British Airways cabin crew union, Unite has applied for a High Court injunction against the carrier’s plans to impose new conditions in its employment contract from 16-Nov-2009, claiming the carrier has refused to “negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement” (Associated Press/Mail Online/Sky News, 30-Oct-2009). A hearing is reportedly to be held on 05-Nov-2009. British Airways responded stating it was yet to be served papers for the case. The action is separate from the union’s plan to ballot staff for industrial action. Unite plans to hold a meeting with staff on 03-Nov-2009, to discuss the carrier’s new employment contracts (guardian.co.uk, 01-Nov-2009).
Unite applies for High Court injunction against British Airways
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As the British government approaches a final decision on the construction of an additional runway in southeast England it is pertinent to look at how passenger traffic is developing at the two main airports that are in contention – Heathrow and Gatwick, and at the next two largest London area airports, Stansted and Luton.
While Luton stepped back from the runway debate (its ‘proposal’ was submitted by a third party), the management at Stansted Airport (M.A.G), having been knocked back by the Airport Commission’s report, has found renewed vigour as the scope of the objections to both Heathrow and Gatwick expansion became clear. Indeed, the suggestion that the government might decide to let airports compete, rather than itself funnel resources into one location, has inspired M.A.G. to revisit its own ambitions for Stansted.
That is assuming of course that a decision is ever reached, as, unbelievably, it has been postponed yet again while the Prime Minister, Mrs May, ensures that a Cabinet transport sub-committee that is known to be divided on the issue has a good debate about it. Then, having made a recommendation, MPs - also divided - will have another year to argue over it and - perhaps - fail to reach a consensus.
Chinese long haul secondary city air routes: BA's Chengdu exit does not reflect the broader market
The fastest long haul airline growth is not occurring with Gulf airlines but rather, with services to and from secondary Chinese cities. It is not a secret that local incentives and subsidies, generally common in any market, are especially large in price and duration for secondary Chinese cities. An airline might expect over a third of revenues to be subsidised. This drastically alters the business case in a low-margin industry, hence the proliferation of secondary city services. This extreme dependence on subsidies raises the question of how long governments are willing to issue generous subsidies, and how many routes can be sustainable without them.
British Airways' decision to exit its only secondary Chinese route to Chengdu, in Jan-2017, might suggest the music is ending and the secondary long haul bubble is popping. There is added colour given the recent UK-China air service agreement expansion, and Brexit/British pound depreciation overhangs.
BA's exit does confirm market fundamentals: secondary city yields are low, and some routes are ahead of their time. Yet a number of factors unique to British Airways suggest caution in concluding that BA's Chengdu exit could foreshadow other withdrawals.