Posts Tagged ‘airline’

British Airways price fixing fine due

Monday, June 6th, 2011

British Airways has said it is continuing to examine a civil legal case which originally resulted in the carrier agreeing to pay a fine for price fixing to the Office of Fair Trading. It was originally agreed that BA would pay £121.5 million for its part in illegal price fixing with rival airline Virgin Atlantic.

The sum is the largest ever imposed by the watchdog and was seen as a major triumph back in August 2007. However, although BA has paid in full a fine issued for the same price fixing activity to the US Department of Justice for £183 million, it is still to pay the OFT imposed penalty.

The watchdog has set a payment deadline for the end of this year. A statement of objections will either see BA come up with the cash or officially challenge the fine. British Airways has said little, other than it continues to look at evidence. A criminal case brought against a group of airline executives by the OFT collapsed last year prompting BA to announce that it would be using the evidence from the trial to reassess its civil settlement obligations.

OFT boss, John Fingleton, said when asked about the possibility of BA withholding payment that he was not looking for a fight with the flag carrier. He added that the criminal case had no bearing on the civil action brought against the airline over price fixing.

The OFT said it had not changed its stance on the matter and had not revised the figure the airline was being asked to pay.

Airport liquid ban remains in place

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

A senior member of the European Parliament has voiced his concerns that UK airports are deliberately holding back on a lifting of the regulations on liquids for airline passengers because they do not want to spend money on new scanning equipment. Brian Simpson, head of the transport committee, said he did not believe that airports were refusing to relax the regulations on safety grounds but for economic reasons.

The Airport Operators Association said it was not yet convinced that the scanners, which cost around £50,000 each, were capable of doing a good enough job and that it was not prepared to risk passenger safety until it was certain.

The EU had hoped to have a partial lifting of the restrictions in place by the end of April for transit passengers. However, many member states refused to comply on the grounds of national security. A complete lifting of the liquids ban is scheduled for 2013, but Mr Simpson said he did not believe that airports would comply and would use the same excuses.

The UK government said that it had decided against easing the restrictions because of security threats. It said that it was still committed to the lifting of the ban in 2013, but added that this would depend on any threats to security at the time.

The Airport Operators Association said that it was aware that passengers who were asked to dispose of liquids such as perfume, alcohol and sun tan cream before boarding a flight were frustrated, but added that safety was the top priority.

British Airways cabin crew strikes could be over

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

British Airways passengers could soon breathe a sigh of relief as the disruptive battle between the airline and its cabin crew may finally be at an end. BA and Unite union bosses have reportedly agreed on a deal which they will be recommending to staff later today. It is believed that the airline may finally have backed down on the sticky issue of travel perks and agreed to return them to union members.

One of the longest running industrial disputes in recent history began 18 months ago when BA decided to implement cost cutting measures and reduce crew on some services. Following initial walkouts BA announced that striking staff would be relieved of their travel concessions, a move which resulted in deadlock between the two parties.

Late last year, a glimmer of hope that the fighting was finally at an end came when former chief executive of BA, Willie Walsh, and former Unite leader, Tony Woodley, agreed terms at the negotiating table. However, hard liners at BASSA, the Unite arm representing stewards and stewardesses, refused to accept the deal.

Since then, Mr Walsh has been replaced by Keith Williams and Len McCluskey now heads Unite. Although cabin crew recently voted to stage further walkouts, Unite has been cautious about officially announcing strike dates and BA has been willing to extend the time in which these dates legally have to be announced.

This has led many to believe that, at last, both the airline and the union believe they can come to a mutually beneficial solution to the problem.

Flybe reports drop in leisure sales

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Flybe, Europe’s leading regional airline, claims that consumers in the UK are cutting back on all but essential air travel because of economic pressures. It said that a slowdown in leisure travel had been apparent through February and March. The airline has seen the value of its shares drop by nearly 25 per cent.

In order to combat the rising price of oil Flybe has announced a fuel surcharge of £3 will be added to the price of tickets. The extra charge will apply to all bookings for flights on or after 1 September made from this Thursday. In order to maintain yields and capacity, the carrier also said it is considering taking a number of aircraft out of service.

In a trading update Flybe said it had managed to put in a strong performance in the final quarter and that pre-tax profits for the year ending 31 March would be in the region of £22 million. The quarter saw a rise in seats flown of 4.5 per cent compared to 2010 and passenger yields up by 10.5 per cent for the same period.

Although the leisure market was not performing particularly well, Flybe said the business market remained surprisingly resilient. Premium class customers account for around 45 per cent of the airline’s passenger volume.

The carrier also claims ticket sales for the summer period are already up by 5.4 per cent on the same time last year. Flybe said the fuel surcharge would be scrapped if the price of Brent dropped below $75 per barrel for a straight 28 days.

Air France flight data recorder found

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

A fourth attempt by investigators to locate the black box recorders of Air France flight 447 has resulted in success. One of the data recorders has been found, according to France’s BEA. The air accident investigation body says  it appears to be in good condition. It is hoped that information stored on the device will finally shed some light on what went wrong on 1 June 2009.

So far, experts have only been able to speculate why the Airbus A330 plunged into the Atlantic after leaving Rio de Janeiro for Paris. It is known that the airliner encountered storms and also that the pilots were being fed inaccurate information by their pitot air speed indicators. However, most agree that these factors were not enough to cause the catastrophe.

The black box recorders were manufactured by Honeywell International. Although they have been designed and tested to withstand pressures found at a depth of 20,000 feet it is not yet known if nearly two years of salt corrosion has damaged the innards.

Safety experts have said that even if there is salt damage it may still be possible to retrieve enough information to find out what went wrong in the final moments of the flight. The search will continue for other information recorders such as the cockpit voice recorder.

The plane crash was the worst in Air France’s history. The airline and manufacturer Airbus have funded the searches for the wreckage and will be keen to recover any data they can as they have both been indicted for manslaughter.

Singapore Airlines reduces Los Angeles service

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Lack of demand has caused Singapore Airlines to announce that it will be scaling back on the number of services to Los Angeles. The airline currently flies seven times a week, but as of 3 May it will temporarily be suspending its Tuesday and Wednesday schedules. An airline spokesman confirmed that the decision had been made because of a need to match passenger demand with available capacity.

When asked whether the cancellations had been made in reaction to the rising price of jet fuel, spokesman Nicholas Ionides said that although the cost of oil was having a negative affect across the airline industry the decision to cut back on the Singapore-Los Angeles route had been made purely as a reaction to consumer demand.

The Los Angeles service is for business-class passengers and uses Airbus A345 aircraft. According to Ionides, the mid-week flights tended to receive fewer bookings than the others and this is why they have been removed.

The price of a barrel of crude is currently at a two-and-a-half year high. In its last monthly report the International Energy Agency issued a warning that the recovery of the world’s economy was at risk if the price of crude remained on the market at above $100 per barrel.

Airlines are continuing to try an offset the cost of jet fuel by handing on fuel surcharges to their passengers. British Airways recently told customers that long-haul journeys would be £10 more expensive for economy and £20 more expensive for those travelling in premium-class.

British Airways chairman attacks airport security

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The chairman of British Airways has condemned airport security procedures and asked that many of the measures be scrapped. Sir Martin Broughton said it was unacceptable that airline passengers had to spend time waiting to go through security checks just because the rules say everyone should be treated in the same way.

He defended passenger screening claiming it is a far better way of spotting a risk than the current airport checks. He said he realised it was a discriminatory process but that it was probably more useful to check a Yemeni student than an airline pilot. Sir Martin added that uniformity meant everyone was suffering and that the quality of security was being reduced.

The BA boss went on to point out that pilots and cabin crew had to be considered the safest passengers there were and asked that they be exempted from the security process. He also said it was a waste of time to treat infants and celebrities in the same way as other passengers claiming that even Henry Kissinger had been flagged for additional security checks.

Sir Martin slammed security procedures last year when he claimed it was unreasonable of the US to demand an increase in the level of security following the attacks on the World Trade Centre. He pointed out that many of the procedures were not even being used by the Americans and that the UK should be able to decide what it thinks is appropriate.

He added that it was important to remember that the events of 9/11 were internal and not the direct result of foreigners flying into the country.

BA calls in psychologist for union negotiations

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

The ongoing conflict between British Airways and the union representing it cabin crew could soon be over as a clinical psychologist is brought in to help. The Unite union has until the weekend to let BA know whether there will be disruption over the Easter weekend. Last month, crew members voted for a fourth time to walk out if the airline did not offer to concede to demands.

Mark Hamlin, who claims to specialise in fragility of trust, has reportedly met with senior members of the airline and union bosses. He said that he was involved with helping Unite, BA and cabin crew representatives construct a more effective working relationship. He added that he hoped that in doing this the wider issues surrounding the conflict would be resolved.

It is thought that a resolution is more likely now that former BA boss Willie Walsh has been removed from the equation. Keith Williams replaced him as chief executive at the beginning of the year and has expressed a wish for a good working relationship with the airline’s cabin crew.

Unite has until the weekend to inform BA of any strike action and also has to give seven days notice. Unfortunately for the carrier’s customers this could result in disruption over the Easter weekend.

Last year there were 22 days of strike action. BA claims that contingency plans it has in place mean that even if cabin crew do walk out nearly all of its scheduled services will continue to run as normal.

Gordon Brown in British Airways seat row

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Gordon Brown found himself at the centre of a row on a British Airways flight to London from the Middle East recently after a number of other passengers were told they would have to move out of business class because of an overbooking issue.

The problem suddenly arose during a stopover in Abu Dhabi where the former PM and his entourage boarded the aircraft and took their seats in premium class.

The appearance of Mr Brown caused many passengers to conclude that they had been bumped so that the former leader could be seated. The accusation has been denied by both BA and Mr Brown’s representatives. A woman, who tried to take a photo of Mr Brown so that she could include it in a complaint to BA, said she had been shouted at by one of Mr Brown’s aides, Kirsty McNeill.

She said that BA was obviously more to blame than Mr Brown, and that Ms McNeill was a very unpleasant woman. An airline spokeswoman confirmed that apologies had been given to those who had their journey disrupted and that it was rare for passengers to have to be moved. She added that this had nothing to do with Mr Brown’s presence on the plane.

The spokeswoman went on to say that he and his companions had all booked their tickets on the flight well in advance. A spokeswoman for Mr Brown confirmed that all seats had been booked in advance and that at no time was the former PM offered any special treatment.

British Airways cuts Tripoli from schedule

Friday, March 25th, 2011

British Airways is asking all passengers who have booked flights to Tripoli to get in contact as it suspends operations to the Libyan capital. In a statement the carrier said it would not risk the safety of its staff or passengers and that services would not be resuming until after the summer. The airline confirmed that those holding tickets would be able to rebook to another destination or receive a refund.

Ryanair was recently forced to redirect flights from an airport in the south of Sicily after the Italian military commandeered it for operations into Libya. The budget carrier apologised to customers explaining that the matter was out of its control.

Travel companies are continuing to assess the impact or the recent troubles in North Africa and the Middle East on their business. Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt caused many to suspend holidays to the region. Although the situation is now much more stable it appears that travellers are still wary about adding the countries to their schedules.

Luxury operator Kuoni said it had seen booking volumes drop since 13 March by around seven per cent on the same period in 2010. The firm’s chief executive, Peter Rothwell, said that the rest of the year was likely to be extremely unpredictable because of the uncertain situation in some Arab nations and because the results of Japan’s massive earthquake were still to be assessed.

Although seen by travel companies as a safe alternative, bookings to Turkey have also nosedived because customers are worried that the trouble might spread.