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- British Airways Plc,
PO Box 365,
- Main hub
- London Heathrow Airport
- United Kingdom
- Business model
- Full Service Carrier
- Domestic | International
- Airline Group
- Part of International Airlines Group (IAG)
- Frequent Flyer Programme
- Executive Club
- Joined Alliance
- Association Membership
- Codeshare Partners
- Aer Lingus
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)
International Airlines Group share price
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Part 1 of CAPA's Brexit follow-up report assessed the ASK exposure of UK and non-UK airlines to market segments where existing traffic rights could potentially change once the UK finally leaves the European Union. This second part reviews recent comments by leading European-listed airlines on how they see the impact of Brexit, both in the short term and in the longer term. Most of them acknowledge that there are considerable uncertainties, while simultaneously insisting that they will not be significantly affected in the long run.
There have been two initial impacts on airlines. First, Brexit has added to economic uncertainty, thereby muting demand and lowering yields. The magnitude and duration of this impact is unpredictable. Secondly, the consequent weakening of the GBP has made outbound international travel from the UK more expensive and less appealing, and lowered the value of GBP revenue earned by airlines.
The longer term impact will depend on whatever new traffic rights regime is negotiated between the UK and the EU. As a number of the airlines have acknowledged, this remains unknown and is, indeed, unknowable until the UK formally triggers its exit from the EU and then completes its two-year exit negotiations.
CAPA's previous analytical coverage of the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union flagged several questions surrounding UK airlines' future access to the European single aviation market. Traffic rights post-Brexit will depend heavily on the wider relationship between the UK and the EU and its markets. In turn, this may depend on how far the UK is prepared to go in embracing the EU's four key freedoms: the movement of capital, goods, services and people.
The UK has not yet triggered its formal two-year exit negotiation period and all aspects of its future relationship with the EU remain unknown. However, politicians in the UK are very reluctant to accept the continued freedom of movement of people, so existing airline market access is likely to be compromised in some way.
Rather than speculate on how negotiations might proceed, this report identifies the main market segments that could be affected by changes to the traffic rights regime, and evaluates the ASK exposure of airlines from the UK and from countries in Europe's single aviation market to these segments. A further report will review recent comments by Europe's leading listed airlines on how they see the impact of Brexit.
Late in the past century, Airbus and Boeing established competing visions for the future of air travel and shaped their aircraft products accordingly. Airbus envisaged a future of strong hub-to-hub flying that would require its A380. Boeing foresaw the emergence of new long haul city pairs as airlines bypassed hubs to link small/medium cities directly point-to-point with its 787.
Both manufacturers were right – and wrong. Hubs dominate, yet most airlines prefer medium/large aircraft and not the very large aircraft category, consisting of A380s and 747-8s. A380 sales have lagged, raising questions about the aircraft's future, while Boeing is cutting 747-8 production again and has acknowledged that it may need to end production entirely.
Boeing positioned its 787 as a “hub-buster” that would not require passengers to transfer through hubs. Yet 73% of 787 flights are between hubs, among those operated by airlines with more than hub. Hub-to-secondary flights are few, but demonstrate some of Boeing's objectives with the 787: new routes and more frequencies. While hubs dominate, the 787 has given rise to smaller hubs like Denver and Calgary. Partnerships also help explain 787 network deployment: 66% of 787 flights are on routes without a partnership, perhaps indicating airline preference for a lower-risk aircraft.
IAG increased its 2Q2016 operating profit modestly, but only because Aer Lingus boosted this year's numbers (it was not in the group in 2Q2015). The quarter was affected by externalities: negative currency impacts and softer demand conditions resulting from terrorism, the Brexit vote, macroeconomic weakness in Latin America and air traffic control strikes in Europe. The resultant deteriorating unit revenue trend was offset by lower unit costs, mainly due to lower fuel prices.
Three of IAG's four operating airlines improved their margin in 1H2016 but Vueling's declined, since the external disruption affected it the most. Vueling's operating margin has been on a downward trend since its acquisition by IAG in 2013. Its capacity growth plans for FY2016 have now been trimmed, also scaling back the group's growth for the year.
IAG now expects 2016 operating profit growth of a low single-digit percentage, much less than the 40% increase previously anticipated but still an increase. This outlook is more positive than that given recently by Lufthansa, which expects a fall in profit this year. Moreover, IAG remains a higher margin group than either of Lufthansa or Air France-KLM, and should be better placed if there is to be a full-scale downturn.
The operational challenges Canadian low cost airline WestJet has encountered in its launch of widebody flights to London has done little to quell investor concern about the carrier’s ability to execute low cost long haul flights successfully. Mechanical problems with the Boeing 767s have triggered cancellations and operational challenges, which has created passenger frustration, and resulted in reaccommodation and other expenses that are not insignificant.
WestJet has been working to smooth out the operational teething pains of the twin aisle jets, and is assuring that the hiccups are temporary. However, the less than ideal launch could call into question WestJet’s ability to spread the low cost model and stimulate traffic from Canada in the North Atlantic market. The company is attracting a higher level of scrutiny since it is the first LCC based in North America to attempt to spread the model on long haul flights.
Despite the shaky launch of its long haul flights with widebodies, WestJet cannot ignore long-term opportunities presented by the long haul market from Canada – with a value in the billions. WestJet can ill-afford to cede all the revenue to rival Air Canada and non-Canadian airlines operating on trans-Atlantic routes. In the short term the airline finds itself in a position of now attempting to engender passenger confidence that its operational snafus are temporary, and its product proposition remains intact.
Enter Qatar Airways. As Etihad Airways looks to bed down its investments in other airlines, Qatar is gradually expanding its airline investment portfolio. Qatar's 15% stake in IAG is now being followed with a 10% stake in LATAM for USD613 million – nearly 1.5 times Qatar's net profit of USD446 million, disclosed (for the first time) on the day prior to the LATAM equity announcement. It is a safe investment; LATAM group has a strong market position and its share price has remained strong even in the face of a brutal downturn in Latin American economies.
Qatar gives LATAM needed cash and a distant shareholder. Latin America is the smallest market by far for Gulf airlines, but while currently in the economic doldrums, has a longer term potential for growth. It is also a key future market for US airlines, albeit very small on the Gulf airlines' networks. Qatar is spending nearly EUR2.5 billion on equity investments, still smaller than Etihad's but illustrating a willingness to acquire airline assets, for investment and strategic reasons. In this case the immediate strategic purpose for Qatar is less apparent.
Star Alliance's privately owned Avianca is also considering a strategic shareholder; that would mean five of Latin America's eight largest airline groups could have an airline investor from outside the region.