Posts Tagged ‘British Airways’

Qantas unlikely to become a British Airways partner

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Following the collapse of merger negotiations in 2008 between British Airways and Australian carrier Qantas, International Airlines Group chief executive, Willie Walsh, has ruled out the possibility that they will be reopened. He said that, at the time, the synergies between the two flag carriers were ideal, but that leaks about the negotiations had scuppered the process.

At the end of last year, Mr Walsh said IAG would be looking to expand through tie-ups with other international carriers or through takeovers. He added that a list of 12 potential candidates had been drawn up, without releasing further details. Many industry insiders said at the time that Qantas was likely to be high on that list. Other possibilities included American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines and Chilean airline LAN.

Recently, Portugal’s TAP has been mooted as a possible acquisition. Although Mr Walsh denied having any discussions with the Portuguese government about the flag carrier, it is believed that the airline will be put up for sale as the country continues to battle its financial problems.

Mr Walsh predicts that as the price of oil remains high many airlines will be forced to seek partnerships in order to survive. He said that low-cost carriers were most at risk because jet fuel accounted for such a large percentage of their operating costs.

He pointed out that budget airlines were also unable to take advantage of the recovery of the cargo industry and the return of passengers willing to pay for premium class seats.

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.

Death of Bin Laden means heightened travel security

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

British travellers are likely to be subjected to more stringent security checks and may face longer queues at airports in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death. The authorities have expressed fears that his killing could result in terrorist reprisals. Airport scanners capable of capturing full-body images could now be rolled out to airports across the country. They are presently being used at Manchester, Birmingham and Heathrow and have been condemned by civil liberties campaigners for their ability to produce ‘nude’ images of passengers.

The EU’s plans to relax rules on carrying liquids into aircraft cabins are also likely to be put on hold as airlines increase their security measures. Airport, airline and pilots’ leaders have called on the government to become less politically correct in targeting potential terrorists.

Sir Martin Broughton, British Airways’ chairman, last month condemned the policy of treating all passengers’ equally. He said there was little to be gained by submitting an airline pilot to exactly the same checks as someone who had come from a high risk country like Yemen.

Jim McAuslan of the British Airline Pilots’ Association supported Sir Martin saying that profiling a passenger based on their travel plans, background, age and origin would be far more effective than subjecting everyone to the same checks.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, has told UK embassies that a review of security was needed and that the international terrorist threat should mean heightened vigilance. The State Department in the US has also warned American embassies to be prepared for possible reprisals following the Al Qaeda leader’s death.

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.

Travel boss calls for airport expansion

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Chairman of the Association of British Travel Agents, John McEwan, has said that even though the government needed to be congratulated on postponing any increase in the level of Air Passenger Duty until next year, more had to be done to make sure that the tax was a fair tax.

Speaking to delegates at a travel conference in London, the Abta chief also demanded better financial protection for those booking a holiday.

He pointed out that only around half of those booking a holiday in the UK were fully financially protected against something going wrong. He appealed to the travel industry as a whole to make sure that everyone was insured, no matter how they book their foreign holiday.

Mr McEwan also attacked the government for its decision not to agree to the expansion of airports in the south-east including Heathrow, Luton and Gatwick. He said that by not increasing capacity, the UK risked becoming uncompetitive. One of the reasons the coalition has denied plans to expand is the potential impact on the environment through CO2 emissions and noise pollution.

Keith Williams, chief executive of British Airways, also addressed the delegates and said that the airline industry needed to work harder at tackling the problem of climate change. He added that the country’s flag-carrier continued to look at ways to make itself greener. He too attacked the level of APD saying that even though an increase had been deferred to 2012, airlines in the UK were still being more heavily taxed than their global competitors.

British Airways keen to cement Japan Airlines partnership

Friday, April 1st, 2011

International Consolidated Airlines Group boss Willie Walsh has said the British Airways will continue to run a full service to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami which hit the north of the country earlier last month. He has also confirmed that the carrier is interested in cementing its links with Japan Airlines following its recent emergence from bankruptcy protection.

The state run Enterprise Turnaround Initiative, responsible for bailing the carrier out, has announced its intention to sell its controlling share of the company. Walsh has consistently maintained that he wishes to grow IAG by merging with other international airlines and has already had meetings with banks and Japan Airlines’ bosses.

The announcement follows a decision by All Nippon Airways to enter into a venture with Europe’s second largest carrier Lufthansa. Peter Harbison, of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, said a tie-up would make good business and strategic sense.

According to spokeswoman for Japan Airlines, Sze Hunn Yap, the company is keen to follow up a number of ideas with BA about how the pair can cooperate. As both are members of the Oneworld alliance there are already codeshare agreements in place. Japan Airlines, as part of its bankruptcy protection agreement, has already managed to secure financing and has retired aircraft and cut its workforce by around a third.

The Tokyo-based carrier is due to finalise a deal with American Airlines which will see increased cooperation on transpacific services. Walsh said he would like to see a similar tie-up with BA on routes between Europe and Asia.

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.