23 APRIL 2012

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Article from BTNews 23 APRIL 2012

COMMENT: easyJet for Heathrow?

British Airways has finally secured BMA which was announced last Friday.  (We prefer the old term as that includes bmibaby and bmi Regional.)  Whether that turns out to be good news for the British travelling public, and for UK Plc remains to be seen.  It is terrific news for BA staff and IAG shareholders, and for the most part tragic for BMA workers. 

A great deal depends on how responsibly the airline acts now that it has a monopoly of the country’s trunk routes, at least into Heathrow, still the world’s most important (and largest) international airport. 

Only one airline is capable of challenging the new monopoly.

That is easyJet, Britain’s largest carrier in terms of passenger numbers.

At a recent Aviation Club luncheon Chief Executive Carolyn McCall did not rule out taking slots at Heathrow.  The airline flies into Charles de Gaulle and other major airports.  It is efficient and bright and would certainly gain the support of Sir Richard Branson, a big loser in the BMA debate.  Edinburgh to T3 by easyJet.  Why not?  The links from the central area to London are far quicker than T5 and the connections to other carriers are superior.  Or even the new T2.

Which brings us around to a featured item in the Daily Telegraph, not known for its accurate reporting on the business aviation front, with a recent story that Heathrow’s third runway was a goer just days before the Prime Minister ruled it out.  Perhaps AERBT is biased.  The Telegraph’s headline was misleading regarding Northolt, now emerging as a strong possibility if the runway is not to happen.

Last week the newspaper launched a bitter attack on Sir Richard, that was totally unnecessary and unwarranted.  Perhaps the fact that the current BA Director of Public Affairs is a former Daily Telegraph hack has something to do with it.  Virgin Atlantic’s campaign to stop the BA/BMA acquisition has been weak and lacking the guile of the past, but it was very much justified in that the airline has relied on connecting traffic from Baron Glendonbrook’s (Michael Bishop) former airline.  Virgin is not in the position to introduce its own domestic routes.  It once attempted regional services and failed.  Long haul and short haul are totally different operations.  BA can tell them that.  But in a partnership with easyJet.  Why not?  Carolyn and Richard.

British Airways public relations is normally re-active, and a press release issued last week could not be construed as newsworthy ”bmi take-over brings customer benefits”.  They were bound to say that.  In fact AERBT finds the BA Waterside press office difficult to deal with.  This publication has requested viewing the new Business Class layout – on the ground – “far too busy”.  A lounge inspection was recently refused in order to report on an upgrade.

Yes some new destinations, but loss of choice and frequencies (and jobs).  What BA should have done is straight away announce some new (prospective) destinations.  Be really upbeat for once.  They’ve had plenty of time to organise and they are not going to be in competition with anyone except perhaps a Chinese airline.

This editorial will not win AERBT any friends at either Virgin or British Airways, both excellent carriers, but not these days keen to flout their qualities.  Sad really.  In the past constructive criticism was welcome.  Now one gets total indifference.  BA is a fine airline set to once again be a leader amongst the carriers.  Just as Virgin did in the past with the disappearance of British Caledonian and kept British Airways on its toes, a challenger is needed today. 

easyJet, in the spirit of Stelios, here is another opportunity. Grab it.


Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief


www.telegraph.co.uk/Northolt

www.telegraph.co.uk/Virgin

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