London Heathrow announces response to Coronavirus

As the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to hit global travel and present unprecedented challenges for the aviation industry, London Heathrow Airport has issued its latest response on March 20.

Heathrow said that the airport will take steps to reorganise and shrink its operations, but will remain open throughout this crisis. The decision to keep the airport open will enable some passenger services to continue, as well as facilitating cargo operations which will safeguard vital supply lines for the UK.

However, a separate report said that the Heathrow has closed almost all of its business and first class lounges following a decree by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to shut down social hubs such as pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and gyms across the country.

Whilst remaining open for essential transport, Heathrow expects that its financial performance will be significantly impacted by the situation, saying: ‘We are taking a number of immediate actions to safeguard the financial resilience of the business. Initial steps we have already taken include reducing operating costs, cancelling executive pay, freezing recruitment and reviewing all capital projects.’

The management team will review further actions which may need to be taken as the situation continues to develop. It says that the business is well funded and in a robust financial position, with cash and committed facilities available of £3.3bn designed to maintain at least a 12-month liquidity horizon.

Commenting on the impact of Coronavirus on the aviation sector, a Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘The impact of Coronavirus is a significant challenge for the global aviation industry including Heathrow and our colleagues, airlines, suppliers and fellow airports. We are taking immediate steps to safeguard the financial resilience of our business including the protection of jobs, whilst providing relief to our airline partners and wider industry colleagues. This is a quickly evolving situation and we stand ready to take any further and necessary measures to support our colleagues and industry partners as this situation develops.’

British Airways announces six new routes from Heathrow for summer 2020

British Airways has said that it is launching six new European routes from London Heathrow for 2020, with destinations in Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Montenegro and Turkey.

For the first time, the UK airline will fly from Heathrow to the Kosovan and Montenegrin capitals, Pristina and Podgorica, with both flights departing on Saturdays from July 4 until August 29. Fares will start from £78 in Euro Traveller and £210 in Club Europe to Pristina, and £71 and £178 to Podgorica. Seats are available to book on ba.com, and the each-way fares are based on booking a return fare.

British Airways has also introduced a new route to Perugia in Italy for summer 2020. Flights will depart on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from July 2 through to August 31, with fares starting from £40 per person in Euro Traveller and £125 in Club Europe.

Further, the Turkish coastal towns of Dalaman and Bodrum are now added back on to British Airways’ Heathrow route map. Flights will depart on Saturdays from May 23 through to October 24, with fares starting from £128 in Euro Traveller and £364 in Club Europe. These flights will join a new summer service between London Gatwick and Antalya that takes off from April 30, 2020. Customers will also have the choice of two London airports when flying to Dalaman as the airline already operates a weekly service from Gatwick.

The Greek island of Rhodes has also been added to the airline’s Heathrow network from next summer. The Saturday service will commence on July 4 and run until August 29 with fares starting from £117 per person in Euro Traveller and £358 in Club Europe. British Airways is also launching a new two-per-week service from Gatwick to the Greek island of Corfu from May 1 until October 23, 2020.

Neil Chernoff, British Airways’ Director of Networks and Alliances, said: ‘We are gearing up for an exciting summer next year as we add more routes to our extensive global network. We’re always developing our leisure offering and are pleased to be adding completely new destinations to British Airways’ Heathrow map. Our commitment to offering flights and holidays to a wide variety of destinations at competitive prices can help people plan ahead for summer 2020.’

The airline is also increasing the frequency of 16 popular short haul routes from Heathrow, including popular holiday destinations such as; Larnaca, Brindisi, Nice, Ibiza, Tenerife, Split, Olbia, Kefalonia and Preveza, it said.

Virgin Atlantic plans to increase flights from London Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic has said that it is planning to increase its flights at London Heathrow in an effort to challenge the dominance of IAG, which owns British Airways, at the airport.

The move is also in line with the government’s Aviation Strategy green paper which seeks to facilitate competition between airlines through the allocation of slots at Heathrow. This will offer customers more choice and lower fares, as well as enhanced domestic connectivity and connectivity to international destinations.

Currently IAG holds more than 55 per cent of all take-off and landing slots at Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic said that it will compete on 26 routes where there is an IAG monopoly, including Accra in Ghana, Austin in the USA and Bogota in Colombia. The airline will increase its long haul route network and launch a new inclusive network of domestic and European routes when the airport expands. The plans include a significant increase of Virgin Atlantic’s current network, including flights to exciting destinations such as Kolkata, Jakarta and Panama City, where passengers are unable to fly non-stop currently.

In total, Virgin Atlantic plans to serve 103 domestic, European and long haul destinations – up from just 19 long haul destinations in 2020. Of the 84 new destinations planned, 12 are domestic – including Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester, 37 are European – including Barcelona, Dublin and Madrid, and 35 are global – including Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Santiago.

‘Never has the need for effective competition and choice at Heathrow Airport been more evident than during this summer of disruption, which has brought misery for tens of thousands of travellers,’ Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said. ‘Britain, and those who travel to it, deserve better than this. Air passengers need a choice and Virgin Atlantic is ready to deliver when Heathrow expands.

‘Heathrow has been dominated by one airline group for far too long. The third runway is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the status quo and create a second flag carrier. This would lower fares and give real choice to passengers, as well giving Britain a real opportunity to boost its trade and investment links around the world. Changing the way take-off and landing slots are allocated for this unique and vital increase in capacity at the nation’s hub airport will create the right conditions for competition and innovation to thrive.’

Etihad Airways announces fourth year-round daily service to London Heathrow

Etihad Airways has said that it will expand its services from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow by adding a fourth year-round daily service between the two capitals, launching on October 27, 2019.

The new service adds a mid-morning departure from Abu Dhabi and a late evening departure from London Heathrow. The move follows the introduction of additional seasonal services this summer.

Robin Kamark, Commercial Officer, Etihad Aviation Group Chief, said: ‘The flagship Abu Dhabi to London route is tremendously popular with point-to-point business and leisure travellers, and those transiting beyond our hub and we recently boosted frequencies between the two cities to meet increased demand at peak travel times. Adding a fourth year-round flight will provide much needed capacity and optimised timings and easy connections to key destinations across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia.

‘The new service demonstrates our commitment to the crucially important UK market, and ensures we provide our customers with all the benefits of a next-generation fleet across all 42 weekly departures to and from the United Kingdom.’

Etihad Airways said that it will introduce a next-generation, two-class Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on one of its four daily London services. The aircraft is configured with 299 seats – 28 Business Studios and 271 Economy Smart Seats. The new service complements the three other services which are operated by Etihad’s 486-seat Airbus A380s, which feature The Residence, a luxurious three-room cabin, nine private First Apartments, 70 Business Studios and 405 Economy Smart Seats. These include 80 Economy Space seats with a seat pitch of up to 36 inches.

In addition to the four daily flights to London Heathrow, Etihad Airways also operates two daily Boeing 787 Dreamliner services between Abu Dhabi and Manchester.

Flybe commences new flight service from Heathrow to Cornwall

Flybe has commenced a new route connecting Heathrow and Cornwall Airport Newquay.

The new year-round service will operate four flights a day, seven days a week. The service will be operated from Heathrow Terminal 2: The Queens Terminal, using a 78-seat Q400 aircraft.

Commenting on the start of this new service, Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling said: ‘The new route from Cornwall to our national hub airport offers significant opportunities for local businesses and people and will help boost tourism across the South West. It’s great to see this new route launched with help from the government, as we work to build a better connected UK.’

Ross Baker, Chief Commercial Officer at Heathrow said: ‘This route highlights our commitment to domestic connectivity and it is fantastic to welcome this regular service between Newquay and Heathrow. Joining our regions to the UK’s only hub airport marks a fantastic opportunity for many including exporters from Cornwall now connecting to global markets and inward investors, tourists and students from all over the world. Now they can all experience the wonders the region has to offer in a much easier and convenient way.’

With the new service, Flybe will operate 10 routes in total from Cornwall Airport Newquay.

Flybe CEO, Christine Ourmieres-Widener added: ‘We are delighted to celebrate with our partners the start of our new Heathrow service from Newquay. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response from customers since we announced the route. It offers multiple choices for onward connections to and from the rest of the world from the UK’s busiest airport – and also on to our own routes there to and from Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.’

Cornwall Airport Newquay’s Managing Director, Al Titterington, said: ‘It’s fantastic that all our hard work to make sure that Cornwall Airport Newquay has direct access to Europe’s busiest hub has finally come to fruition. The worldwide connectivity that this brings opens up a world of opportunity for Cornwall.

‘Now we have direct flights to Heathrow, we will see the strength of Newquay and Cornwall’s brand abroad grow even further, helping to attract more valuable international tourism to our beautiful county.’

Virgin Atlantic announces new service between London Heathrow and Tel Aviv

Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to commence a new service between London Heathrow and Tel Aviv, Israel with the first flight offered on September 25, 2019.

The airline will fly daily between London Heathrow and Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport, and the five hour flight will operate on an Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Flights to Tel Aviv are on sale from February 25, 2019.

Offering over 180,000 seats each year, the new service will offer connections for customers connecting from Tel Aviv via London Heathrow to destinations throughout North America across both the Virgin Atlantic and Delta networks including New York, Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic CEO, commented: ‘2019 marks the start of a new phase of growth for Virgin Atlantic as we work to achieve our ambition to become the most loved travel company. Tel Aviv represents a fantastic opportunity for us – Israel’s economy is booming and as one of the world’s leading tech hubs we’re anticipating many business travellers and entrepreneurs flying between Tel Aviv and the UK. We also see a significant opportunity to increase competition in the US – Tel Aviv market, using the strength of our trans-Atlantic Joint Venture with Delta to offer customers from Tel Aviv a wide range of US destinations connecting through London Heathrow including New York and San Francisco.’

‘I’m also thrilled to introduce this new destination to our leisure customers and I know it’s somewhere they’ll love to visit. Renowned for its cultural sites and with UNESCO recognised architecture, Tel Aviv also boasts beautiful beaches, a buzzing artistic and nightlife scene, incredible food and is a great base to explore the tourist destinations of the region including the iconic historical city of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and the Dead Sea’.

Sharon E. Bershadsky, Director, IGTO for the UK and Ireland, added: ‘We’re thrilled with the launch of the new flights and Virgin Atlantic’s confidence in the Israeli product. The ‘Two Sunny Cities, One Break’ campaign has been very successful in showcasing Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and we’re proud of our continued commitment to working with the travel trade industry. We are looking forward to working together with the Virgin Group in order to promote Israel as a leading tourist destination.’

Virgin Atlantic is set to become the founding member of a new, USD13 billion transatlantic joint venture with over 300 daily transatlantic flights and 96 non-stop destinations, alongside Delta, Air France and KLM as well as launching new services from London Heathrow to Las Vegas and Manchester to Los Angeles.

IHG’s Staybridge Suites opens at Heathrow Airport

Hotel group IHG has announced the opening of Staybridge Suites London- Heathrow Bath Road, located close to the international airport.

Staybridge Suites London- Heathrow Bath Road is part of a dual- branded property with Holiday Inn, due to open later in 2019. Guests at Staybridge Suites London- Heathrow Bath Road will also be able to benefit from access to all facilities and amenities at the Holiday Inn nearby.

Designed to serve clients looking to stay for extended periods of time, Staybridge Suites London- Heathrow Bath Road has 145 studio rooms and 45 one-bedroom suites that are all equipped with a fully-fitted kitchen. The hotel has a pantry-style food store, called The Pantry, providing guests access to snacks, ready-made meals, toiletries, and washing detergent for the complimentary on-site launderette. Rooms at Staybridge Suites start from GBP99 per night.

Mark Roth, General Manager at Staybridge Suites London- Heathrow Bath Road, commented: ‘We are excited to be welcoming our first guests to Staybridge Suites London- Heathrow Bath Road. This hotel brings something new to Heathrow and provides guests with the option to stay in the style of room that suits them best. Staybridge Suites is the perfect brand for this location, whether it’s for a short stopover stay, a holiday or staying for a longer period of time for business.’

Staybridge Suites has communal spaces throughout, an on-site 24-hour fitness centre and ‘the den’ which comes with a games console. Every Tuesday – Thursday evening, guests are invited to join an Evening Social hosted by the hotel, to get together with friends or fellow travellers and unwind over complimentary food and drink, it said.

British Airways to launch new service to Islamabad from Heathrow

British Airways has said that it will operate a new service from Heathrow to Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, from June 2, 2019.

The route will be operated thrice a week, on a three-class Boeing 787 Dreamliner – British Airways’ newest long-haul fleet. Return fares start from £499 for World Traveller, £773 for World Traveller Plus and £1,799 for Club World. Seats are available for booking.

A quiet city with plenty of gardens and parks, Islamabad is a cultural hub with a rich heritage. The city features a collection of museums, markets, mosques and hiking trails, as well as restaurants which serve a variety of cuisines from local Pakistani dishes to food from around the world.

Robert Williams, Head of Sales for Asia Pacific and the Middle East, said: ‘It’s exciting to be flying between Islamabad and Heathrow from next year, which we believe will be particularly popular with the British Pakistani community who want to visit, or be visited by, their relatives. On the route, customers will enjoy the very best in flying. Not only is it being operated on our newest long-haul aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but it will also be landing in to the new airport in Islamabad, which opened earlier this year.’

Thomas Drew CMG, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, said: ‘I am delighted to be welcoming British Airways back to Pakistan. The launch of direct flights by British Airways between London Heathrow and Islamabad’s new International Airport is excellent news for both countries.

‘The links between Britain and Pakistan are already extraordinary – from culture and cricket, to people, politics and education. I see this launch as a vote of confidence in the future of those links – and, of course, a reflection of the great improvements in the security situation in Pakistan in recent years. The return of British Airways will give a particular boost to our growing trade and investment links. British Airways itself joins an increasing number of British companies doing business in Pakistan. I hope too that it will allow more people from the UK to discover, like I have, what a beautiful country Pakistan is. I look forward to using the service myself when flight start in June.’

Islamabad is one of four long-haul routes being launched by British Airways in 2019, its centenary year. The airline is also launching direct flights to Pittsburgh and Charleston in the US and Osaka in Japan, alongside several short-haul routes.

London Heathrow launches new Aira app for visually impaired passengers

Heathrow Airport has announced the launch of the Aira app that will benefit nearly 6,000 visually impaired passengers that travel through Heathrow each year.

Starting December 3, visually impaired passengers at Heathrow will have access to on-demand, personalised assistance via the Aira app. The launch of the app coincides with International Day of Persons with Disabilities, observed by the United Nations since 1992 to empower the one billion people in the world that have some form of hidden or visible disability.

Available free of charge, the app will connect passengers directly to a trained professional agent for advice on navigating through Heathrow and assist with finding specific locations – including gates, special assistance facilities, retail outlets and restaurants. It will also provide live information on news affecting their journeys.

The move comes as the number of passengers requesting special assistance at Heathrow is rising by approximately 8% each year, with over one million requests in 2017 alone. Heathrow has been taking proactive steps to transform the service it provides for these passengers, supported by a £23 million investment in an upgraded contract with its special assistance partner, OmniServ. Last year, the airport launched the use of the ‘SignLive’ app, which connects passengers to trained British Sign Language translators on demand, before and after their travel through Heathrow.

Jonathan Coen, Director of Customer Relations and Service at Heathrow, said: ‘We are transforming the assistance service we provide to our passengers and empowering them to be as independent as possible when they are travelling through Heathrow. We have already invested GBP23 million in an upgraded contract with our special assistance partner, OmniServ, and introducing new equipment, training and technology to help improve our service. Aira takes us one step further – and will deliver a better travel experience for the 6,000 passengers each year that would otherwise feel less independent and less prepared when they begin their journey via Heathrow.’

The Aira app can be accessed by pre-loading it on mobile phones and an agent will be available to provide guided assistance on demand upon arrival at Heathrow. Alternatively, passengers can also pre-book special assistance through their airline and seek information on the app simultaneously, Heathrow said in a release.

British Airways announces plans to expand Heathrow -Inverness route

British Airways has said that it will expand its service between Heathrow and Inverness by operating two daily return services from Monday to Friday and three return services at weekends from summer 2019.

Starting March 31, 2019, the number of weekly flights that British Airways operates between the two cities during the summer season will increase from 10 to 16. The winter flying programme between Heathrow Terminal-5 and Inverness will double from seven to 14 return services a week, with the airline operating a double-daily schedule every day of the week from October 27, 2019.

Flights have also been re-timed to improve onward connections on to British Airways’ global network of more than 150 destinations worldwide, the airline said. Flights are available to book on ba.com, with each-way fares starting from £115 per person in Club Europe and £34 in Euro Traveller, each-way.

Phyllis Stuart, British Airways’ Airport Manager in Inverness, said: ‘We have been able to increase flights to Inverness because the airport is exempt from Air Passenger Duty. This outdated and unjustified tax stifles British Airways’ route development plans and costs the UK jobs and growth.

‘Since we reintroduced the daily service between Inverness and Heathrow we have seen steady growth in passenger numbers at both ends of the route and this further expansion is testament to the support our partners at Inverness Airport and the people and business community of the highlands and islands have given us over the past two years. The new schedule will bring greater economic benefits to the region and the extra flights on Saturdays and Sundays will cater for the number of leisure passengers travelling to the highlands and islands during the summer months.’

Inglis Lyon, Managing Director of Highlands and Islands Airports, said: ‘The increased frequency of British Airways flights to Heathrow really is a game changer for Inverness and the Highlands and Islands. It opens up a host of new connections and destinations via one of the world’s great aviation hubs, meaning many more people can travel to and from our region on one ticket. Local businesses will benefit from greater connectivity with London and beyond and it opens up opportunities for visitors to access all that the area has to offer.’

To meet the increased services, British Airways will park an overnight at Inverness Airport and British Airways customers will be able to travel between the two cities, complete a full working day, and return home the same day, it said.