25 OCTOBER 2021

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SOAPBOX SPECIAL: Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive, ABTA


With the Budget due next Wednesday Mark Tanzer, the long-standing Chief Executive of ABTA, the travel industry trade body, posts here the essential parts of a submission made to Government on the requirements for one of Britain’s vital industries.

“This is what we need from the Budget,” said Mark Tanzer.

Despite the more positive outlook for international travel, following the easing of restrictions, it will take time for travel to get fully back on its feet and there remains an urgent need for the Chancellor to extend business support measures.
Next Wednesday the Chancellor will stand up in the House of Commons and deliver his plans to support the UK economy in recovering from the Covid crisis.

Last month, ABTA wrote to the Chancellor outlining what the Budget needs to deliver for the travel industry. In our submission we asked the Chancellor to use next week’s Budget to:

  • Provide an update on the additional £1.5bn to provide targeted support for businesses which have been unable to benefit from the existing business rates relief. This was originally announced on 25 March 2021 but the support has yet to be made available.
  • Urge local authorities to prioritise travel businesses for financial support under the Additional Restrictions Grant funding – with £300m left unspent, councils need to make sure that travel agents and tour operators are getting this much-needed funding.
  • Provide tailored financial support for the travel sector in the form of specific recovery grants for travel agents, tour operators and other businesses dependent on international travel.

We also stressed the need to make sure the right taxation framework is in place to support the industry’s recovery. Several of our Members have reported concerns with plans to increase corporation tax to 25% from 2023, especially with the industry on a much slower recovery trajectory. ABTA has also supported wider calls for reform to the current business rates system. It is important that a system is found that does not continue to disadvantage high street retailers, which are an important part of communities across the country.

The Chancellor also needs to look at the role of APD [Air Passenger Duty] in the industry’s recovery. Over the last year and a half, we have seen cuts to VAT to benefit the domestic tourism sector, but these cuts have no impact on companies selling package holidays or on the outbound travel sector. APD is the only comparable measure that HM Treasury has at its disposal. ABTA supports a short-term reduction in this tax to boost recovery, but also continues to highlight the need for fundamental reform to deliver a more environmentally efficient regime.  
With the COP26 climate conference about to get underway in Glasgow, we recognise the importance of Governments around the world coming together to reduce carbon emissions. As a Member of Sustainable Aviation, ABTA is asking the UK Government to work in partnership with the industry, through the Jet Zero Council, to deliver the policy framework, including airspace modernisation and investment in sustainable aviation fuels, that will be necessary to reach the Government’s carbon-reduction target.”

Mark Tanzer


The last word on the Doctor (who was an engineer and later elevated to the peerage).  BTN agrees.  He was 'beached'  Thank you Mr Bernnett.

Aircraft maintenance Amsterdam

The magazine Aviation Week’s annual MRO Europe, Europe’s largest aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul gathering, returned as an in person event last week at Amsterdam’s RAI Convention Centre Alison Chambers reports.

Some 7,000-registered delegates, 250 global exhibitors, including Etihad Engineering, Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, reconnected with industry colleagues.  

Workforce concern was a recurring theme at MRO Europe.   

A newly published survey by Exeter-based JMC Recruitment Solutions (JMC) highlighted that professionals are continuing to leave the sector and move into mechanical engineering, building services, IT, and other less Covid-affected industries.  JMC polled nearly 4,000 respondents in the UK and Europe, including B1 & B2 licensed engineers, aircraft fitters/mechanics, and sheet metal workers, to learn that 38% have moved to an industry outside of aviation.

One German company is retraining automotive engineers to aviation engineering, backed by the LBA, the German civil aviation authority.  

“It’s not Covid that will kill you here, it’s the cyclists,” one observer quipped, as they whizzed along, criss-crossing the roads. 

Heavy rain and high winds disrupted flights on 19 October, forcing British Airways and KLM to cancel some departures back to London.  Those that took off were 100% full.  Security at Schiphol has been enhanced with sleek, state-of-the-art baggage screening machines that do not require laptops to be removed from covers, nor 100gm liquids placed in plastic bags.  Notable too, once airside, was a lack of restaurant staff and shop assistants. Several outlets were closed.  British Airways has yet to re-open its business lounge but the Aspire lounges were busy.

Airlines 2021

Monday 22 November has been confirmed for Airlines 2021 annual conference entitled ‘Rebuilding the UK’s role in global aviation.’

Launched in 2019 by the Association of UK Airlines (Airlines UK), Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) and International Air Transport Association (IATA), alongside FlightGlobal, this event brings together the leading industry and government figures to address the extreme issues and challenges for the sector as the UK emerges from a Covid-impacted world.

One of the key sessions will be the appearance of the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps interviewed by Peggy Hollinger, International Business Editor, Financial Times.  Luis Gallego, Chief Executive of International Airlines Group (IAG), will deliver the keynote opening speech setting out his aspirations for the airline group and the UK aviation sector’s recovery.

Other speakers include IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, whose address will offer his thoughts and insights on the UK’s approach to international travel during the pandemic and how, as the sector starts to rebuild, the UK can reposition itself as a preeminent aviation market on the world stage.  

Also from Europe Pieter Elbers, CEO, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, will give an insight into the KLM/Air France thinking, whilst Simon Calder will act as a moderator for a panel including Robert Courts, Minister for Aviation; Jonathan Hinkles, Chief Executive, Loganair; Steve Heapy, Chief Executive, Jet2; and Sophie Dekkers, Chief Commercial Officer, easyJet.

Other speakers include Emma Gilthorpe, CEO Jet Zero Council; Jonathon Counsell, Group Head of Sustainability, IAG, with the final session given over to Shai Weiss, Chief Executive, Virgin Atlantic, with what is described as a ‘fireside chat’ with Anita Mendiratta (Moderator), Special Advisor To The Secretary General, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

Full programme:

Al Baker at the RAC

Airline boss to make presentation.

The Aviation Club of the United Kingdom will welcome H E Akbar Al Baker, Chairman of Qatar Airways, for its final luncheon of the year at the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) on Tuesday 30 November.  

A sometimes-controversial ‘chief’ his near 25 years leadership of the state-owned carrier has seen it grow into one of the world’s major international airlines with a network of over 125 destinations from Hamed International Airport, opened in 2014 and built very much under his guidance.  

At the present time Qatar Airways operates around 235 aircraft and also has a thriving business jet fleet. Qatar Airways was the launch customer for the Airbus A350.  

A native of Doha, Al Baker’s formal education was in Mumbai.  He is much involved in Qatar tourism and is a Non-Executive Director of Heathrow Airport Plc.  He is currently Chairman of oneworld, the airline a member, and also sits on the board of IATA, having been the previous Chairman.   

Sometimes provocative, and also at times very witty, H E Akbar al Baker will seriously entertain members and their guests.  

Bookings to

Art of Motoring

The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) annual Art of Motoring exhibition, Britain’s premier event featuring motoring and motor racing paintings and sculpture, has returned for 2021.

The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) annual Art of Motoring exhibition, Britain’s premier event featuring motoring and motor racing paintings and sculpture, has returned for 2021.

After last year’s virtual showcase, for 2021 it is back to being a ‘proper’ physical show, this year as part of London Motor Week.  It is open to members and guests from Monday 1 November until Saturday 6 November.

For the first time all the works on display can be viewed and purchased via a dedicated website.

As ever, there are many different subjects, styles and choice of materials, including everything from traditional oil and watercolour paints to 3D printing. For the first time, QR codes will be displayed so viewers can easily download information about each artist and their works.    

The 16 artists exhibiting are some of the top names of the genre, including Tim Layzell, Barry Rowe, John Ketchell, Paul Dove and Roy Putt, plus sculptors Johnny Ambrose and Robin Bark. Other regulars include watercolourist Neil Collins, the ‘painting vicar’ Adam Gompertz, Martin Tomlinson and Simon Britnell.

Heading the first-time exhibitors list is former Le Mans winner and Grand Prix driver Stefan Johansson. The Swedish star, who raced in F1 for teams such as Ferrari and McLaren, took up painting after his friend Elio de Angelis was killed in a testing accident at the Paul Ricard circuit in 1986.

The exhibition, which was first held in 2015, has been curated on behalf of the Club by Andrew Marriott of Pit Lane Productions and Rupert Whyte of Historic Car Art.

“Britain has more professional motoring and motor-racing artists than any other nation,” said Jeremy Vaughan, Head of Motoring at the RAC, “and as collectors of motoring art for more than a century, the Club is delighted to showcase and help.”

BA and Kenya Airways

British Airways’ customers will be able to fly to more destinations across Africa, thanks to a new codeshare agreement with Kenya Airways.

Interestingly BA is a member of oneworld with Kenya Airways part of Star Alliance.  In times of crisis even old rivals get together.

Customers to Nairobi with British Airways will be able to seamlessly connect onto 20 destinations across East and Central Africa, including Addis Ababa, Douala, Entebbe, Lusaka, Mombasa and Zanzibar, as well as offering customers more options to get to popular holiday hotspots, Mauritius and Seychelles.

In the reciprocal agreement, customers flying with Kenya Airways to London, will now be able to connect onto 26 destinations across the UK and Europe that BA operates to, including Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Glasgow, Madrid and Milan.

BA currently offers four flights a week from Heathrow to Nairobi, operated by a four-class Boeing 777 aircraft, with cabins from World Traveller (Economy) right up to First (First Class).

Christopher Fordyce, BA’s Head of Alliances, said: “After a difficult 20 months with global travel restrictions, it’s fantastic to see travel between the UK and Africa resuming. We are really pleased to be able to offer our customers access to even more destinations across the region thanks to our new codeshare agreement with Kenya Airways, making that bucket list trip even easier to plan.”

Boeing 747 still flies

Rolls-Royce, working with Boeing and World Energy, has carried out a successful test flight of its 747 Flying Testbed aircraft using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on a Trent 1000 engine.

The aircraft flew from Tucson Airport in Arizona, passing over New Mexico and Texas, with a Trent 1000 engine running solely on 100% SAF while the remaining three RB211 engines ran on standard jet fuel, arriving back at the airport 3hr 54min later. Initial indications confirm there were no engineering issues, providing further proof of the fuel’s suitability for commercial use.

The flight was carried out in close collaboration with Boeing, which provided technical support and oversight on aircraft modifications and assurance the aircraft systems would operate as expected with 100% SAF. World Energy, the world’s first and America’s only commercial-scale SAF production company, provided the low-carbon fuel for the flight.

Rolls-Royce has continued to pioneer the adoption of 100% SAF, and validation of this test adds to those already carried out on its Trent XWB and Pearl engines, both on the ground and in the air. Last week it confirmed that all of its Trent engines will be compatible with 100% SAF by 2023 and also called for further ambition and collaboration across the aviation sector, and with governments, to enable the transition of long-haul aviation towards net zero ahead of aviation goals set by the UN Race to Zero.

CAA and Heathrow charges

Heathrow’s plans announced last week to almost double the passenger charges to try and mitigate its losses during the pandemic have been initially rejected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the industry regulator.

A final decision will be made next year which will then be open to appeal by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The CAA said, in a consultation document on Tuesday, that the London hub could only increase its average charges from a maximum of £22 per passenger currently to between £24.50 and £34.40 from next year.

Heathrow bosses had been asking the charges to maximise at £43, allowing it to start clawing back £2.9bn of losses incurred since the collapse in passenger traffic from spring last year.

However, trade body Airlines UK has reacted angrily, with Chief Executive Tim Alderslade saying it would oppose the increase "in the strongest terms.  

“The CAA is our last line of defence against a monopoly-abusing hub airport," he said.  “Monopolies will always try it on and that's why we need a strong regulator to clamp down on what is blatant gouging. How on earth can it be in the interests of consumers to ramp up charges by as much as 50%?

"Passengers need to be front and centre here – it's Heathrow's shareholders and not our customers who should be asked to foot the bill."

A Heathrow spokesperson said: "Our aim is to reach a settlement that enables us to give passengers a great service while operating a safe, resilient and competitive hub airport for Britain.”

Flights to South Africa

South Africa, always a popular destination during the winter, is to gain extra flights for the year-end holiday period.  It is on the British green list for the return and for entry proof of a negative PCR test is required.  A visa is not necessary for tourists.

British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic will offer flights to both Johannesburg and Cape Town.

With BA there is a minimum of daily non-stop 11hr 35min services to South Africa’s largest city and for the southern capital three times weekly taking 11hr 45min.

With Virgin Atlantic from 8 November, flights from Heathrow to Johannesburg will increase from three times a week to a daily service.  

The relaunch of the airline’s Heathrow to Cape Town service is also being brought forward, following a huge surge in customer demand.  From 17 December, Virgin Atlantic will fly three times weekly to the destination famed for its breath-taking scenery and its world-famous wine region.

Virgin Atlantic’s South African services will both operate on the airline’s state-of-the-art Boeing 787-9, with 31 Upper Class, 35 Premium and 192 Economy Delight, Classic and Light seats. Flights are available to book now from £478 per person return to Johannesburg, and Cape Town services go on sale from 16 October from £578 per person return.  

Virgin Atlantic offers unlimited free date and flight changes for new bookings as part of a series of enhancements to give further flexibility to customers and support their future travel plans.

IATA and retailing

As you would expect IATA’s Digital, Data and Retailing Symposium, starting tomorrow 25 October in Madrid, is a hybrid event.

This year’s gathering combines the Airline Industry Retailing Symposium (AIRS) and the Aviation Data Symposium (ADS). Sessions will address the industry’s restart and how airlines can drive cost reductions and grow revenues by harnessing the power of digital transformation, data and retailing. 

Willie Walsh, Director General, IATA, will lead off the proceedings.
Presenters include:

  • Pieter Bootsma, Chief Revenue Officer, Air France KLM
  • Jim Davidson, Chief Product Officer, Accelya
  • Tamur Goudarzi, CCO Swiss & Senior Vice President Channel Management, Lufthansa Group
  • Harry Hohmeister, Member of the Executive Board, Lufthansa Group
  • Roland Jaggi, Chief Commercial Officer, Aegean Airlines
  • Wade Jones, EVP and Chief Product Officer, Sabre
  • Glenn Morgan, Head of Digital, IAG
  • Javier Sánchez-Prieto, CEO, Iberia
  • Decius Valmorbida, President Travel, Amadeus
  • Rogier Van Enk, SVP Customer Engagement, Finnair


View the full programme:

Ibis at Heathrow T5

Claimed to be the nearest budget property to Heathrow T5, Accor Group has reopened after a redesign of its Horton Road Colnbrook guesthouse, as a dual branded ibis and ibis budget hotel.  It is about 5min from the terminal by Junction 14, of the M25 and served by a Hoppa Bus to the airport.

The property now offers 56 new ibis ‘Plaza’ concept bedrooms and 241 ibis budget rooms. The two hotels share Charlie’s Corner bar and restaurant on the ground floor.

Philip Lassman, Vice President of Development for Accor Northern Europe said: “The renovation and reopening of this property as a dual branded ibis and ibis budget hotel is an exciting chapter in the development of both brands’ portfolio. It is yet another example of seeing these two successful brands sit side by side each other, enhances the offering for our guests, adds value for our partners' investments and secures our third UK ibis property to open this year featuring the new Plaza bedroom concept following the opening of ibis Bridgwater in April and Ibis London Sutton in July.”

London Crowne Plaza

One of London’s lesser known 4-star hotels, The Crowne Plaza Blackfriars is to reopen on 1 March.  It has been closed since the start of the pandemic.

In a very good but not obvious location, IHG has taken the decision to re-brand the property as a Hyatt Regency following a major makeover. The hotel has 204 rooms and previously limited conference facilities.  

The hotel is opposite Blackfriars Station with direct train services to Gatwick and also the Circle/Metropolitan Line with its various connections.  St Paul’s Cathedral is about 5mins walk and directory across the River Thames is the Tate Modern Art Gallery.

Bookings have not opened as yet and the new property will join The Churchill and New Scotland Yard as the premier Hyatt Regency London properties.

Lumo trains start

With a 10:45 Kings Cross departure for Edinburgh a brand new train operator is launched today (25 October) called Lumo, owned by First Group, operators of Great Western Railway (GWR) and Hull Trains. 
(See also BTN 20 September)

The train takes passengers along the East Coast Main Line from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley in 4hr 30min, stopping at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth.

There are initially up to four return services daily as against the 29 of rival LNER who also, depending on the time of day, offer alternative stops.  It is a single class five-coach operation (as against ten coaches on LNER who also offer First Class) with M&S and Pret catering available and delivered to your seat.  Fares are cheaper than the established operator.  The fastest LNER service (some have more stops for local convenience) is the same, 4hr 30min.

Manchester long-haul

Aer Lingus and Singapore Airlines are both getting back into business with long-haul flights from Manchester Airport.

The Irish airline is very busy with three new destinations – Barbados, which started last week and is three times weekly, from 1 December twice weekly to JFK New York, and to Orlando and its theme parks from 11 December.

Singapore Airlines’ history with Manchester Airport has been one of the longest on record having operated continuously since 1986, until the Covid-19 pandemic forced 98% of its flights globally to cease.

Singapore Airlines originally launched its transatlantic services to Houston in 2016, during the Airline’s 30th year of Manchester operations. In 2017, the airline introduced the first commercial A350 flight from Manchester Airport, as the aircraft also debuted on the Singapore – Manchester – Houston route.  From 1 December the airline will again operate to Houston, three times a week over the winter period.

Night trains in London

Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed the limited return of the Night Tube from next month.

It was back in March 2020 that the weekend all-night Underground was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  It was first introduced in August 2018 on the Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly, and Victoria lines giving a 24hr service.

Night Tube will resume on busiest Central and Victoria lines on Saturday 27 November. The remaining Night Tube lines will return as soon as possible.

The Central and Victoria lines were previously two of the busiest lines on the Night Tube network and provide crucial links between large parts of London and the centre of the city. Restoring night running on these lines will help businesses such as bars, clubs and restaurants as London’s night-time economy continues to recover following the pandemic. It will also provide a safe, quick travel option for Londoners and visitors looking to make the most of all the capital has to offer in the evenings, and those who need to travel to or from work at night.

The Night Tube offers a safe, low crime environment. More than 2,500 police and police community support officers and 500 TfL enforcement officers patrol London’s transport network, while thousands of frontline transport staff support customers and an extensive CCTV network is in place across the Tube.

Oxford Airport tops the charts

Figures issued by the Eurocontrol STATFOR database show that Oxford Airport (Kidlington) leads the way in year-to-year growth.

Compared to others, airports within easy reach of London, Oxford has seen an increase on a year-to-date (YTD) expansion at 30% growth with Biggin up 7%, Farnborough at 17%, Luton down -5%, London City down -27%, and Stansted flatlined.

The one exception is Northolt, which is up 44%, but is constrained with military users taking precedence and restricted opening hours.  The airport, on the A40 north of Heathrow, is averaging 13.9 business aviation flights a day vs. 22 every 24hrs for Oxford.  That increased Northolt activity is typically dominated by the larger fleet operators – the Netjets, Flexjets, Vistajets, etc.

Oxford Airport says that September saw its most jets ever in a month surpassing 600+.   

On a regional basis Gloucestershire has picked up at 26% growth YTD and Birmingham is up 23%.  Outside of the London region Bournemouth is still well up at nearly 70% YTD with increased engineering and aircraft hibernation activity.

Other ‘London’ region general aviation and business jet hosting airports are some way behind with Fairoaks at 6.5 BizAv flights a day, Blackbushe 3.3, Cranfield 2.7 (actually up 50% on last year), Southend 2.5, Denham 2.4 and Cambridge at 1.9.  With Blackbushe and Fairoaks the Pilatus PC-12s turboprop considered a BizJet.

Ritz development approved

Westminster Council has given the go-ahead for a major redevelopment of the Ritz Hotel, London Piccadilly. The £300m project should be competed in 2025 taking the capacity up to 191 suites.

Andrew Love, the Ritz's senior advisor, said the development is part of a long-term plan to ensure the hotel remains successful and a much-loved institution. (See also BTN 4 October)

He said: "The Ritz is a long-established hotel known throughout the world and it's a cherished institution in both St James and the West End.

"The 5-star service it provides has established itself as a West End and global icon.

"However in recent years there's been a realisation and an acute need to enhance the operation of the Ritz for its guests and visitors."

He continued: "This has been compounded by the pandemic but increasingly due to fierce competition from other globally-renowned hotels.

"Throughout our 115-year history the hotel has undergone many changes.

"The seamless continuation of the building, wrapping around Arlington Street, will keep the character and heritage of the hotel and help complete the vision of its founder, the legendary hotelier Cesar Ritz."

The 5-star hotel has hosted an endless list of famous guests, including the Queen, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. Maggie Thatcher, a long-time resident, passed away at the Ritz.

The Midland Manchester unveiled

Famous as the place that Rolls met Royce The Midland Hotel Manchester, now Israeli Leonardo-owned, has reopened its doors following a £14m transformation.

Whilst the complete hotel has benefited from the makeover perhaps the most stunning presence is the entrance and main foyer, which now features a brand new, split-level bar built on a raised platform in the heart of the hotel’s lobby, providing a spectacular space for both guests and non-guests to enjoy.

In addition to the public areas, the hotel’s 312 bedrooms have undergone impressive refurbishments. Featuring a restful, neutral colour palette adorned with luxurious soft padded armchairs, plump cushions and glowing lamps; the new rooms offer guests ultimate comfort and style.

On the food and beverage side the hotel is now home to two new venues.

Mount Street, is a modern British style brasserie, which combines Northern hospitality with an all-day menu offering. Guests can also visit The Midland’s on-site restaurant, The Midland Champagne Lounge, where they will find an all-day menu serving classic dishes with a modern twist.

Jason Carruthers, Managing Director of Leonardo Hotels UK & Ireland, comments: “We are thrilled to have completed The Midland’s extraordinary transformation and are all the more excited to reveal it to guests after a long lockdown period. The hotel has hosted gatherings and celebrations since 1903 and we are so pleased to welcome guests back once more to enjoy a new chapter in the life of this iconic building.”

UK Airport Conference

The AOA (Airport Operators Association) held its annual conference last week, a totally video affair. 

Robert Courts, Minister for Aviation made an appearance insisting that the Government was behind the industry.  

He said “I would like to see more working together. We will fight the corner for aviation.”

AOA Chief Executive Karen Dee was not that impressed.  “Despite the recent welcome changes we still have a complicated system.

“The Government has some way to go to set out a pathway to getting back to international travel with no restrictions.”

She noted: “Other countries took a more pragmatic view and have seen passenger numbers recover more quickly. That has meant airlines moving fleets to where they can make more use of them.

“Europe’s restart has largely been driven by a more pragmatic approach to intra-European travel. Double vaccinated passengers no longer need to do any testing.

“Despite great progress on vaccines in the UK we didn’t see the kind of recovery we were hoping for.

“We’re seeing some boost in demand for the autumn and removal of the day two PCR test will instil more confidence. But we do not see this as job done.”

And Dee pointed out “The Government can’t ignore the fact that we’ve had 20 months with no income. Furlough was welcome and we’ve had business rates support, but both have come to an end and we’re in the loss-making season.

“We’re not yet in recovery mode. We need a clear plan from Government, a recovery plan to provide a supportive environment through policy and fiscal measures."

For a full report read here

Virgin Atlantic menu

As Virgin Atlantic ramps up services to popular destinations such as San Francisco and Cape Town, the airline has evolved its onboard options with new Autumn menus including the re-introduction of some Upper Class favourites as well as all new sustainable wine in cans for Premium and Economy – all available on board this month.

Following the restart of passenger flying in July 2020, the airline simplified its service onboard to minimise interaction between customers and crew, since then service has been expanded progressively. The updates this month mark another step in delivering award-winning in-flight offerings whilst ensuring health and safety remains top of mind.

Virgin Atlantic tells Business Travel News that Upper Class customers will see the return of Virgin Atlantic’s famous cocktails and barista style coffees, Supper service and Extra Bite menu, as well as enhanced menu options. New starters available include a pear and Waldorf salad or smoked duck breast followed by a main choice of braised pork cheek, roasted trout fillet or vegan spiced cauliflower pie.

Premium updates see new antipasti plate as a starter followed by an autumnal venison stew, spicy jerk chicken or vegan penne Bolognese and finally a delicious dessert option of a New York style cheesecake. Customers looking for a warming mid-flight pick-me-up will also be pleased to learn that the hot chocolate service has returned across all cabins.

As part of Virgin Atlantic’s commitment to reducing waste, Premium and Economy customers will be trialling the service of Nice Drinks Sauvignon Blanc or Argentinian Malbec as part of the complementary wine service. The cans are 100% recyclable, plastic-free and a more sustainable, lighter weight option than wine bottles. Nice Drinks will be available on board shortly.

Also see Flights to South Africa in this week's BTN.

World Aviation Festival

ExCeL London will host the World Aviation Festival on Wednesday and Thursday 1-2 December,.  It has outgrown its previous home in Islington. 

Over two days it will feature 250 speakers from the world's largest airports, airlines and travel technology leaders, sharing their secrets, tips and lessons learnt. Check the speaker line-up including CEOs from Air France, easyJet, Etihad, Heathrow Airport, JetBlue, KLM, Qatar Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Wizz Air.  We single out David Neeleman who not only founded jetBlue, Brazilian carrier Azul and now Breeze, a sort of serial airline inventor.  

For those who have not been to ExCeL London before, the experience will be an eye opener with all the activities on one level.

From a practical point of view London City Airport is just one mile away and the DLR which runs from Bank Underground to Custom House for ExCeL London.  The exhibition halls are well supported with a large number of hotels, some of which will be used by participants for hospitality purposes.  The new Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) to Heathrow is not yet ready but will give easy access from London’s West End in the future.

ON TOUR: Biz jet get together

Just as 9/11 triggered a rush to private jet charter, so too has the pandemic.  NetJets has temporarily halted jet card sales because of unprecedented demand, while brokers are experiencing a shortage of aircraft for charter, partly because owners who offer them up through independent operators are flying more hours themselves. 

Against this backdrop the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) has hosted its first ‘physical’ networking event since March 2020 at Oxford Airport writes Alison Chambers and Chloe Greenbank.

Head of Business Development James Dillon-Godfray highlighted a ‘mad summer’ –its busiest August in 15 years, with 7,180 movements.  (Also see in this week’s BTN Oxford Airport tops the charts)

Exceeding pre-pandemic traffic levels, it’s experiencing 30% more movements than in 2019 and has climbed above London centric peer airports to retain its ranking as fifth busiest UK business aviation airport.  With its GA flying too, it is 10th busiest UK airport.

Summer movements were bolstered by group charters, operated in safe ‘bubbles’, supported by pre-arranged, on site Covid-19 testing.  “We realised we’re part of Europe again,”  James quipped, with passengers coming through its OxfordJet FBO on regional jets for the Moto GP Italy and F1 Grand Prix. 

This month it formally opens a new 63,000sq ft hangar, capable of accommodating six largest Bombardier, Gulfstream or Dassault Falcon jet models, simultaneously.  

With four Pipistrel electric aircraft arriving in 12 months, the airport is eyeing infrastructure requirements for next-generation hybrid-electric and eVTOL aircraft, including how to generate its own renewable power with a bio power plant and large battery storage solutions.

UK business aviation has, however, been battered by licensing, cabotage and permits, aircraft spares delivery times and loss of access to the pan-European Satellite Navigation System (EGNOS), prompting BBGA’s CEO Marc Bailey to comment “we aren’t out of the woods yet.”

He praised the UK Department for Transport (DfT), however, which, in an especially tough year, has taken a medium-term approach tackling the pandemic.  It provided great support with the new EU permit system, which required a lot of effort and planning for operator members especially.  “One of the biggest challenges has been the different interpretations and understanding of how cabotage and other higher freedom restrictions apply, as they vary from country to country,” said BBGA Deputy Chair and CEO of SaxonAir Alex Durand.

BBGA has stepped up working with industry players, associations and government bodies “to ensure markets are kept open for us.” One of the positives to come out of the pandemic, has been our ability to liaise directly with the DfT.  DfT’s Dave Harding also publicly thanked BBGA’s Directorate for airing and sharing issues so efficiently and speedily.   

Loss of unfettered access to the EU market is further aggravated by the surprise cessation of the UK’s participation in EGNOS – a double blow for UK airspace users.  BBGA is optimistic for a solution soon – “because as air traffic returns and flying activity increases, there will be pressure on existing airfields.  We need to research the network of airfields needed so we can plan airline schedules in advance as part of the UK’s future aviation strategy,” Marc said.

Aoife O’Sullivan, BBGA Chair and Partner, The Air Law Firm, highlighted sales of older business jets are up, with many new owners entering the market.  Getting these aircraft registered, however, is much more complex, post Brexit.  Being high-value assets, operators are inclined to shift them to the most beneficial jurisdiction, she explained.  Here, Malta, Ireland and Luxembourg are ahead of the UK for registrations, “where it’s easier to obtain an AOC quickly and efficiently.”  We’re working with the DfT and Treasury to guide government on what needs to be done to rectify this, to make the G-register more attractive.  UK-based maintenance organisations are well placed to do more aircraft acceptances, she added, praising investment in hangarage and infrastructure that several UK airports are doing.  

“A UK-owned business jet can sit on the Maltese register in a way that commercial passenger airlines like British Airways simply can’t.”  Some BBGA members (Air Charter Scotland, Luxaviation, FlexJet) have put jets on the Maltese register to make it easier to operate EU charters.
Aoife suggested the CAA consider a dedicated business aviation division, to better tackle post-Brexit challenges and continue to bolster the UK’s business aviation sector, with bizav so different from GA.

Gearup Media’s Liz Moscrop chaired a lively panel discussion with Alex Durand; Sandy Boyer, Executive Aviation Sales Manager of charter brokerage Hunt & Palmer Plc and Jonathan Clough, UK Director, Jetfly.  Alluding to government strategies now in place for alternative carbon emissions resources, Alex highlighted the green revolution is already here with SAF and electric/H/E models.  Sandy Boyer explained his company offers a carbon offsetting programme and several Institutions are requesting reports on CO2 footprint.   Current issues prohibiting the wider adoption of SAF, increasingly available at several business aviation FBOs now are access/availability/cost.

Jetfly, fractional ownership specialists in Europe, with 50 Pilatus PC-12s and PC-24s operating privately and on fractional contracts, established a carbon offsetting scheme two years ago.   Clients pay an additional €15 per hour to offset the carbon from their flight.  

Ed Griffith, Director of Oxford based JMI-Jet Maintenance International, said Brexit cost his company €33,000. A total of 215 companies complied, meaning “we are, collectively, paying the EU more than €7m annually – just to maintain EASA [European Union Aviation Safety Agency] aircraft.”  We have a French engineer and can’t get the French DGAC to give him his release papers.  JMI would like IATA to step in and get a bilateral agreement agreed.  “We’re all aligned with service standards, but it seems MRO bilaterals are years away.”

Dave Alexander, COO of commercial flight training academy Leading Edge Aviation Ltd (LEAL), concurs that getting out of Brexit and EASA has heaped on extra admin burden. LEAL must now deal with two regulators – UK CAA and EASA - doubling the cost and amount of auditing/certification events.
Dual-licensed instructors now have to pay for both UK CAA and EASA licences and ratings. They also have to advise students whether to progress with an EASA licence, so they can fly with the likes of Wizz Air or Ryanair; even easyJet, which has an Austrian AOC. Alternatively, they can opt solely for a UK CAA licence – for future work with British Airways, Virgin, or the new (Birmingham-based) Flybe 2.0. This means two sets of medicals; two sets of exams and, potentially, two IRTs to achieve a dual licence.  For LEAL’s 153 students set on a commercial flying career – that’s an extra £5,000-plus.

BBGA’s 2022 annual conference returns to Luton Hoo, Luton, on 10 March 2022.

AND FINALLY: Luton Airport late night concert

Television star and Classic FM presenter Alexander Armstrong has put on a special airside concert for night-shift workers at Luton Airport.

The performance took place on the apron under the wing of an easyJet aircraft in the early hours of the morning, as part of a world record attempt raising money for Global's Make Some Noise Charity.

The airport's airside operation's team enjoyed the short musical interlude before getting ready for the first wave of morning departures.

Luton Airport was chosen as one of the venues for the successful record attempt, which saw the presenter, performing 24 concerts across 24 hours.   

The Music Marathon has so far raised more than £60,000 for Global’s Make Some Noise, which improves the lives of disadvantaged people by supporting small and local charities across the UK.