NEWS: BA Brandygate, EU masks on flights no longer recommended and Airlines slam Heathrow price rise proposals

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BA Brandygate

Recently BA’s cognac has disappeared from most of their lounges and from onboard both long and haul flights, even in first class. The printed menus no longer feature it which made me wonder if this was a permanent removal from BA. A lot of readers were understandably quite alarmed by the prospect of not being able to have their favourite after-dinner tipple onboard.

Fortunately, I met with a couple of BA’s PR team this week and they have investigated the matter. I’m pleased to report that this is only a temporary supply issue and cognac should be back on the menu again in the future.

 

EU removes mask recommendation – what it really means

The European Union will no longer recommend medical masks be worn at airports and on planes from Monday 16 May.

The decision was made by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and was described as “a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel” for passengers and crews.

However, member states are free to do whatever they please, so the chances are some countries may choose to keep them. For example, Italy recently extended its mandate for masks (FFP2 minimum) on public transport until 15 June. There are currently 15 EU countries that still have mask mandates. Hopefully, these countries will fall in line with the recommendations. 

The 15 countries that still require masks on planes are:

Austria

Cyprus

Czech Republic

Estonia

France

Germany

Greece

Italy

Latvia

Lithuania

Luxemburg

Malta

Netherlands

Portugal

Spain

 

Airlines slam Heathrow price rise proposals

Heathrow has always had high charges for both passengers and airlines. From the extra £8 charge for passengers to the £5 drop off fee, Heathrow has wasted no time in trying to claw back some money after the pandemic. However, its demand for the amount it is allowed to charge airlines and passengers in the future has reached an all-time high in terms of an increase. Airlines have been trying to fight against this and new research was commissioned to see if Heathrow’s claims as to why it needs to increase charges so much are justified.

New research from WPI Economics finds that Heathrow’s foreign shareholders (it’s 90% foreign-owned now) are set to gain as much as £5 billion directly from customers over the next four years if a proposed increased cap on passenger and airline charges is approved this summer by the CAA.

The report, Clipping Britain’s Wings, authored by Matthew Oakley, a former Treasury official, raises significant concerns about out-of-date, deliberately pessimistic projections which have been used to justify Heathrow’s proposal to increase charges by 117%. 

The CAA’s initial proposals were published in October 2021 and already have allowed a 56% rise in charges in 2022 before the final decision is made. Passenger fees were £19.36 in 2021 with a Heathrow proposed charge of £41.96. 

The new report states that Heathrow’s projections used to calculate fees would see charges being at least £5 billion more than needed. Independent evidence, including from CEPA and Taylor Airey, suggests the CAA is:

  • Wildly over-estimating Heathrow’s future operating costs by £750m.
  • Under-estimating Heathrow’s future commercial revenue by £1bn.
  • Under-estimating passenger numbers by as much as 57 million over the next 4 years, leading to a £200m cost on consumers.
  • Grossly over-stating the rate of return needed to raise investment leading to increased costs of as much as £3bn.

The report says that hiking Heathrow’s prices even further could lead to significantly fewer passengers travelling through the UK’s only hub airport and instead opting to connect to global destinations via other, more competitive European rivals. At Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol fees were 54% and 57% lower, respectively, even before the recent price hike at Heathrow. Heathrow is currently Europe’s most expensive airport. The report reveals that more than half (56%) of connecting passengers from 7 of the UK’s regional airports already chose to do so through EU hubs, rather than Heathrow in 2019. 

Matthew Oakley, former Treasury official and author of the report, said:

“Hiking charges will hurt consumers most and ultimately lead to fewer passengers choosing to connect through Heathrow. The more expensive flying from Heathrow becomes, the greater is the risk to Global Britain´s ambition becoming a reality. This will undermine UK´s ability to trade leading to a loss of connectivity as airlines are pushed to consolidate around more profitable routes and move more of their operations to EU hubs.

“The Government must act to ensure that its Global Britain and Levelling Up agendas are not jeopardised by an unjustified regulatory decision which puts shareholders above consumers and the economy. This might take a rethink of how Heathrow is regulated.”

Understandably the airlines are not impressed by Heathrow’s proposed prices in light of the new report.

Virgin Atlantic load factors for Summer 2022 are growing at a quicker rate now than at the same point in 2019, continuing to build and exceed 80% over the summer months. Virgin Atlantic is expecting to reach 100% of 2019 Heathrow passenger flying levels during the summer peak. There are more short notice bookings than prior to the pandemic with 26% of passengers booking just 30 days or less before departure. 

A Virgin Atlantic statement said “Already the most expensive airport in Europe, Heathrow is abusing its monopoly position to fleece passengers and undermine the competitiveness of Global Britain, all to deliver excessive returns to its shareholders. WPI Economics research shows Heathrow’s desperate attempt to game the process, peddling flawed projections and downplaying the recovery of travel, to justify a massive increase in charges.

“A robust recovery of travel is well underway and Heathrow’s game is up. After a strong Easter, airlines continue to see bookings surge for the summer and beyond and the airport’s own April passenger figures show the strength of returning demand. Unlike our customers who face existing cost of living pressures, Heathrow is protected from inflation, and the CAA must step up to fulfil its primary duty to consumers, by regulating a monopoly to set a fair price cap.”

 

 

21 Comments on "NEWS: BA Brandygate, EU masks on flights no longer recommended and Airlines slam Heathrow price rise proposals"

  1. Thanks for the update on Brandygate Michele. You know more than we know.. Any update on your meeting with BA with regards to our ongoing crew issues that were brought up last week? Ian.

    • BA are going to put something together to respond to the comments made from crew that I can publish.

    • Wing it One World | 13 May 2022 at 2:06 pm | Reply

      I second Ian on the thanks on Brandygate Michelle, however a supply issue my A**. BA have mucked up here good and proper removing it.

      Absolutely no supermarket or off-licence I have been to have had any problem serving me some kind of cognac albeit it a cheaper / expensive versio. nSound very much like they are just palming Michelle off. Anyhow Seeing is believing. And I saw it clearly on Finn air on Thursday, and infact every lounge I went to in T3. 🤷🏼‍♂️🤷🏼‍♂️🤷🏼‍♂️

  2. BA prices are bonkers already.

    I know so many people who just will not fly with them anymore. Very sad.

  3. Slightly off topic. Gold card holder flew a day trip to Gothenburg yesterday in Economy

    The crew lead came up to me, addressed me by name and then offered me a free coffee. She also knew I was on a day trip and was part of a group of 3.

    Really strong service and I was impressed I have to say. So hats off. I really sensed they were trying

  4. Hi Michelle – random comment – any particular reason why you continue using a stock photo from a Moscow airport full of Aeroflot planes? Seems a bit odd at this time?

    • Because I hadn’t even noticed where it was/the airlines and I don’t really want to have to purchase anymore mask 😷 photos at this point in the pandemic! it’s not meant to reflect a particular airport it’s meant to be generic.

  5. Re LHR charges. My problem with the whole thing is that the owners take the upside in good years and then want customers to bail them out in bad years. I’m a convinced capitalist but that’s not the way markets are supposed to work. I realise that this is a regulated industry, but the owners, not the public, should bear the risk of bad results whatever the cause.

  6. Michele, when you say “BA are going to put something together to respond to the comments made from crew that I can publish.” ? Does this mean your going to get unfiltered comments from BA staff or will the comments go via BA management (and possibly get “bad” comments removed?)

    In regards to the price hikes. The cynical side of me isn’t at all surprised. It’s a business after all, the owners of LHR are in business to make money no matter what,even at the expense of losing customers in large numbers, which they might. If there was another airport in the UK that could be used as a “hub” so there was some competition things might be different….

    • It is BA management that are responding to the crew.

    • Hi Nigel,

      I’d be able to write their reply before BA does. It will be the same spin and bluster. Instead of admitting mistakes and rectifying them, it will be more fluffy talk. It’s fresh blood and new leadership we need within IFCE.I am hoping our new Chief Customer Officer will come to the rescue.He seems like a down to earth, realist kind of chap.

  7. Rex I Leyland | 13 May 2022 at 11:09 am | Reply

    On my flight from LHR last Tuesday to Marseilles disaster struck BA once again! The flight departed over an hour late due to unbelievable excuses, one of which I had never heard in all my 50 + years of air travel which was the Flight crew were not aboard [hence we were not permitted to board] due a security clearance failure in connection with their lack of transport to the aircraft. We were also told that everything else was ready to go but then the 1st officer informed us that the cargo loading had still not yet been completed. There was then a further delay in boarding due to a sick passenger in row 1. Finally when we were ready to depart we reached the runway but had to wait due to the 3 p.m. runway change, so were held waiting for the incoming traffic to clear. Finally we took off well over an hour late but were blessed with charming staff and generally a good product except when I asked for some cognac after lunch, the purser said she had cognac but then couldn’t find it after assuring me that there was some loaded on her flight yesterday. On arrival the trouble really kicked off again with nearly an hours delay for the baggage to be loaded onto the carousel and as for the priority luggage for Club passengers, they were the last to come through. When I complained to the BA representative at Marseille airport he said it wasn’t his problem and basically was not interested in helping me or anybody else in anyway whatsoever ~ disgraceful service. In conclusion the flight itself was more than acceptable it’s just the bits at either end that keep seeming to go wrong. Not only is it sad for those of us who keep supporting BA, but terribly frustrating when you never know what’s going to happen next that might impede on your flight??

    • Wing it One World | 13 May 2022 at 2:19 pm | Reply

      Sadly It’s not just flights, I booked a BA holiday and tour which was pick up and drop off from our hotel. Well the pic up happened but the tour was a shambles as the main event was closed so we could not see it, and as we had booked all day. They needed to pick up afternoon passengers and dumped both me and my 80 year old aunty 1.3 miles away from out hotel and told us to just follow the tram line back to the hotel sadly the worst part Rex is I complained to BA over 4 weeks ago and still nothing back from them. Now that’s customer service for you. Well done BA super service NOT.

      • BA have always taken a long time to reply to complaints. It’s at least 2 months currently. But they will reply eventually.

  8. What on earth is Global Britain? If Matthew Oakley is concerned about the country’s ability to trade, perhaps he should address Brexit and leaving the Customs Union and Single Market instead of the relatively minor issue of an overpriced airport. This is another example of a government of liars trying to hide the monumental damage inflicted on the country by blaming a third party

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