BUSINESS TRAVEL NEWS (BTNews)

10 AUGUST 2020

The Business Travel News
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ON TOUR: August in the UK

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SOAPBOX SPECIAL: Karen Dee Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association

"Blanket quarantine – Not fit for purpose!" she says.

Seen in happier times with Transport Minister Grant Shapps, Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, makes a plea for the Balearic and Canary Islands, at least, to have the quarantine restrictions lifted. "Lanzarote, which as well as having low infection rates, is over 600mi from the Iberian Peninsula." It is a fair point.

"At this time of year, our airports are normally full, with the summer holiday season in full swing. This year, like in many other ways, will be very different. Despite the valiant efforts of airports, airlines and travel companies passenger numbers remain low and our industry remains in a very precarious situation.
 
Nobody within UK aviation will dispute the need for public health measures to remain the Government’s number one priority or for the Government to remain vigilant about a potential second wave. But the re-introduction of blanket quarantine measures – like those introduced recently covering the Balearic and Canary Islands in addition to mainland Spain – is the wrong approach and risks further damaging the fragile re-start of the aviation sector.
 
Last August, over two million people flew to the Spanish Islands, with these destinations making up 15% of all flights and 27% of flights outside of London. For some airports the proportion is even higher. These islands demonstrate that a blanket quarantine policy is not fit for purpose with the clearest example being the inclusion of Lanzarote, which as well as having low infection rates, is over 600mi from the Iberian Peninsula.
 
The Government must look urgently at a more nuanced risk-based approach which includes regional travel corridors allowing safe travel to areas with low infections, whilst also protecting against a potential second wave. It must also include working with airports to find broader solutions, such as testing, which could boost passenger confidence and further ensure safety while flying.
 
The Government acted with urgency to re-introduce quarantine measures for Spain based on public health concerns, but we need to see the same sense of urgency given to supporting the aviation sector, which continues to receive less support than others. One of the clearest examples of this is business rates, with airports in England paying over £70 million between March and June even when passenger numbers fell by around 97%. That Governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have granted business rates relief is exceptionally welcome and reinforces the urgent need for relief for English and Welsh airports.

With passenger numbers not predicted to return to pre-COVID levels before 2023 at the earliest, we face a very long and dangerous road to recovery. That’s why it is high time that the Government starts listening and agrees a sector specific support package that begins with an immediate introduction of regional travel corridors that can save summer holidays.

This package must also include a twelve-month deferral of business rates relief, action on APD, Government funding for CAA’s 2020/21 charging period and crucially longer-term employment support to protect jobs once the Job Retention Scheme has been removed.  Airports have done everything in their power to weather the storm and have done so without the specific Government support afforded to other sectors. It is time for the Government to finally grasp the severity of the challenge and threat that the pandemic poses to the sector and work with us to kickstart our long road to recovery."

Karen Dee,  Chief Executive Officer – Airport Operators Association

www.aoa.org.uk

Air Europa price?

In what will probably be his last major involvement before stepping down as CEO of IAG, Willie Walsh is being tight-lipped over the Group’s £900m bid for Spanish low-cost rival Air Europa.

Some are suggesting that the price is far too high and that a 50% reduction is required.

Critics say IAG should abandon the deal and use the cash to save jobs. It has also been accused by unions of stitching up the aviation market in Spain because it accepted £900m of Covid-related loans guaranteed by the Spanish state.

IAG argues the Air Europa takeover will give its existing airlines in the country – Iberia and Vueling – dominance at the country's largest airport, Madrid, and on routes to South America.

The influence of IAG's Spanish arm has become apparent after boss – and former BA chief – Willie Walsh lined up Iberia head Luis Gallego as his successor, to take over in September

www.aireuropa.com

Air India Express crash

An Air India Express plane with 191 people on board has crashed at Calicut airport in the southern state of Kerala, killing at least 18 people, officials say.

The plane attempted to land just before 20:00 local time on Friday 7 August  as heavy monsoon-season rainfall lashed Kerala.

The Boeing 737-800 en route from Dubai, skidded off the runway in rain and broke in two after landing at Calicut airport, aviation officials said.

The flight was repatriating Indians stranded by the coronavirus crisis.

"We have at least 89 people, many of them with serious injuries, admitted at different local hospitals in the local city of Kozhikode. The ambulances are still coming in," a senior police official, Sujith Das, told AFP news agency.  The pilots did not survive the accident.

In a tweet India's Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, said the aircraft "overshot the runway in rainy conditions," then plunged down a 35ft (10.6m) slope, before breaking in two.

www.airindiaexpress.in

Alex Cruz for Transport Select Committee

British Airways Chairman and CEO, Alex Cruz, has been summoned to face the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.

He will appear Wednesday 16 September at 09:30 for the two-hour session which will be transmitted live by Parliament’s TV channel.  

The session will be an opportunity for the Committee to receive an update on the current challenges facing the aviation sector and British Airways’ staffing plans.  With the event six weeks away, and Mr Cruz’s boss, Chief Executive of IAG, Willie Walsh, due to step down the following week (24 September) it is bound to be an eagerly awaited interrogation.

The Committee’s June 2020 report, The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation sector, explored the gravity of the crisis facing the aviation sector.

Among recommendations on quarantines and the Government’s recovery strategy, MPs condemned the behaviour of British Airways and its parent company towards its employees.

The report acknowledged that some job losses would be unavoidable but urged UK-based airlines and other aviation employers not to proceed hastily with large scale redundancies and restructuring to employees’ terms and conditions until the Job Retention Scheme ends in October and they have the opportunity to consider government plans to help the sector restart and recover.

https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/153/transport-committee

Boeing MAX mess

Lost within the even graver situation with Covid-19 the Boeing 737 MAX crisis is the biggest calamity to hit civil aviation since the Comet crashes on the 1950s and the Douglas DC10 grounding in 1979.

Whilst the earlier disasters could be said to be part of the growing pains of the jet age, the MAX grounding is unpresented.

Whilst engineers strive to produce an aircraft that is safe to fly in, legislators and lawyers swarm around.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 following two fatal crashes which killed 346 people.  At that point of time 387 had been delivered with a back order of 4,172.  It was expected that production would be at least 40 aircraft a month by now.

After a series of flight tests in July a wide-ranging list of changes have now been put forward by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the US regulator.  Boeing now says it expects to put the aircraft into service early next year.  Proposed changes include updating flight control software, revising crew procedures and rerouting internal wiring.  Whether these will satisfy other regulators around the world remains to be seen, their confidence with  the FAA shattered to some extent.

The pandemic has been a saviour for Boeing.  737s for the most part are not flying.  

www.boeing.com/commercial

British Airways and Waterside

There are persistent rumours that Waterside, the home of British Airways since 1998 (and in more recent times the London offices of IAG), is to mothballed, or at least mainly closed down.

The glass-fronted structure is set in 240 acres of landscaped grassland and waterways, the six four-storey buildings connected by a 175m long ‘street’ is supposed to encourage ‘social interaction and informal meeting’ amongst staff.

From a practical point of view many staff already work from home and room could easily be found for operational team members, and their managers, such as aircrew, in Terminal 5.

In times gone by BA executive offices were within the engineering base at the eastern extremity of the airport.  Waterside was planned to put the whole of the airline’s management into one building as a big cost saving.  It is also due for demolition as part of the third runway project.

No response from BA management.

www.ba.com

www.iairgroup.com

Business Travel Show cancelled

Now owned by the American group NorthStar, the Business Travel Show has dropped its traditional February date. 

This is the second show cancelled at ExCeL London bringing together aspects of the air travel industry following the announcement that World Aviation Festival has been abandoned for this year (See BTN 6 July).  World Travel Market, also at ExCeL stays at its original dates 2-4 November.

British-Irish Airport Expo goes ahead , supported by the Government in the form of attendance by Aviation Minster Kelly Tolhurst, Monday 5 October.  BTN is the media sponsor. 

With the Business Travel Show the plan is for it to emerge as what it calls a “hybrid show”, at ExCeL London 22-23 June 2021. This decision has not gone down well with some in the industry.  "By not asking people to travel it is setting a bad example," said a leading light in the industry. 

“The Business Travel Show will bring the industry together to realign the future of corporate travel and meetings,” said Louis Magliaro, Executive Vice President.

“Our mission has always been for Business Travel Show to be a truly international event, and that can be realised more easily through a hybrid offering. So, for 2021, engaging virtual content will be fully integrated across the entire event experience to benefit buyers attending the show and those unable to physically attend. This will allow more international travel buyers to attend and participate in the event’s extensive education programme than ever before, and for our exhibitors, sponsors and speakers to reach a wider geographical spread of potential business partners,” the organisers said in statement.”

A leading TMC (Travel Management Company) director said he was surprised with the new format.  “It seems to me to be an admittance that the business travel weakening will continue well into next year.  We want managers to move and meet, and gather.  ExCeL needs to be the place, not video. How are we going to sell the concept of travel to our clients if we ourselves meet on video!”

www.northstartravelgroup.com

Canada this winter

Air Transat has unveiled its winter 2020/1 timetable with plans to operate from airports across the UK during the season, thus restoring year-round operations.

The leading Canadian leisure airline recommenced flights from Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow to Toronto last month (24 / 26 July) when it restarted operations.

It has now confirmed it will continue to offer flights from all three airports during the winter season (from 1 November).

All services will be operated by the airline’s new narrow-bodied Airbus A321neoLRs.  At the height of the winter season, Air Transat plans to operate flights to and from more than 40 destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America, USA, Europe and Canada.

“Even though the entire tourism industry has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the desire to go abroad for a change of scenery and for new discoveries is still very much alive in travellers,” says Annick Guérard, Chief Operating Officer of Transat.

“That is why we are delighted to present them with our enhanced offer. Now, more than ever, this programme of more than 40 destinations allows us to redesign our future one step at a time and to renew our mission, which is to brighten the everyday of our passengers.”

www.airtransat.com

Cruises Not starting yet

The US membership of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is to voluntarily extend the pause in US cruise embarkations until 31 October.

If conditions in the US change and modified sailings are possible, the industry may consider an earlier restart if practical.  CLIA says in the meantime it will continue to work with public health and government officials to finalise enhanced health and sanitation protocols and procedures that will guide the eventual return to service.

CLIA includes Carnival Group, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess and Royal Caribbean.  This hiatus is likely to stand for Europe also, although MSC Cruises is planning a two-ship restart in the Mediterranean this month for mainland European residents only, followed by a larger restart of 14 vessels on 31 October.

The potential late summer programme would see MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica welcome Schengen (EU) residents on voyages to the Mediterranean. MSC is still awaiting approval of these voyages, which would run one week in duration.  Ports would include Greece and Malta, where MSC notes that cruises have officially been welcomed.  Countries have reviewed, and support, the safety protocols and restart of operations.  Passengers on these initial voyages will only be permitted to go onshore on MSC-arranged shore excursions. No independent journeys ashore will be allowed.

British cruise line, TUI-owned Marella, hopes to set sail 2 October with Explorer (See BTN 4 June 2018) and is taking bookings.  SAGA we covered in BTN 3 August. 

Please check with the individual cruise lines.

https://cruising.org

Cull at British Airways

British Airways attitude towards the staff and its trade unions has provoked deep resentment among a large proportion of its workforce – and threats of industrial action claimed. 

One experienced industry expert compared it to the collapse of Laker Airways nearly 40 ago years when the complete staff were made redundant overnight. “Fred looked after us,” he said.“Out of work but no resentment. Not with this lot.  Terrible leadership!”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme  Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey said: “I say to Willie Walsh, put the deal that you have agreed with pilots to the rest of the staff, and in doing so join with us as together we find a constructive and fair way through this crisis."

Unite claims that BA has adopted a more constructive and transparent approach with its pilots which it refuses to bring to discussions concerning cabin crew and other airline staff.

Mr McCluskey added: "The reality is that the pilots were never faced with the drastic ‘fire and rehire’ strategy that is being imposed on the overwhelming majority of the BA workforce.

On Friday staff were emailed a deal to be made redundant or reapply for a job, an unknown job, not necessarily the one they had before. Those not being re-employed are only due the statutory payment.

British Airways says more than 6,000 staff across the business have applied for voluntary redundancy and "refutes claims that our colleagues were pressured."

https://unitetheunion.org

www.ba.com

Delta blocks Heathrow

Two months after Delta Air Lines resumed flights between London and Atlanta, the carrier last week restarted a daily service on the world’s number one long-haul international travel route – Heathrow to New York JFK.
 
The US airline claims to be the only carrier offering nonstop service between the UK and United States that is keeping middle seats blocked and capping capacity throughout the aircraft on all routes for the time being to help protect the health and safety of its customers and crew.

Seat blocks are automatically implemented to prevent the adjacent seat being booked once a reservation is complete and seats are chosen. Parties of three or more will be able to book seats together, including middle seats.
 
“We know how important it is for our customers to feel safe when they fly. It’s always our number one priority and even more so during this time,” said Roberto Ioriatti, Delta’s Vice President Transatlantic. “This is why, as we add more routes between London and the US.  We’re continuing to limit the number of people per aircraft. We are also offering additional flexibility with tickets so customers have extra peace of mind should they need it.”

The DL2 service departs London T2 at 10:20 with the scheduled arrival JFK 13:30 local.  The return flight, the flagship DL1 leaves 19:30 local with arrival 07:45 at Heathrow.  No lounges are available at T2 presently, but in New York the Delta Sky Club is open in T4.

As part of its Covid-19 health and safety measures, Delta requires employees and customers to wear a face mask or appropriate covering when travelling. There is a temporary streamlining onboard food and beverage service.

www.delta.com

Eastern debuts Teesside to Heathrow

In what is seen as a major boost for the North East, Eastern Airways is to introduce what is initially a daily service from Teesside International Airport (MME), close by Darlington, to Heathrow on Monday 14 September.

This is seen as a replacement for the BA's dropped Leeds Bradford Airport to Heathrow route which has been dropped.  However, British Airways connecting passengers will have to change either way from T2 to T5.  Eastern also serves London City Airport from MME and a question mark must be raised over that service.

The catchment area for the flights includes incudes much of North Yorkshire plus the Durham, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough conurbations.

Eastern plans to use a 76-seat Embraer E170 on the route, with a 2+2 configuration and large overhead bins making it one of the most comfortable regional aircraft.

Roger Hage, Eastern Airways’ General Manager Commercial & Operations, neatly summed it up: “We look forward with our partners at Teesside International Airport and London Heathrow Airport to restoring such a major air-link missing for over a decade.”

www.easternairways.com

EasyJet recovering.

Luton-based easyJet is adding more flights to cope with increasing demand from holidaymakers according to a LSE trading statement published last week.

The airline had expected to operate at just 30% of its normal capacity, but is expanding its schedule to 40% as more people look to escape lockdown.

It restarted flying in June and carried over two million passengers in July.

"Returning to the skies again allows us to do what we do best and take our customers on much-needed holidays," said Chief Executive Johan Lundgren.

"I am really encouraged that we have seen higher than expected levels of demand with load factor of 84% in July with destinations like Faro and Nice remaining popular with customers."

He said bookings for the remainder of the summer "are performing better than expected" and as a result, it has expanded its schedule over the July-to-September quarter to fly at around 40% of normal capacity.

"This increased flying will allow us to connect even more customers to family or friends and to take the breaks they have worked hard for," he said.

EasyJet took the opportunity of emphasising the requirement for government action on the temporary removal of Air Passenger Duty (APD) to support the recovery of UK aviation.

“Action is needed across Europe to retain connectivity and a viable airline infrastructure. Without this we risk long-term damage to the recovery. This would significantly quicken the reintroduction and growth of the number of flights and routes available in the UK, particularly outside London.”

http://corporate.easyjet.com/investors

www.easyjet.com

Emirates doubles at Heathrow

A sign that things are getting a little better is the news that Emirates is now flying twice daily between Heathrow and Dubai.

Using a 489-seat three-class (14, 76, 399) Airbus A380 the carrier is for the time being operating out of Heathrow Terminal 2.  There are at present no lounge facility arrangements.

The airline also reintroduced A380 flights last week to Amsterdam, Cairo and Guangzhou, and says it has now resumed passenger network operations to 50% of pre-pandemic destinations.
 
Customers from Emirates’ network can stop over in Dubai as the city has re-opened for international business and leisure visitors. However Covid-19 tests are mandatory for all inbound and transit passengers arriving to Dubai (and the UAE), including UAE citizens, residents and tourists, irrespective of the country they are coming from.

As previously noted (See BTN 25 July) the airline continues to offer free travel insurance.

www.emirates.com

Manchester Airport update

In addition to the scores of the flights that have already re-started, last week saw the return of easyJet to the Greek island of Kefalonia, Funchal (Madeira), Olbia (Sardinia) and Tivat (Montenegro).  Back on line is Aegean Airlines to Athens and TAP Air Portugal with Lisbon.  TUI has instigated service to Bodrum (Turkey), Chania (Crete), and the much smaller Greek islands of Santorini and Skiathos.

All three of Manchester Airport’s terminals are in operation, as more airlines resume services and retail outlets start to re-open.  Passengers are advised to check which terminal they are flying from before arriving at the airport, as some airlines are operating from different ones than they normally would.

The following airlines have moved to Terminal 2:  Air Malta, Brussels Airlines, Etihad Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Iran Air.

The airport also encourages passengers to watch this video before coming to the airport, to ensure they are as prepared as possible.

Free water fountains have been provided across the site to fill up empty bottles as passengers and flights return.  More and more retail offerings are available to purchase food and drink.

The Escape lounges in Terminals 1 and 2 are now open but with restricted opening hours.

Karen Smart, Managing Director at Manchester Airport, said: “As we continue to see the return of more airlines and destinations for our passengers to fly to, we remain fully committed to ensuring their safety throughout their airport journey.

“In what would normally be our busiest month of the year, it is pleasing to see routes are increasing each week, giving passengers who want to travel the choice and opportunity to do so. This is why we now have all three terminals in operation, to allow passengers to maintain and keep a safe distance whilst on site.

“I’d like to thank all our passengers for continuing to abide by the measures in place during these uncertain times, and also thank all our staff who have gone above and beyond to ensure safe travel for all.”

www.manchesterairport.co.uk/coronavirus

Slots Wizz has its view

In a move that is likely to alienate other airlines operating at Gatwick, Wizz has called on the European Commission and all other stakeholders to end the current waiver from the 80-20 use-it-or-lose-it rule for airport slots.

Chief Executive József Váradi, is outspoken with his comments.  “The calls to prolong the slot waiver until March 2021 are against free competition and protect incumbent airlines with weak business models while airlines like Wizz Air are ready to take up new market opportunities and provide even more low fare opportunities for their passengers and essential connectivity for countries. Even more so than the irrational amounts of state aid given to airlines who have managed themselves into a financial position with no resilience, slot blocking is a fraud against the taxpayer as well as the travelling public.”

Wizz finds itself in a peculiar position.  It is not a member of IATA, registered in Hungary (Wizz Air UK in Jersey) and listed on the London Stock Exchange.  It is a member of Airlines UK but not the lobby group Airlines for Europe (A4E), which counts amongst its supporters British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair.

A4E's Chairman, and the Chief Executive of Air France-KLM, Ben Smith, recently reaffirmed this appeal, stating that the built-up portfolios of slots were "the bedrock" of the airlines' business models and the foundation for their long-term fleet and network planning.

https://wizzair.com

South African Airways

A much-vaunted plan to rescue South African Airways (SAA) is in in danger of collapsing according to Bloomberg.

SAA has not made money since 2011 surviving on government bailouts – a situation Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has said is unsustainable. He has undertaken to try and “mobilise” finance needed by the airline to keep flying from private equity, pension funds or “strategic partners.”

B4SA, a grouping of the country’s biggest business organisations, said that with the economy in crisis banks have other priorities and should not fund the carrier.

“We don’t have the money as a country,” said Martin Kingston, Chairman of the Steering Committee for the group and a former SAA Board Member. “The last thing on our list is for state-enterprise that is not essential to receive support.”

Mango Airlines, a low-cost subsidiary of SAA appears to be flying with a reduced schedule. SAA international flights stopped at the end of March.

There is currently no indication from the rescue practitioners or government that the funding to implement SAA's rescue plan has been "mobilised".  In a retrenchment notice to SAA employees, the practitioners warn that if there is not a change at SAA soon, there is a real risk of liquidation.

www.flysaa.com

www.flymango.com

Southwark hotel for Premier Inn

Premier Inn is celebrating the opening of a new-build 274-room property close by Waterloo Station in Southwark (SE1 8QD).

Designed by Dexter Moren Associates (DMA) the development includes a ground floor restaurant, fronting onto a public courtyard and pocket park.

The new Premier Inn features two separate blocks of accommodation connected via a lightweight glazed bridge link. A re-instatement of the lost Marlborough Street, a public route leads through to a pocket park and New Marlborough Yard, designed, according to DMA, in the spirit of other ‘discoverable' London courtyard spaces such as Ham Yard, St Christopher's Place and Shepherd Market.

Mark Wood, a partner at the architects said: "Given the current difficulties facing the construction sector in the UK, it is encouraging to see this new-build hotel project come to fruition. The design specified a combination of lightweight metal sections and more traditional construction techniques allowing the project to be delivered efficiently and on time. The project stands as testament to our strong track record on delivering commercially successful hotel projects in prime locations.

The site lies between the intense activity of The Cut with its shops, restaurants, bars and cultural entertainment and the quiet residential area of Ufford Street.

The pocket park incorporates seating, sculpture and abundant planting to offer respite and a sense of peace within the hubbub of city life. Diverse tree species provide shade and create a calm oasis, as well as helping to improve local air quality. Native and ornamental plants will foster biodiversity throughout the scheme and a mosaic of wildflower and sedum green roofs will provide a habitat for wildlife.

www.dextermoren.com  

www.premierinn.com

Spicejet at Heathrow

A new airline is expected to be seen at Heathrow from 1 September. 

Following traffic rights approval Spicejet has now obtained slots at Europe's largest hub airport, its move into the UK market first reported by BTN 27 July.

“This is presently under the bubble arrangement between India and UK and effective up to end of summer schedule, 23 October,” the airline said in a BSE (Mumbai Stock Exchange) filing, noting it is in discussion regarding the winter programme.

No Indian departure point has been designated at this time nor the aircraft being used, the carrier’s regular Boeing 737s and de Havilland Canada being unsuitable.  In the past it has chartered an Airbus A330 from Portuguese specialist carrier H-Fly for repatriation flights.

Heathrow has waived its “use it or lose it” rule on slots until the end of October and waits on European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen’s decision on the arrangement for the winter period.  Particularly in respect of Gatwick (see in this week's BTN) this is a ‘hot potato’ as far as Wizz is concerned.

www.spicejet.com

UK airport lounges

Lufthansa makes the effort.

At Heathrow Terminal 2 Lufthansa is the only carrier to offer a departure executive lounge (no arrivals lounge at all) and the situation for passengers of other Star Alliance member airlines who would be eligible for their own lounge is unclear. Premium Plaza is closed, as is its outlet in T5.

In T5 British Airways Galleries is open but not the Concorde Room.  The Swissport Club Aspire lounge is open too at the southern end of the building. 

At Gatwick Club Aspire is available in the North Terminal.

Manchester Airport’s Escape lounges are open in Terminals 1 and 2 and also the Escape at Stansted.

The Club Aspire lounges are available at Belfast, Birmingham and Edinburgh airports.
At Glasgow Airport the Lomond Lounge is open.

Passengers using any of the main UK airports are advised to check on the lounge situation before leaving their home/office.

www.executivelounges.com

www.lufthansa.com/gb/en/lounges

www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/lounges

Virgin flies on

In view of misleading press reports Virgin Atlantic has issued a strong statement once again outlining its financial situation and confirming limited services from Heathrow to Barbados, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and New York JFK from its Heathrow base.

For the time being in T2 Virgin is again flying from Heathrow. Image by William Derrickson

All upcoming flight and holiday bookings remain valid; Flying Club members can continue to earn and redeem their miles as usual; customers with cancellations can continue to request refunds and these are being processed.

The wording makes it very clear that the recapitalisation plan published in BTN 20 July is moving ahead as planned.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “Virgin Atlantic attended court yesterday (4 August) as part of a solvent recapitalisation process under 26(A) of the UK Companies Act 2006. That process is proceeding with the support of the majority of our creditors.

“Following the UK hearing ancillary proceedings in support of the solvent recapitalisation were also filed in the US under their Chapter 15 process. These ancillary US proceedings have been commenced under provisions that allow US courts to recognise foreign restructuring processes”.

With support already secured from the majority of stakeholders, it’s expected that the Restructuring Plan and recapitalisation will come into effect in September. We remain confident in the plan.”

The next hurdle is a creditors meeting to vote on the Restructuring Plan on 25 August.

www.virginatlantic.com

A HOLIDAY ON TOUR: Easy to Majorca

Alison Chambers reports from a super quiet Mallorca.

For the tourists this week at Molins Beach, Cala Sant Vicenc, the immediate concern as the sun sparkled on the aqua blue sea was jellyfish.  After two unusually choppy days, these pesky little creatures had ventured closer to the shore. Our elder son got stung.  Thankfully, beach medics were swift to deliver treatment.

Brits typically make up 25% of overseas visitors to the Balearic Islands every summer. To quote the illustrious writer Robert Graves: "Majorca is paradise, if you can stand it."  Around 15,000 British citizens are registered in the Balearics and according to the British consulate, account for 22,000 residents – 16,000 of them are in the Pollensa region. 

The UK Government’s controversial call to include the Balearic Islands on the 14-day quarantine list (alongside mainland Spain) came just a few days ahead of our holiday plans.  The Covid-19 infection rate then was eight per 100,000 (versus 14 in 100,000 in the UK and 38 in mainland Spain).  Many scrambled to cancel or change their holiday destination.  TUI stopped their (inclusive) flights and Jet2 urged its passengers to come home early, because they couldn’t guarantee their returns.  

There were just 49 passengers on our 11:45 easyJet flight to Palma Airport.  Another 20 booked to fly, were no shows. We breezed all the way through Gatwick’s North Terminal to our gate.  No queues through self-check in, self-service baggage drop and security.  The upgraded airside Aspire lounge was open, observing social distancing. 

Another first – no queues on boarding.  Keeping our face coverings on, we boarded by rows from the back. Once aboard the slim seat-fitted Airbus A320neo, which usually holds 189, we had two bar services.  No sandwiches, just tea, coffee and soft drinks, chocolates and Pringles.  The inflight magazine had been removed.  A Mum with three small daughters sitting behind us said she had cancelled this trip three times since March. Likewise, a family which included two school teachers, were not being influenced by Government advice.

The day we flew out – 31 July – Francina Armengol i Socias, President of the Government of the Balearic Islands, appealed to the British Government, citing the long ties which have historically and socially united the British and Balearic communities.  

“We have a controlled epidemiological situation as one of the first regions to introduce obligatory mask wearing as a means of protection. We closed the islands for more than two months in order to curb the pandemic, and only opened up under strict health security measures.”   Far from posing a threat, we are an ally and have always placed health above all other considerations, she challenged.

Mallorca adopted measures, such as the closure of nightclubs, to eliminate the risks and guarantee health security.

Our family has been coming to Mallorca since 1990.  In latter years we’ve chosen a villa in Pollensa or Cala.  This week our stay was much more modest – the comfortable and hospitable 19-room Hostel Los Pinos, overlooking the sea.  The family-owned 1950s built elevated residence (not recommended if you are wheel-chair bound – as it’s 80 steps up) offers an excellent breakfast, nice coffee and an honesty bar, which gives it a homely feel.  Five other families from the UK cancelled, so we were glad we didn’t.  It also meant we had the large outdoor pool to ourselves, much of the time.  Fellow guests – from Nantes, Basel (an ex-Crossair employee too), Frankfurt (Lufthansa’s flight was full, although they closed the middle seats) and a friendly, solo traveller from Leeds.   

Cala’s adjacent beach restaurants were already suffering from lack of tourists since March.  The Molins Hotel is under renovation – a lower level spa is currently being built, hopefully ready for the autumn and next door, construction started – but since stopped, on a new boutique hotel. Pollensa Square, usually bustling, was extremely quiet, its usual summer concerts and fiestas cancelled. Puerto Pollensa was sadly the same, with a notable lack of young British families.

The biggest surprise – pleasant of course as a traveller – but worrying for the airline industry – was our 14:00 flight home from Palma Airport. Usually duty free, the airport’s cafes and fast food outlets would be bustling. They were practically empty, or closed.  No queues at the easyJet check in. There were 58 of us on the smaller, older A319. 

We boarded early and landed 15min early.   It was like arriving into Gatwick at 04:00, not 16:00.  No queues at passport control.  No temperature checks at either airport, just the requirement for an online form detailing where you will be in quarantine for the next 14 days.  We look forward to the call to confirm all is ok.  My son, his fiancée and her parents also arrived into Bournemouth this morning – less than 50 on their Ryanair flight and for once, no stress about baggage – at both ends of the trip.  

And the jellyfish sting wasn’t a drama.  The beach medics have vinegar guns strapped to their shoulders.   As I write this, headlines are popping up about heavily packed beaches on the South Coast – I think we made the right call.

We are now in lockdown for two weeks, working from home.  Was it worth it?

Yes!

But the Government has got it wrong.  AOA’s Karen Dee makes the point in this BTN issue.

www.emeraldmedia.co.uk

ON TOUR: Covid-19. The WTTC Webinar Scientific Summit.

According to WTTC's 2020 Economic Impact Report, during 2019, Travel & Tourism was responsible for one in 10 jobs (330m total), making a 10.3% contribution to global GDP and generating one in four of all new jobs.

More than 17,000 people from around the world signed up to participate in the WTTC/Carnival Corporation Global Scientific Summit on Covid - 19 last week to hear directly from 12 renowned public health experts and scientists, sharing their knowledge and the latest evidence-based practices related to the prevention, detection and mitigation of Covid-19. 

The free, open-to-the public event was hosted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, and Carnival Corporation & Plc, the world's largest cruise company.

The virtual summit explored the most up-to-date science and medical evidence related to Covid-19 to help inform practical, adaptable and science-based solutions for the "new normal."

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO, said: "The summit accomplished exactly what it set out to do, as a platform for leading health experts and scientists to discuss the latest thinking, best practices and evidence-based protection and mitigation measures, such as testing and tracing, which is going to be crucial in the recovery. It was also interesting to learn that the widespread adoption of protective face masks can dramatically improve the current situation.

"We'd like to thank our esteemed panellists, our WTTC members and viewers who joined us from around the globe. It is clear that after hearing from our panellists, we must support a more vigorous programme of testing and tracing globally, if we want to transition to a new normal and return to safe travels. As the world learns to live with Covid-19, it is imperative that we continue to prioritize public health and saving lives, whilst restoring consumer confidence, driving global economic recovery, and saving the jobs of millions of people whose very livelihoods depend upon a thriving travel and tourism sector.

"We are delighted to be working with Carnival Corporation, and this unique summit gave the public and our members in the travel industry a chance to hear facts directly from scientists, which was an invaluable experience."

"This summit allowed us to put the general public in direct communication with the leading experts working on science-based solutions to mitigating and living with Covid-19," said Arnold Donald, President and CEO of Carnival Corporation, and a member of the WTTC Executive Committee and its Vice-Chair for North America. "The pandemic touches all corners of society and is in one way or another affecting everyone and all industries. We are grateful to the distinguished panellists who shared straightforward, easy-to-understand insights about living in a world with the virus, and we appreciate WTTC partnering with us to present this event."

The summit covered epidemiology, transmission, screening and testing, therapeutics and practical risk mitigation in three one-hour sessions.

A session on "The Science of Covid-19" focused on epidemiology, transmission and testing, with featured speakers Dr. Steven Gordon, Chair of Infectious Disease at Cleveland Clinic; Dr William Morice II, President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories; Dr Stacey L. Schultz-Cherry, Co-Principal Investigator, St Jude Centre for Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance; and Dr Joshua Wolf, Associate Member of the Infectious Diseases Department at St Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The prestigious line-up of speakers for the "Treatment & Prevention" session, where discussion included vaccines, were Dr Julio Frenk, President of the University of Miami and former Minister of Health for Mexico; Dr Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, Head of Pathology at Mount Sinai Hospital; Dr Jewel Mullen, Associate Dean for health equity at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas Austin; and Dr Vivek Murthy, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States.

The final session on "Life in a Covid-19 World," looked at best approaches in mitigating spread and featured Dr Thomas Cahill, physician and venture capitalist with Scientists to Stop Covid-19; Dr Michael Lin, Neurobiology & Bioengineering Associate Professor at Stanford University; Dr Michael Rosbash, 2017 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine and professor at Brandeis University; and Dr Stuart Schreiber, a Harvard University chemist and co-founder of the Broad Institute.

The WTTC's Crisis Readiness report, looked at 90 different types of crises, highlighting the importance of public-private cooperation to ensure that smart policies and effective communities are in place to enable a more resilient travel and tourism sector.

The various sessions are all brought together here. https://covidsciencesummit.com

The WTTC is headquartered in London. The staff are led by the President and CEO of WTTC. Seven directors head the different sections of the organisation. The WTTC members are the chief executives, presidents, or chairs of companies from different sectors and regions within the travel and tourism industry.

www.wttc.org

AUGUST ROAD TEST: Kia Ceed Sportswagon 1.4 T-GDi 3

Looking for a spacious five-seat shooting brake? Malcolm Ginsberg reports

Yes, the up-market term is not in favour at the present time but that is the best description of the Kia Ceed Sportswagon,  roomy family car with plenty of space for luggage.  It comes with a pair of very smart roof rails.  I just wonder if anyone ever uses them?


Press car loans have been curtailed since the outbreak of the pandemic but as soon as the restrictions were lifted, Kia, one of the best when it comes PR, was back in the seven-day demo business.  This aggressiveness is perhaps reflected by UK car registrations for July at 174,887, increasing by 11.3% on a year-on-year basis according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

In case you are in a muddle with the mid-range Kia cars currently available in the UK (with the start-price shown) here is the list.

All-New XCeed Plug-in Hybrid (£30,695),
Ceed Sportwagon Plug-in Hybrid (£29,995)
All-New XCeed (£20,840), Ceed (£18,855)
ProCeed and variants (£24,335)

And Ceed Sportswagon (£19,855), the subject of this road test priced on the road at £24,405.

At a length of 4600mm (15ft 1in) the Sportswagon is big car, but does not feel like it. It handles as well as its equally comfortable five-seater sister hatchback which comes in at 4310mm (14ft 2in).  Where it does win is its enormous capacity put at 1694ltr of space, plus some very well thought out additional storage space beneath the commodious boot.  The turning radius is 5.3 metre and the cornering is best described as ‘nimble’.  The rear passenger seats split and lay flat and can be used for luggage storage.  

A 0-60 in 9.1sec is not a class leader, but as they say ‘sufficient’.  A top speed of 120mph plus is academic.  Plan on 45mpg for this model and there is available a six-speed manual and a more frugal 1ltr version but only with the manual box.  A diesel version is available too, both auto and manual. 

There is tinted glass all round and the Kia sits smartly on 17in alloy wheels. The cruise control and speed limiter switches are beginning to become fairly standard in the way they work.  They are not for everyone but it is worth persevering until you get the hang of it.

The Ceed Sportswagon comes with the usual Kia seven-year 100,000mi warranty.  Forget it is a Korean company.  It is a true European motor, designed in Germany and built in Slovakia.  The initials CEED means 'Community of Europe, with European Design'. Someone must have taken home a medal for coming up with that name. 

Is this 1.4ltr seven-speed petrol driven very smooth automatic the ultimate development of the traditional car we were all brought up with? 

At what point does the electric automobile take over? 

Let’s just say the Ceed Sportswagon it is not perfect but is pretty good.  Why no USB point for the second row of seats?  A 12-volt point in the boot will be seldom used, if at all.  And no repeater of the navigation in the driver’s consul.  Its plus points are what makes the car so user friendly. A traditional handbrake, a really clear ‘door unlock’ plus pair of cupholders for those in the front, and another pair for the rear passengers.

The passenger doors light up when entering, a nice safety feature and once in the diving position you feel as if you are in a quality car with a black cloth seat trim and black faux leather bolsters and a leather trimmed steering wheel. There is power lumbar support for both driver and front passenger.  The central 10.25in touchscreen satellite navigation system has a telematic information arrangement with warning indicators for such things a low fuel, brake problems, and oil requirements.  It features a comprehensive Tom-Tom navigation system and includes a reversing camera system and bleeper.  You don’t need the two, but I was unable to switch the bleeper off.  Dual automatic air conditioning. A nice but simple extra (free) is a sunglasses case mounted within the front cabin map light. 

The car comes complete with many items, an extra with other manufacturers, including electrically folding, adjustable and heated door mirrors with LED indicators and kerbside lights, but no electronic key for start and stop.  You have to put a key in the slot on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. 

The Kia has lane keeping assist (which I switched off – too many bleeps), driver attention warning (again disposed of), hill-start control (very useful) and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

With just a week’s loan, and other things to do, it was impossible to learn how to use all the ‘extras’ fitted as standard particularly the Apple facilities and voice control.  Android is fitted too. Kia certainly offers value. 

BTN has road tested two other earlier versions of the Ceed family, the GT Line and invigorating GT ProCeed 1.6lt. Perhaps it is the change from manual to automatic, and also diesel to petrol but all three cars feel different.  

If it is a large shooting brake you want at a reasonable price the Kia Ceed Sportswagon might be just the answer. 

Performance 8
Handling 8
Transmission 8
Noise 8
Economy 8
Ride and Comfort 8
Accommodation 8
Styling 7
Brakes 7
Finish 8
TOTAL  78%

www.kia.com/uk

AND FINALLY: The end of Flight

Not of aviation! 

Nothing to do with Covid-19, it was planned some time back, but the final edition of the weekly Flight International was published last Tuesday 8 August.  Don’t rush to your local WH Smith.  The once fine newspaper shop dropped it some years back.

Founded in 1909 as "A Journal devoted to the Interests, Practice, and Progress of Aerial Locomotion and Transport," it is the world's oldest continuously published aviation news magazine. 

AND THIS FROM “BUGGIE NEWS”

“The new Flight International will deliver the best analysis of the top stories, while continuing to deliver the signature feature content you expect from us. From flight test reports to detailed cutaway drawings, country specials and signature safety coverage, we will continue to provide the quality content you only get from Flight International. We’ll also feature more interviews with company chief executives and guest insight supplied by industry leaders, along with old favourites including Straight & Level.”

The inaugural monthly magazine will be distributed on 17 September. Printed on A4 stock and perfect-bound with a glossy new look, our first 84-page issue will include our annual ranking of the Top 100 Aerospace Companies and a retrospective look at 50 years of the widebody commercial airliner.

www.flightglobal.com/flight-international