Can revisting some old assumptions help shape the future of longhaul travel?

(First published September 14, 2013 and Updated)

A lot of people like to travel and some like to travel far and wide. Take older people for example. Some of them like to travel so much that they sell their homes and buy mobile ones and spend their lives travelling slowly from place to place. In America they call them snow birds.  Traditionally they travel south in the winter en mass to places such as Florida and Arizona.

But I am not old, and I like to travel. In fact I love travelling. But what I do not like are long – longhaul trips. What I am talking about her is anything over 10 hours or so without a proper break – i.e. bed, shower and proper meal where I can extend my elbows more than 2 inches without bumping into the person next to me.

A snowbird

A snowbird relaxing

My parents live in Australia, and they like to travel.  My father emigrated from England as a child with his parents shortly after the second world war. The journey to Australia, by flying boat, is one of the most vivid memories he has. He flew with an airline which was to become British Airways in later years.

Now it is well known that flying in those days was an altogether different proposition and that it is now routine. Dad describes the flying boat as an old crate and said that his ears used to ring for hours every night when they had stopped for the overnight rest. For the last fifty years or so we have had reliable means to travel from one side of the planet to the other pretty quickly. For a machine it is easy. For our bodies, it is quite demanding. Technology has  evolved but our bodies are the same.

So would they now prefer a journey to or from Australia which takes a few days or a journey which takes 26 hours virtually non-stop?

Lets look at the historic journey. He describes it as an adventure. The great flying boat took off on the water from the harbour in Southampton and then made its way South and East stopping at the far flung corners of the earth for fuel and rest. Places with romantic names and which are still far flung and remote even today. The aircraft was much slower than today and they stopped to rest in the evening. Eventually arriving at Singapore, then a colonial outpost, they stayed overnight at Raffles. Some 30 years later he took me there. I was too young to appreciate it I think. Their journey must have cost a small fortune and would cost even more today.

The plane had been in service in the war and was by then pretty knackered. It broke down at least once and it was very noisy and vibrated. No doubt due to the lower cruising altitude it would have been a bumpy ride. But their journey was fast at the time. It was much much faster than the alternative journey by boat which took over a month.

But for the last 40 years the speed of air travel has plateaued. The Boeing 747 is still one of the the fastest commercial planes in the air and Concord, never something for the mass market, has come and gone, utterly failing to revolutionanise long haul travel. There are no serious contenders on the horizon to do so.

So long haul travel will not get any faster any time soon.

This is an important fact to grasp as I think there is an underlying assumption that progress means more speed and shorter more comfortable journey times, and this is not true.  Regardless of this, we still have this idea that one day we should be able to get anywhere in a few hours and that we are somehow working towards it.

Long distance air travel has gone from being the prevail of the lucky few, to a mass market industry. Comfort levels have both improved and worsened. Personal space and comfort for most passengers has reduced. If you are doing longhaul in economy it is something of an ordeal.

We, the passenger, just want to get wherever we are going in one piece and as comfortably as possible. We are not looking forward to the jet lag.

It is difficult to stretch your legs or arms and any movement is greatly restricted for fear of disturbing the persons next, in front or behind you. You are permitted toilet breaks.  The aircraft is usually only pressurized to around 8000 ft* and the air is constantly filtered and recycled. Breaks at airports are made for operational reasons, not so the passengers can get out and stretch their legs and have a coffee.

By the time you arrive at your destination, you are thoroughly disorientated, often in pain, unwashed  (& unshaven), possibly constapated, feet swollen, body clock set for a different time zone, and with a nice chunky cough that you picked up in the cabin. Congratulations! You have just crossed the planet in a day.

With this mindset, have we have lost the pleasure of the journey, and does it necessarily have to be so?

cramped airline seats

Love that middle seat

Speed is good, and there is probably no point in hanging about in the air, unless you are flying in some sort of retro -futuristic giant luxury zeppelin casually making its way from city to city while its passengers sip cocktails and enjoy the view. And I can in my minds eye see flocks of snow birds travelling round in giant zeppelins, but there isn’t always the need for the great haste in traveling long distances that we have become conditioned to. We are not all business types flying urgently from one mega meeting to another, nor are we rock stars sipping Crystal in first so getting somewhere in good shape is for many of us more important than getting somewhere quickly. When you realise that you spend the next two days after any longhaul flight in recovery mode, it becomes more apparent what a false economy saving time in the journey really is.

So, my argument is that it may be often be advantageous to spend 48 -56 hours traveling from Australia to Europe and to break up the journey into separate flights with a day or so break in between. It is possible to do this already of course, but it is not available, and more importantly organised, as a matter of routine for a comparable cost to the direct, rushed journey.

What could such a leasurely trip look like and what could it cost?

The problem is with current booked stop-overs is that they make the cost of the trip so much more. But I don’t think it needs  to cost the passenger much more, and there would be a advantages for the airline and partner hotels.  So, let us take a hypothetical Mr. and Mrs. Dursley. They are both 73 and want fly out to Sydney to see their son’s new child – Bruce.

They book a return trip from London to Sydney. On boarding their flight they are sandwiched into their economy seats. They arrange themselves as best as they can and put on their complimentary soft socks.

They have their complimentary gin and tonic and commence watching the screens directly in front of them. They have several meals and being wise people they get up several times to stretch their legs and wiggle their toes. Mrs. Dursley has a mild back condition from too much lifting of patients when she was a nurse and finds sitting for too long uncomfortable. She can cope with about 8 hours though and at Abu-Dhabi they have their first break in an Airport hotel, at £40 inclusive of one meal they thought it very reasonable. They have about 20 hours between transits 24 so they do decide to have a look about town, but another couple they met on the plane, the Potters, simply stay in the hotel and rest.

The next day they board their flight looking forward to stopping in Singapore. In Singapore they decide to make a night of it, but still have time to relax and recuperate.  He is pretty chuffed about this and enjoys his night out. They aren’t loaded but they have a few drinks and an extra meal in the hotel and Mrs. Dursley treats herself to a foot massage in the hotel spa.

The next day they board their flight to Australia and arrive eight hours later in good spirits with two new friends. They cannot praise enough the journey they have just made. They loved it, and they love the airline for thinking of them and providing such a thoughtful service at such a good price.

Recently,  Singapore Airlines in partnership with Changi Airport have launched a stop-over in Singapore for about £27 GBP ($59 Singapore dollars). So, it would seem that at least one airline sees this approach as viable.

So what would be involved in providing such a service, at very little extra initial cost to the passenger. What would be the potential advantages for the airline?

Lets look at what can happen already…

I have flown back from Australia to the UK on Korean Air. I have to say it was very pleasant. The plane was an old 747 but one of the advantages of old planes is that they frequently have wider seats and more leg room. The service was good.  On the return journey a stop-over in Seoul was compulsory. The plane simply stopped there overnight. Why? I am not entirely sure, but I think it is because that is where Korean Air’s hub is and the plane was there to be refueled restocked and re-crewed. The passengers were put up overnight in the Airport Hilton and given a voucher for dinner. Dinner was nice, but of course, was a restricted menu of rather less lavish food than generally on offer. I went to the bar and had a few drinks and then went to bed, in a real bed. The next day I went out of the airport and went shopping.

Shopping was an experience as the large shopping mall next to the airport was, I think, in the process of being constructed. I wasn’t sure whether it was open or not, whole floors were largely vacant but had a few shops open and trading. The building was largely deserted.

I specifically chose to fly with Korean Air because of their mandatory but free stop-over. I chose to journey this way so I would be in better condition when arriving back in the UK and it worked. I was less tired and had virtually no jet lag, and I have also have the memory of a slightly bizarre shopping trip.

I think that there could be room for providing for people who want to make their way from A to B in a more leisurely way. I am sure that airport and other hotels are not fully booked all the time and passengers like my parents and me for that matter could help fill the gaps, adding to the bottom line for airlines hotels and stop-over destinations.  There is an opportunity to bring back the journey as part of the adventure, for the ordinary punter, rather than something to endure and to get over with.

[note * The latest generation (787 Dreamliner) to 6,000 ft.]


British Airways has teamed up with HBO to offer HBO programmes on long-haul flights

With programmes such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, Girls, True Detective, Looking and Curb Your Enthusiasm to be shown.

Game of Thrones

a pivotal moment in the first series

BA announced “We’re excited to be the first airline in the UK to have a dedicated HBO channel, offering more entertainment options than ever before.”

BA is aware of the trend for ‘binge-watching’ on flights, with customers viewing back-to-back episodes of a TV series to keep up to date or simply catch up. Binge-watching or “gorging” is a phenomenon also recently acknowledged by Netfix which allows its customers to view as much content as they can deal with.

In addition to the series some movies will be shown.

Willie Walsh has been vocal on this issue and it seems as though his voice has been heard, as UK passengers on some long-haul flights will pay less tax following a revamp of Air Passenger Duty (APD).

APD naoooooo!!!

APD makes passengers quite cross..

The changes will see the two highest of the four APD tax bands are to be scrapped, the chancellor announced in yesterday’s budget.

At the moment more tax is charged on some flights, despite often similar distances, a situation George Osborne called crazy and unjust.

For example, APD was criticised for being based on the distance from London to a country’s capital city. So, the tax on a 4,400-mile flight to Trinidad is taxed at as much as £332, while a trip to Hawaii, 7,000 miles away, attracts a £268 tax because the US capital is closer to London.

“From next year, all long-haul flights will carry the same, lower, band B tax rate that you now pay to fly to the United States,” said Mr Osborne.

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK said the move was “a step in the right direction”.

British Airways said the government should go further and abolish APD completely.

India has always been an important destination for British Airways, now more than ever.

Today we have a look at some current marketing initiatives..

India is one of the most important markets for British Airways. It is the airline’s second largest market globally with connections from five key cities in India 48 times a week to over 500 destinations around the world.  British Airways has been flying to India for around 85 years.

photo of BOAC poster India

How a campaign used to look

The “Go Further to Get Closer” campaign, was launched on Valentine’s Day and narrated the story of how British Airways helped Sumeet Gupta surprise his wife and made it possible for them to get closer.

The premise of the  story is that surprise and love go hand in hand and of how British Airways helped him surprise his wife Chetna by giving them an opportunity to escape from daily distractions and get closer to each other.

“Go Further to Get Closer”, produced by Ogilvy India, is an emotional campaign and shows how British Airways’ marketing strategy for India focuses on introducing India centric naratives to create an emotional and meaningful connection with the younger audience.  The campaign is based on the view that affluent young couples today have fallen into the trap of making work their top priority in life, and that this focus is takes a toll on their personal relationships as they are unable to spend enough quality time with their partners. But a solution for this is to travel internationally to see their family and friends.

In December 2013 in what was another inovative move, BA brought Silent Picturehouse in Mumbai- A three day film extravaganza to commemorate 100 years of Indian cinema. Launched in London in 2010, British Airways’ Silent Picturehouse created a unique cinematic experience, screening three films on three screens, combining the in-flight entertainment experience with the traditional cinema environment.

Viewers were able to tune in to their movie of choice from the available options using wireless headphones thus immersing themselves completely in the world of film. This was the first time that ‘Silent Picturehouse’ was launched in an international market outside the UK.

As part of the marketing campaign to promote the UK globally, the GREAT Big British Invite, British Airways and VisitBritain in February 2013 hosted a four-day grand event at the Phoenix Mall in Mumbai showcasing British fashion, music, heritage among others in the form of pop-up stores in true British style. The activity reportedly generated great amount of interest among the people of Mumbai.


British Airways has teamed up with high end retailer Harrods to host a series of mid flight fashion shows, the first of which took place on its route to Cape Town on February 6.

So, ahead of London Fashion Week, which runs from 14 to 18 February, 200 guests onboard an A380 aircraft enjoyed a runway-style show along the aisles of the plane. Models wore outfits from iconic British designers including Stella McCartney, Temperley London, Jenny Packham and Victoria Beckham.

The the footwear on show was by Jimmy Choo. Harrods managing director Michael Ward is quoted as stating: “Harrods is delighted to have partnered with British Airways, bringing together two iconic British brands, to create a spectacular event.” “Celebrating the exceptional design of the A380, we were able to present the talent and creativity of our most respected British fashion designers, in a unique experience at 30,000ft.”

Guests onboard the flight were served a Champagne high tea prepared by Harrods’ in-house restaurant The Saxon and South African chef David Higgs.

BA will launch its Flying with Confidence course in Dubai next month

.. apparently in response to the results of a recent YouGov survey, Gulf marketing website Kippreport reports.

Pteromerhanophobia or fear of flying, is quite a common and debilitating problem. Famous sufferers include, Isaac Asimov (which is ironic), Doris Day, Dennis Bergkamp and Agnetha Faltskog.

So it comes as little surprise that the survey, commissioned by BA and made up of 1,000 respondents, indicated that more than one in four UAE residents have a fear of flying and that 42 per cent of nervous flyers feel that the fear diminishes their quality of life. So decided to launch its ‘Flying with Confidence’ course on February 17, to help address this.

fear of flying course

There is no way you are getting me up in one of those things…

The one day course is also currently offered in the UK and the US, and according to BA has helped more than 45,000 people over the past 25 years. The course includes a session from a BA captain who will explain the technical side of flying (including presumably how it stays up), how an aircraft operates and other issues, such as turbulence, and a specialised counsellor will provide advice on relaxation techniques, and how best to deal with anxiety and feelings of panic.

BA says the course has a 98 per cent success rate, and “the course is tailored to fit participants regardless of whether they have a mild anxiety about flying, are unable to board an aircraft or develop a sudden debilitating phobia.”

Virgin also has a course to combat the fear of flying called flying without fear held here in the UK.

British Airways is extending the number of routes operated by its new aircraft and increasing frequencies on some routes for summer 2014 (from March 30).


British Airways now has three A380s and four 787s. Thanks to the arrival of the new aircraft into the fleet, the airline is able to confirm that the A380 and 787 will operate between London and the following destinations in Summer 14:


• The A380 will begin services to Washington from September 1, 2014. The aircraft is already flying to Los Angeles and Hong Kong and will start services to Johannesburg in February 2014.


• The 787s will next launch on services to:


• Hyderabad from 30 March


• Chengdu from 5 May


• Philadelphia from 5 June


• Calgary from 5 July


 The 787 is already flying between London and Toronto and New York Newark and will operate services to/from Austin when the route launches on 3 March 2014.


 Additional frequencies:


• The airline will increase the number of flights to/from Chengdu from three to five a week (also from 5 May).


• From 6 May, Tokyo Haneda will move from five-a-week to daily flights. The Haneda flights will also be re-timed to a more convenient 8.50am departure from Haneda (currently 6.35am).


• Mexico City will also benefit from an increase from five to six services a week from April 27.


• Cape Town will gain an extra three Boeing 777-200ER flights a week through South Africa’s cooler winter season (the Northern Hemisphere’s summer) taking it from a daily service to 10 flights a week and accommodating an additional 219 customers in four cabins.


 These flights are available for sale.


British Airways says it is investing more than £5bn in new aircraft, smarter cabins, elegant lounges, and new technologies to make life more comfortable in the air and on the ground.


British Airways also says it is the first airline in the UK to fly the A380 and the first in Europe to fly both the A380 and 787. Customers on these aircraft are able to enjoy the new cabins and seats that have proved so popular on the airline’s 777-300Ers.


Both aircraft types make major environmental advances and contribute toward the airline’s ambitious targets for noise and carbon reduction.


British Airways is to increase its Cape Town flights from May 2014

BA will add three extra flights per week to its schedule from May to October which corresponds with Winter in the Southern Hemisphere taking flights up to 10 per week.

The change comes after South African Airways decided to halt its Heathrow-Cape Town service in August 2012 due to a lack of demand.

BA is currently operating a double-daily service between the two cities during the busy October to May summer season in South Africa.

Buy before you fly…

British Airways and Tourvest Duty Free have launched a ‘buy-before-you-fly’ service for long-haul customers, with the goods delivered direct to your seat when you fly on selected routes.

Christmas tree and presents copyright Amelia Lyons

Socks and soap on a rope I just know it..

British Airways customers will be able to pre-order from a selection of products, including top brands and travel exclusives, at highlifeshop.com

British Airways think that this will be welcome news to a number of travelers that accidentally leave presents at home.

The new service has been launched ahead of Christmas, one of the busiest times for onboard shopping, and BA say, with nearly a third (32 per cent) of customers revealing that they would consider buying their Christmas gifts on board flights.

The selection of gifts include; accessories, apparel, souvenirs, beauty, children’s gifts, cigarettes, confectionery, fragrances, gadgets, gifts, jewelry, liquor, sunglasses, watches and writing instruments.

In the run up to Christmas, the airline’s in-flight retail team have compiled their top gifts, for high flyers to buy in advance:

Boo, world’s cutest dog, £18 (save £3): Boo is a small plush Pomeranian dog with a funky haircut. He is loved by millions of people worldwide with his own Facebook page and book.

Swarovski Rocking Santa, £32 (save £7): Cute and playful, this adorable Santa wears a bright red outfit in Light Siam crystal.

Classic Mini Wireless Computer Mouse White, £35 (save £5): Based on the 60′s classic mini cooper, this is a fully functioning wireless executive gadget, computer mouse, featuring left and right click, scroll wheel and authentic design and styling.

Aviator Foldable Sunglasses, £155 (save £5): Ray-Ban Folding Aviator sunglasses bring an element of fun and space conservation to the iconic design. The tubular metal temples have a hinged curve that allows you to fold your sunglasses into a compact size that fits in a unique smaller Ray-Ban lens case.

Barbara Rihl Crossover bag London Chic £100 (save £25): This bold, graphic bag from Parisian brand Barbara Rihl combines a colourful travel-themed design with innovative pouches designed for travel.

Does any of this appeal to you? We would like to know what you think about in flight shopping, and pre-flight shopping?

BA posts its- “Where to be seen in 2014″ list.

Published November 5, 2013, in Features, Longhaul, News

British Airways has compiled its top 14 destinations for 2014. From Britney in Vegas to football in Brazil, and the hidden ski slopes of Moscow to the bliss of the Greek islands – there’s something for everyone.

Claire Bentley, British Airways Holidays managing director, said: “… All eyes will be on Brazil with the World Cup taking place; we’re even planning extra capacity to fly out supporters. There’s also eagerly anticipated new flights to Texas, and top European destinations just in time for summer. For the adventurous traveller there’s still plenty to discover in destinations such as Johannesburg and Chengdu. We’re also upping services to popular destinations including Orlando, Ibiza and Marrakech.”

The top destinations for 2014 are:

· Austin, USA
The self-proclaimed ‘live music capital of the world’ is booming right now. From hundreds of live music venues to barbeque pits and gleaming shopping centres, as well a growing technology industry in the ‘Silicone Hills’. The Texan capital has drawn a young hip crowd thanks to the popularity of its South by Southwest festival. From March, British Airways will operate its new 787 Dreamliner on the route, with flights from £537 return.

· Johannesburg, South Africa
The imminent film release of ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ is a timely reminder of the social regeneration the country has undergone. There’s so much to discover in this vibrant country, from the Apartheid Museum to the world heritage site of the Cradle of Humankind, as well as game reserves and safaris. From February, British Airways’ A380 will operate the route, with flights from £637 return.

· Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Caiprinhas at the ready – revellers from around the world will descend on Brazil, for the ‘Copa do Mundo’, which comes to a climax in Rio on July 13. Despite its many cultural attractions, the reason to come in 2014 is to enjoy the party atmosphere and camaraderie among 25,000 British fans, cheering on Roy Hodgon’s men. British Airways flights to Rio de Janeiro start from £927 return in June.

· Albuquerque, USA
Thanks to its cult following, ‘Breaking Bad’ has put Albuquerque on the map and boosted local tourism. But there’s more to New Mexico than chicken shops and car washes – it boasts spas, golf courses, dormant volcanoes, hot air ballooning, ghost tours, sunshine 310 days a year, and of course tours from the programme! British Airways operates services to Dallas and Chicago, with connecting flights to Albuquerque with American Airlines, from £574.

· Leeds, UK
Just an hour’s flight away and you could be digging for Roman coins, visiting unique breweries and enjoying countryside walks – all in Britain. Boosted by popular TV including ‘Educating Yorkshire’ and ‘Downtown Abbey’, it’s no surprise that Yorkshire came third in Lonely Planet’s top destinations for 2014. British Airways flights to Leeds start from £94 return.

· Chengdu, China
In the next seven years, China will become the most popular tourist destination, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. With high end hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and Six Senses popping up in Chengdu – now’s the time for intrepid travellers to discover this Eastern mystery. While many come for the giant panda sanctuary, British Airways flights have also opened up the possibility of onward travel to Tibet and the rest of China too. Flights start from £591 return.

· Las Vegas, USA
When you thought it couldn’t get any better, Britney Spears comes along and announces a two-year residency in Las Vegas. This isn’t the only new attraction – there’s the Aria Hotel and soon-to-open Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Plane Food’ at McCarran international airport. Three nights stay at the luxury Aria Hotel, including British Airways flights, from £967 per person, for travel 3-6 January.

· Santorini, Greek Islands
The romantic and magical island of Santorini is expected to be one of the airline’s most popular honeymoon destinations when it launches in May. The warm reception and great value for money still make Greece one of top holiday spots for Britons. British Airways offers seven nights at the four star Scorpios Beach Apartments & Studios with breakfast, from £399 per person in June, including flights from Heathrow.

· Glasgow, Scotland
Get among the Scottish spirit when the Commonwealth Games come to town on July 23. One of Europe’s most vibrant cities, enjoy a warm friendly welcome and good times. British Airways operates flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City, from £77 return.

· Oporto, Portugal
The historic town of Oporto is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. Wine lovers have long enjoyed its charms and from March British Airways customers will be able to as well. A three-night break in Oporto, staying at the four star Mercure Porto Centro, including flights, start from £299 per person in June.

· Hong Kong, China
There’s still so much to discover in Hong Kong. From the rawness of Kowloon market, to the luxury of the Four Seasons Hotel, there’s something for everyone. Big in 2014 is the merging of venues, such as Duddel’s art-gallery-cum-restaurant, one of many collaborations to seek out. British Airways’ A380 superjumbo serves the route, with flights from £563 return.

BA posts its 14 top destinations for 2014

Just another day at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong







· Moscow, Russia
Russia may not instantly come to mind when you think of ski and snowboarding breaks, but the Sochi Winter Olympics has raised its profile as a serious contender for thrill seekers. Moscow is home to the centrally located ‘Three Hills’ resort, or take a quick connecting flight to Sochi with its ‘Rosa Khutor’ resort. British Airways flights to Moscow start from £229 return in February – connecting flights to Sochi are available using the airline’s codeshare partner S7 Airlines.

· Mykonos, Greek Islands
Launching in May, British Airways will start flights to the cosmopolitan island of Mykonos. A great party destination for those that like their cocktails strong and evenings long. Enjoy seven nights at the four star Pelican Bay Art including breakfast, from £539 per person in June, with flights from Heathrow.

· Malta
Glorious weather, picture perfect beaches and the bustling nightlife of St Julian’s make Malta a firm favourite for the year ahead. Often used as a setting for Hollywood films, names such as Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt and Rachel Weisz have been spotted here. From March, British Airways operates a new service from Gatwick. Five nights at the five star Le Meriden St Julians, including flight start from £489 per person.

British Airways route to Zambia now closed.

Published October 28, 2013, in Countries, Longhaul, News

The British Airways officially closed the Zambia route on Saturday after Having announced the route closure a month ago, yesterday 27 October 2013, saw the suspension of the tri-weekly service to Lusaka.

While the Lusaka route has been suspended the traffic in other countries by the British Airways has increased, and BA continues to serve East Africa with a daily service to Nairobi and a thrice weekly service to Entebbe, increasing to four times a week from the start of the summer schedule 2014.

Severe weather warning UK 28th October 2013

Published October 27, 2013, in Gatwick, Heathrow, Longhaul, News

This from the British Airways website, as at 17:20 hrs UK time. (For the latest information from BA go to the BA website on the link here.)

“British Airways has complied with a request from Heathrow Airport to reduce its flying schedule on Monday 28 October as a result of the severe forecast storms. 

The airport has instructed all airlines using Heathrow to reduce their schedules in the following manner on Monday:
Between 0600 and 1100 a 20 per cent reduction in the schedule has been applied
Between 1100 and 1600 a 10 per cent reduction in the schedule has been applied
Between 1600 and 2230 a 5 per cent reduction in the schedule has been applied
All of the agreed cancellations for British Airways are from the European and domestic networks. Other flights, still shown as operating, may suffer from delays.
All British Airways long-haul flights into and out of London Heathrow are currently planned to operate as normal, albeit there may be some delays due to the poor weather.”

BA recommends checking the status of your flight before leaving for the airport.

Heathrow flights reduced 28th October 2013

Stormy weather predicted

As at the time of writing Gatwick Airport are also recommending checking the status of flights before leaving for the airport.  The Gatwick website link here.  Also check whether Gatwick Express, Southern Railway and First Capital Connect services are running. As at the time of this article there are reports that neither Gatwick Express or Southern Railway services will be running early morning.

It would be a good bet to check the status of your flight whichever airport you are leaving from.

‘Gig on a Wing’ event held to celebrate British Airways new A380 to Hong Kong features Leona Lewis

Published October 25, 2013, in A380, Airports, Celebrity, Fleet, Longhaul, News

Supermodel Georgia May Jagger, fashion designer Alice Temperley MBE, and singer Leona Lewis came together last night (24 October), to fly the flag for Britain, at the ‘Gig on a Wing’ event to celebrate British Airways’ new A380 superjumbo operating to Hong Kong.

Intended to showcase the best of British music, fashion, design and cuisine to an audience of local leaders in travel and entertainment, the event took place inside a hangar at Hong Kong International airport, with the A380 forming the centrepiece of the show.

Georgia May Jagger, daughter of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger took to the stage with British Airways Chief Executive Keith Williams to close the evening, and said: “I’m so happy British Airways invited me to Hong Kong on their first A380 flight. The service, food and flat beds on the long haul flights are second to none and I always arrive feeling well rested. I love Hong Kong too and look forward to returning and spending more time in this great city”.

A380 gig on a wing bus

Gettin’ off the bus

British Airways’ ‘Gig on a Wing’ event launched with a fashion show by British designer Alice Temperley MBE. Fresh from showing at last month’s London Fashion Week, Alice showed guests to her Spring/ Summer 2014 collection from the award winning Temperley London collection. Models descended the steps of the A380 aircraft onto British Airways’ specially created ‘runway’ catwalk. Temperley, who has designed dresses for stars including Keira Knightly, Rihanna, Beyonce and The Duchess of Cambridge, said: “I was thrilled to be asked by British Airways to showcase my new Spring/Summer 2014 collection in Hong Kong and at such a unique and glamorous event. The people here really appreciate cutting edge design, fine tailoring and effortless style, very similar to that of British Airways new A380.”

This was followed by a live performance from former X-Factor winner Leona Lewis. Lewis performed tracks on a specially created stage, flush with the A380’s 261-foot twin-engine wingspan. Leona’s set included a cover of Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away”, her number one selling track “Bleeding Love” and “Come Alive”.


Speaking after her performance, Leona said: “Performing on the wing of the British Airways A380 was an incredible experience and one I will never forget. After singing on top of a double-decker bus at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I thought that would be a hard act to follow, but tonight’s ‘Gig on a Wing’ event was very special and unique”.

The gig on a wing A380 in the spotlight

The gig on a wing.

It was a truly swish event with the Langham Hong Kong providing guests with a very British affair, treating them to treats that included mini pork pies, Sunday roast and fish and chips canapés, followed by a true taste of home with an afternoon tea boasting a chocolate London bus, a marshmallow Big Ben and an Alice Temperley inspired vanilla shortbread.

This was complemented by Flower Duet cocktails. Luxury five star hotel, The Langham Hong Kong, is located in the heart of Kowloon.

Japan Ministry approves Finnair’s inclusion in the joint business between Japan Airlines and British Airways

Published October 25, 2013, in Longhaul, News

Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has granted anti-trust immunity to a joint business between Japan Airlines, Finnair and British Airways. (Finnair flies daily from Helsinki to Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.) This opens the way for Finnair to join the existing joint business between Japan Airlines and British Airways. The agreement will allow all three airlines to cooperate commercially on flights between Europe and Japan. British Airways operates from Heathrow to Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports and Japan Airlines daily operates from Tokyo to London and Paris Frankfurt and Helsinki.

Finnair plane flying from Japan


The new joint business is expected to be launched next Spring. The addition of Finnair will further enhance customer benefits by providing better links between the EU and Japan, with more flight choices and enhanced frequent flyer benefits. In addition, this new joint business will allow the three airlines to cooperate on expanding their presence within, to and from this important and growing market.

The revenue-sharing agreement will strengthen the oneworld® alliance and enable it to compete more effectively around the world with other global alliances.

President of JAL, Yoshiharu Ueki, said “Amid the evolving Japanese aviation industry, the ATI will enable us to build a stronger value-creating relationship with British Airways and Finnair that can further benefit our customers as well as our business.”

Pekka Vauramo, CEO of Finnair, said, “We are glad we are now one step closer to starting the cooperation with JAL and British Airways to provide our customers with better connections between the EU Japan.”



Keith Williams, chief executive of British Airways said, “Today’s decision by the MLIT will benefit the customers of all three airlines by allowing us to explore ways to improve the connections between East and West.”




Willie Walsh blasts the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin over A380 launch claim

Published October 24, 2013, in Longhaul, News

IAG boss Willie Walsh was annoyed to learn that the new aviation minister had declared to the leaders of the aviation industry that the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, was in Hong Kong launching British Airways’ new A380 superjumbo service. Mr. Walsh pointed out that not only was McLoughlin not on board the plane, he had not been not invited, and was not going to be allowed to take the credit.

A a conference on Tuesday Mr. Walsh stated: “The government has not done anything to launch our new services to China.”


British Airways A380 in air possibly  to China

The A380 in flight

In fact, he said, its policies on air passenger duty and Chinese visas were harming British aviation and business.

“It’s not happening. I’m not going to sit here and let the government take credit for something we are doing on our own without their support.”

This was in response to Mr. Goodwill announcing at the opening the Airport Operators Association conference in London which is the air industry’s major annual event that – “The secretary of state, Patrick McLoughlin, cannot be with us here today because he’s in China, promoting our interests.” “He will shortly be launching British Airways new A380 service from Hong Kong – and is coming back to the UK on that maiden flight.”

Two BA Airbus flights suffer problems with pitot tubes resulting in emergency landings

Published October 15, 2013, in Fleet, News

Four years ago Air France flight 447 fell out of the sky and crashed into the Altantic Ocean killing everyone on board. When the black box was located, two years after the event, it was determined from the data recorded, that the trigger for the event was the pitot tubes, which measure flight speed and altitude, freezing up in severe weather. This stopped the flow of flight speed data, which caused the autopilot to trip out, returning control of the plane to the pilots.

Who is to blame for what happened next remains a contentious issue, but the combination of confusion in the cockpit about what was happening, confusing and contradictory alarms and a lack of any visual information due to it being night and stormy conditions appears to have led to the plane being put into a stall from which it was never recovered.

British Airways A321

British Airways A321

Prior to the crash it had already been recommended that models of Thales pitots were upgraded to a different model or replaced with a model made by Goodrich Sensors and Integrated Systems which are regarded as being more resilient to adverse conditions.

A report issued by the AAIB in September revealed that two British Airways aircraft made emergency landings last year after their systems suffered similar weather induced malfunctions in the same way as flight 447 four years ago.

This time, the training of pilots to deal with just this sort of malfunction appears to have made the difference.

So what are pitot tubes and what is the problem?

Pitot tubes measure the flow of a fluid, in this case air, and based on the data returned, a calculation can be made of an airplane’s height and speed. The probes are fitted with heaters to stop them icing up. But during severe weather conditions the heating to the tubes can be overwhelmed and the tubes freeze up. When the data the aircraft is receiving degrades, the autopilot, rather than try to fly the plane with poor data, trips out and returns the control of the aircraft to the pilots. This happens abruptly and in difficult conditions.

When control is returned to the pilots under such conditions, it can be returned with some of the usual safety controls in place, or even none. The usual safety controls keep the plane in a protective envelope, preventing, for example, the plane being put into a stall. So when the auto pilot cuts out, some, or all, of this protection is lost. Two of the landings were made entirely manually with none of the safety systems operational.

The AAIB report reveals three separate incidents affecting two aircraft.

In the first incident on April 20 2012, a BA Airbus 321 with 183 passengers from Stockholm to Heathrow flew into storm clouds as it approached London. The tubes froze forcing the autopilot to switch off and sending erratic and contradictory data to the pilots. The flight diverted to Stansted, where it touched down safely without the instruments telling the pilot his air speed.

A second incident, affecting the same aircraft, happened on June 16. The plane was flying from Edinburgh to Heathrow with 183 passengers and crew, when its autopilot switched off while it was climbing through clouds. Once again an emergency landing was made at Stansted under manual control.

Despite the same aircraft being affected twice AAIB investigators blame the weather rather than the plane.

And on August 20 a British Airways Airbus encountered a -23C air pocket at 26,800ft, causing the instruments to give conflicting and incorrect information. On this occasion they were reset and the aircraft continued on its journey.

So why, given that there are known problems with the pitots haven’t they all been replaced?

Some people point to the regulation. The pitot tubes performance exceeds that which is required by the regulators, a point which Airbus has made repeatedly. Also, there is a low incidence of the tubes malfunctioning. But when they do malfunction, the results are potentially very dangerous.

The lovely actress Thandie Newton models for British Airways

Published September 17, 2013, in Longhaul, News

Thandie Newton models for British Airways’ first A380 to Los Angeles

Posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Hollywood actress, Thandie Newton (Chronicles of Riddick, Fast and Furious) has launched the countdown to British Airways’ A380 taking off on its “Red Carpet” route.

The A380 superjumbo will depart Heathrow on its first long-haul flight on 24th September, headed for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles.

Hollywood actress, Thandie Newton, said: “British Airways’ A380 aircraft is like a grand hotel in the sky. It’s luxurious and ultra modern. I feel particularly lucky because I make frequent trips to Los Angeles, and now even a long weekend to LA seems appealing, because the holiday begins as soon as you get on the superjumbo. Who thought travelling could get any more exciting?”

Looking lovely

Looking lovely

Well who indeed?

Thandie is pictured on the aircraft’s  staircase, which leads to the upper deck with Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus and World Traveller (economy) cabins.

Twelve A380s will join the British Airways fleet over the next four years as part of the airline’s £5bn investment in products and services for customers. The airline plans to have the aircraft  flying to Hong Kong from October 22 and Johannesburg from February next year.

Return fares to Los Angeles on the A380 start from £508 return in World Traveller (economy), £888 return in World Traveller Plus (premium economy), £2,092 return in Club World (business class) and £5,904 return in First.

British Airways offers a range of breaks in Los Angeles in the British Airways sale, with a choice of hotels. Three nights at the 3* Clarion Anaheim Resort starts from £549 per person or seven nights at the Andaz West Hollywood, flying on the A380 from £949 per person*. Both offers include return flights from Heathrow and room only accommodation, based on two people sharing for travel in November and December.

Airbus A350 flies (gingerly) over the Paris Airshow

Published June 23, 2013, in Fleet, News

In case you were in any doubt, it is definitely on between Boeing and Airbus with both showing the next generation of aircraft at the Paris Airshow.

Of course Boeing have a huge headstart, even with the problems experienced by the Dreamliner it will be years before it is challenged in the skies by the A350.

However orders for the A350 are rolling in and Airbus have done well to get the A350 in the air and flying very carefully over the Airshow. Apparently it was only the third time that the craft had been in the air, and it was something of a surprise that it attended the Airshow. The fly past was part of a test flight of the craft which, we are told, is functioning exactly as expected.

The craft which is about 70% composite materials in flight showed off its lovely composite wings as it banked and then flew off into the clouds. Airbus claims the plane is around 8% more efficient than the 787. Bring it on, on we say, we would really like to see more energy efficient aircraft in our skies very soon, particularly at BA which has ordered 18 of the “mini-jumbos”. Energy efficient planes are a win all round as they are more profitable, and of course greener.

Here is a link to our coverage of the first flight.

Paris Air Show – British Airways confirms order for 787-10 series

Published June 18, 2013, in Fleet, News

Boeing officially launched their new 787-10 series today with orders for 102 aircraft, including 12 from British Airways.

The orders for the new, stretched version of the Dreamliner, worth nearly $30 billion at list prices, came from Air Lease (30), GE Capital Services (10), Singapore Airlines (30), United (20) and British Airways (12). British Airways had already confirmed an option for a further 18 Dreamliners earlier this year so it is now apparent that 12 of those are for the 10 series; what is not clear is how the remaining 6 will be split between the 8 & 9 series.

The 10 series isn’t expected to be ready until 2018 so Boeing were busy showing off the existing 8 series in Paris with an Air India plane, showing of its paces. It does have a certain grace we must say.


Photos of the new Airbus A350 XWB rolling out of the paint shop

Published May 20, 2013, in Fleet, News

The first Airbus A350 rolled out of the paint shop on 13th May.

Completion of the paint job is described by Airbus as another important step towards the maiden flight of the A350 XWB.

British Airways parent company IAG and Airbus have signed a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of 18 A350 1000. The A350 1000 will be considerably larger than the A350 900 pictured here but the planes will have much more in common than not.

So for now, here is a photo of the lovely A350 900 from the rear, backing out of the hanger and some other photos..

A350 XWB backing out of painting hanger

Backing out gracefully

A350 XWB freshly painted from the front

From the front










A350 XWB from the side

Is this my good side?

A350 XWB from the other side

Or is it this side?



And some video showing the production process through to painting.






Photos courtesy of Airbus S.A.S.

British Airways & Qantas deny spat-175

Published February 6, 2013, in Longhaul, News

Both British Airways & Qantas have denied any ill-feeling exists between the airlines after the former announced it was ending a long-standing code-share agreement on flights between London & Australia. This agreement comes to an end on 31st March.

The news follows the announcement by Qantas last year that it had reached agreement with Emirates to code-share on flights between Australia & Europe via Dubai. In the past, Qantas & British had operated a joint service via Singapore which will now be discontinued. Qantas had previously suggested that any of its passengers who didn’t want to fly via Dubai could still fly with the airline on their stand-alone Singapore service and then connect with the British Airways flight – the announcement by the British flag-carrier that this will not be an option would seem to suggest that the two airlines aren’t quite singing from the same hymn-sheet.

For Qantas, whose proposed link-up with Emirates has not yet been approved by the Australian Consumer & Competition Commission (ACCC), the announcement is at best embarrassing and at worst (if the link-up is denied) altogether more serious. The airline has long been losing significant amounts of money on its flights to Europe and the new agreement was designed to both end this and allow the airline to focus more of its attention on the fast growing point-to-point Asian market.

Of course both British Airways & Qantas are part of the One World alliance and, although both airlines claim that they will continue to work together, it is hard to see just what form such co-operation will take.

The news has added relevance as, later this year, Malaysia Airlines joins the One World alliance (sponsored by Qantas ironically) and there have been suggestions that British Airways may decide that their best option is to enter a new code-share arrangement for flights to Australia via Kuala Lumpur. British Airways haven’t flown to KL for several years but routing flights via the Malaysian capital would allow it to free up capacity on flights to Singapore, their current stopping-off point on flights between London & Australia.



Published November 25, 2012, in Fleet

British Airways has a fleet of some 252 aircraft split being Boeing, Airbus and Embraer. Historically, the airline was seen as being loyal to Boeing although, in the not too distant past, it operated aircraft a variety of manufacturers including  Vickers (VC-10), Hawker Siddeley (Trident) and Lockheed (Tristar).

In terms of its current long-haul business however, the airline is almost entirely Boeing-centric with a fleet comprising 747-400, 777-300, 777-200, 767-300 & 757-200 (operated by Open Skies). Most impressively, British Airways still has the world’s largest fleet of 747s (57). The one exception to this Boeing dominated fleet is the all-business-class A318 which operates between London City Airport and New York JFK.

This near total dominance by Boeing will come to and end in late 2013 when British Airways takes delivery of the first of its 12 A380s on order. All 12 aircraft will be based at Heathrow and operate to the airline’s premium destinations although the airline have yet to release any specific details.

At the same time, 2013 will also see the arrival of the first of British Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliners, making it the first airline in the world to operate both the A380 and 787. The airline currently has 24 787s on order, split between the original 787-8 series and slightly larger 787-9 series.

With many of its 747s approaching the end of their flying lives, and the airline planning to utilise their recently secured new slots at Heathrow to increase long-haul flights, British Airways is currently appraising options for new aircraft orders. Potentially this could mean new orders for the A380, 787 series, 777-300 or new Airbus A350 series.

In terms of its medium and short haul routes, the majority of aircraft operated by the airline are now Airbus with a mix of A319-100, A320-200 & A321-200, the vast majority of which are based at Heathrow. The airline also operates older 737-400 exclusively from Gatwick while Boeing 767s are also used on both European and domestic flights from Heathrow. BA City Flyer, the airline’s wholly owned subsidiary which operates from London City, operates both Embraer 170 & 190 aircraft.