from it’s Flybe alliance – starting it’s own services on September 1st. With the new services, comes the increase of Manchester-Glasgow flights to 6 a day, and a beautiful Tartan livery. What’s more, they’ve done all that without IndyRef 2

Route Announcements: 

United – After pulling back on the UK market, United has reinstated faith with the announcement of new services from:

  • Washington D.C. to Edinburgh (marketed cleverly by Edinburgh Airport as ‘Capitol to Capital’)
  • New York Newark to Reykjavik  & Porto
  • San Francisco to Zurich

All services will be operated by Boeing 757-200 aircraft, with the exception of Boeing 787-8 operated SFO-ZRH. The new European connections will begin next summer.

Air Canada – A transatlantic revolution is taking place, and for that we can thank the Boeing 737 MAX. The MAX opens up long thin markets for airlines to operate profitably; it’s why we are seeing routes such as Belfast to Providence, and Edinburgh to Stewart. Air Canada clearly didn’t want to miss out, and has announced services between Toronto & Shannon and Montréal & Dublin. This marks a massive vote of confidence in the Irish market for the Canadian flag carrier – as they will now serve three destinations from Dublin (Vancouver, Toronto, Montréal) and are the only foreign airline to offer a transatlantic destination other than New York, from Ireland’s second airport – Shannon.

Air Canada’s 737MAX render. Image: Air Canada

Delta – For Delta this month, it’s a very mixed story.

Firstly, let’s get the bad news out of the way. Next summer, Delta will cut two destinations all together – Moscow (SVO) and Stockholm (ARN). In addition, it will end service from Philadelphia to Heathrow (already announced) and Paris, suspending service from Newark to Amsterdam.

Now, on to the exciting route development news. Among the aviation community, it is widely seen that Delta is employing a rather different strategy than the other US airlines. Instead of expanding out of hubs, they are adding flights from smaller US markets to their main hubs of Paris and Amsterdam in Europe. Whilst in August, Delta announced a new Orlando-Amsterdam service, this month they went further. Delta will start a new 767-300ER service between Indianapolis and Paris in summer 2018, which will go on sale on the 23rd September. This will be the first transatlantic connection for Indianapolis – so, unsurprisingly, the route has been supported by subsides of $5 million, Indiana Business reports. They will also launch two new routes between Los Angeles and Paris/Amsterdam with Boeing 777-200LR equipment, adding to their joint venture partner’s (Air France and KLM respectively) frequencies. Finally, and perhaps the most surprising, is between New York JFK and Ponta Delgada (Azores). This makes Delta the only US airline to serve the Azores, and gives Delta two destinations in Portugal.

Of course, there is other less significant news and frequency changes but their is not enough room to report everything here.

Virgin Atlantic –  Virgin Atlantic will be increasing it’s operation at Manchester next year. They will be adding 40,000 seats to the market, with an additional 747 base. The new 747-400 will operate four-weekly services to New York JFK and three-weekly services to Atlanta. However, both routes are served daily, with the remainder being operated by the current A330-300 aircraft.

Next year, in peak summer, Virgin will offer 35 weekly transatlantic departures from Manchester, every week.

Icelandair – Iceland’s airlines just can’t stop growing. In fact, I may have to dedicate a whole blog post to them every month! This month, they announced services from their hub to Dallas/Fort Worth. Icelandair’s first venture into Texas will come in the form of a four-weekly, Boeing 757-200 service.

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

In other news, they also filed the schedule for their 737 MAX services, which will operate to only Birmingham in the UK.

WOW Air – Yes, you guessed it. WOW Air also announced flights to Dallas/Fort Worth. This connection will operate thrice-weekly, but with a widebody aircraft – the Airbus A330-300. Both airlines are clearly trying to upstage eachother, but I fear it could end badly for both airlines involved. On a lighter note, more competition can only be good for the passengers!

British Airways – British Airways announced in mid-September that it’s London Heathrow to Austin route would be upgraded to a Boeing 747-400, from a Boeing 787-9. That’s a massive capacity jump – particularly for the high-yielding cabins – and shows how the 787 really can open up new markets, that can then be grown into a great success.

In arguably more exciting news, British Airways is launching service to the Seychelles in March 2018. The service will operate with Boeing 787-9 aircraft, on a two weekly basis. The interesting development here is that BA will operate this flight from Heathrow, rather from primarily Leisure-based Gatwick. This is clearly to optimise connection opportunities, around Europe and Transatlantic.

British Airways is another airline dominating the route development discussion at the moment. Image: @londonspotter

Cathay Pacific – After starting the route in 2015, Cathay Pacific has now confirmed it is axing it’s Hong Kong to Dusseldorf route from March 2018.

On the contrary, it will increase its services on the Barcelona and Tel Aviv  to Hong Kong connections – both of which operate with Airbus A350 equipment.

KLM – KLM will launch new service from Amsterdam to Fortaleza in Summer 2018, on a twice-weekly basis, with Airbus A330-200 aircraft. This will mark KLM’s third gateway into Brazil, and secures KLM’s position in the Latin American market.

Emirates – Emirates announced plans this month to launch a fourth-daily Dubai-Sydney service, operating with Airbus A380-800 aircraft. It will add more and convenient connections for customers, and an additional 6.846 seats per week in capacity. This, and expansion to the Brisbane service, means the UAE national carrier will serve Australia 91 times every week.

Emirates A380 leaving London Gatwick. Photo by @londonspotter

Qatar Airways – Qatar Airways stunned everyone back in May, when they announced the intention to launch Doha to Cardiff flights. This month, they opened bookings for the new route. It will be operated on a daily basis, with Boeing 787-8 equipment. Great news for Wales & Cardiff!

Garuda Indonesia – Garuda Indonesia transferred from London Gatwick to London Heathrow some time ago. Previously, due to the strength of the runway at Jakarta, they had to make a refuelling stop in Singapore. Now, it appears that has been resolved, as Garuda Indonesia will offer non-stop Jakarta to London services from October 31st. Frequency will remain the same, but with an amended schedule, as Garuda wants   “to boost connections from the UK to Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Perth), the Far East (Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul) and China (Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai)”.

Royal Air Maroc – Before March 2017, Casablanca had never been served from Manchester before, but Royal Air Maroc came bursting onto the scene, offering a wealth of connections to Africa through their Moroccan hub. Now, they are increasing flights to 4-weekly from next summer; from a standing start, this route can widely be acknowledged as a great success.

Air France – Air France will be launching new service to Seattle and Taipei, after a hiatus from both markets. It will join KLM in the Taiwanese market and joint venture partner Delta in the Seattle market. Both services will operate with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, and from Paris Charles de Gaulle.