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British Airways (BA) is the national carrier of the United Kingdom, a subsidiary of publicly-listed International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG). BA’s extensive network, including that of franchise partners SUN-AIR and Comair (South Africa), includes services to Europe, North America, Latin America, Canada, Africa, Asia and Australia. Using a fleet of wide and narrow-bodied aircraft, the carrier operates freight and passenger services from it's three London hubs - Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport and London City Airport. BA is a founding member of the oneworld alliance.
Location of British Airways main hub (London Heathrow Airport)
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4,747 total articles
354 total articles
London airports and a new runway: Heathrow the business champion but the biggest growth is elsewhere
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.
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.
Asia-Europe, which is one of IATA's big four international markets, has become the slowest-growing. The market underwent RPK expansion of only 1.5% in Jul-2016, the latest data available. Uncertainty in Europe and terrorism fears mean that some Asian travellers choose Australia and North America or, as IATA has flagged – travel within Asia, which has expanded by nearly double digits.
Although market expansion was slow in the first part of 2016, so too was capacity. Yet this changed in Jul-2016 as capacity increased more quickly, perhaps as airlines expected a stronger summer. Despite slow passenger growth, dynamics are highly varied – except for yield declines. The combined RPK growth of IAG (7.2%) Cathay Pacific (3.7%) and Finnair (8.7%) was not enough to offset the contraction of the largest airline in the market, AF-KLM (7.9%).
From the reported geographic data by all major airlines, load factors are falling.
British Airways-Qatar Airways form Europe's first Gulf airline JV, showing some oneworld flexibility
British Airways and Qatar Airways are to commence a revenue-sharing joint venture from 30-Oct-2016. Even before Qatar Airways took 20% of the equity of BA parent group IAG, the JV was expected – and perhaps due earlier. The agreement includes the UK, continental Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa – essentially all regions but the Americas. Some specifics and regulatory matters are to be worked through, and Iberia is excluded but presumably will be added.
oneworld has always been a flexible congregation of bilateral relationships, but nowhere has this been better exemplified than with Qatar Airways' membership of oneworld and eg Qantas' deep partnership with Emirates. The BA-QR JV is the first between a European airline and a Gulf airline. Compared to AF-KLM and Lufthansa, BA/IAG have been more open towards Gulf airlines, a result of management but also pragmatism: BA's hub at London Heathrow is capacity constrained and BA typically carries a majority of O&D passengers.
The 747 has been in the spotlight since the Aug-2016 passing of lead engineer Joe Sutter. The iconic aircraft's milestones and fade from service come into focus again with the impending retirement of Cathay Pacific's passenger 747 fleet. A Cathay Pacific 747-400 was the final commercial flight to depart Hong Kong's old airport at Kai Tak, while another Cathay 747 was the first commercial flight to land at the new airport at Chek Lap Kok – with that flight also the first to use a Polar Routing, one which has changed the Asia-North America market for all airlines.
After the 01-Oct-2016 return to Hong Kong of Cathay's final passenger 747 flight, CX543 from Tokyo Haneda, Cathay's last three passenger 747s will be decommissioned from normal service. The global fleet of passenger/combi 747-400s will then decrease to 204, according to CAPA's Fleet Database. The 747-400s in regular, non-charter service will number 175. Six airlines – British Airways, United, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas and Thai Airways – operate 10 or more 747s, accounting for 65% of what is left of the regular in-service fleet. United will retire its 747 fleet by 2018, while British Airways and Qantas (which operates the slightly newer 747-400ER) look likely to be some of the last 747 (non-8i) operators, with service stretching into 2020.
The A380 is once again under media scrutiny, despite there being no major movement on the type. Comments from Air France and Qantas about not taking further A380s have long been assumed, and it has been apparent that Malaysia Airlines does not even have the need for its A380s. Singapore Airlines not renewing the lease on its first A380 is hardly surprising, and offers no definitive conclusion about the A380 or second-hand market; early A380s had different production and are not as efficient as later models. The lack of movement on the A380neo continues to irk the model's largest customer by far, Emirates, and may not make for a productive relationship as Emirates weighs an A350 or 787 order.
For most, the A380 continues to fly. How and where it flies is changing. Flights to and from the Middle East are becoming more common as Gulf airlines, and mostly Emirates, take delivery of A380s. A further shift to the Middle East is inevitable. In Japan there has been a near exodus of A380s; airlines dropping the type as they moved from Narita to Haneda, which cannot accommodate the A380 during the day, and Singapore Airlines down-gauging. Intra-Asia flying is decreasing – notable given the growth of A380s based in the region. Services by the A380 to Australia are growing, perhaps as it becomes an easy market for airlines to redeploy capacity amid European security concerns and trans-Pacific overcapacity.