BA to explain actions to the Transport Select Committee
The Transport Committee intends to hold an evidence session with Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of the International Airlines Group and parent company of British Airways, on Monday, 11 May.
The Transport Select Committee is due to hold an inquiry on the Aviation sector and the challenges it faces from Covid19. The first evidence session today, 6 May will consist of separate panels covering consumer rights, airport operators and representatives from the airline industry. Naturally, British Airways was invited to give evidence and face questioning over its actions in the crisis. BA refused to attend as they said Willie Walsh would be unavailable due to a board meeting and no one else would be able to attend on his behalf. While I can understand that a board meeting is extremely important, especially at the moment, annoying a select committee before it has even started is probably not the best idea.
Judging by the statement, the Transport Select Committee wants some serious questions answered such as why “airlines, including BA, are sitting on £7 billion of passenger refunds and offering future travel vouchers rather than returning the cash as consumer rights require.”
The statement of the Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, was also pretty blunt:
“It seems remarkable that British Airways cannot find anyone with sufficient responsibility to join others from the aviation sector for our Select Committee inquiry this Wednesday. With so many questions, this would be an ideal platform for BA to set out its challenges, to reassure and seek Parliamentary support should it need more assistance from the UK authorities.
“In March, BA’s parent, IAG, warned against the UK Government bailing out its competitors and said it would administer ‘self-help’ before seeking support. BA’s UK staff are now facing mass redundancies or working on vastly reduced terms. BA’s passengers are not being given flight refunds they are entitled to.
“In Spain, it would appear that BA’s parent has adopted a different strategy of seeking substantial Government financial support and maintaining its operations and employee numbers.
“It’s vital that BA reassure their staff and passengers that they are not using this epidemic to reduce their UK wage bill and competitors, in order to maximise future profits if and when the market returns.
“Judging by the huge volume of emails which MPs are receiving from concerned staff and passengers, it is more important that we hear from BA and IAG than demonstrate their lack of delegated responsibility. We therefore intend to proceed with a separate session for British Airways and Mr Walsh on Monday 11 May in the event the limited resources in Parliament can accommodate. We look forward to meeting Mr Walsh and hearing his strategy for BA in these challenging times.”
Hong Kong to disinfect people automatically
In addition to wearing masks, limited catering and temperature checks, you may soon be able to enjoy the experience of a full-body disinfection! The Airport Authority Hong Kong is now applying the latest disinfection technologies, including disinfection channels, antimicrobial coating and autonomous cleaning robots, at Hong Kong International Airport to protect passengers and airport staff from COVID-19 infection.
A full-body disinfection channel facility is being trialled in live operation at Hong Kong airport. First, the person will have a temperature check before entering an enclosed channel for the 40-second disinfection and sanitizing procedures. The interior surface of the channel is equipped with antimicrobial coating which can remotely kill virus and bacteria on human bodies and clothing by using the technologies of photocatalyst and “nano needles” (sounds fun!). Just to finish you off, a sanitizing spray is also applied for instant disinfection. The channel is kept under negative pressure to prevent contamination moving between outside and inside. Currently, the facility is only for use by staff who take part in public health and quarantine duties at the airport for arriving passengers.
Meanwhile, the airport is also conducting a pilot test of applying antimicrobial coating at all passenger facilities. An invisible coating to destroy germs, bacteria and viruses is applied to high-touch surfaces in the terminal, including handles and seats of Automated People Movers and passenger buses, smart check-in kiosks and check-in counters, toilets, seating area in the terminal, baggage trolleys, elevator buttons, and more. After completion of the trial in May, Hong Kong will consider implementing it as a long term disinfection measure.
Autonomous cleaning robots are also deployed to ensure thorough disinfection of public areas and passenger facilities in HKIA. Intelligent Sterilization Robot, equipped with ultraviolet light sterilizer and air sterilizer, is deployed round-the-clock in public toilets and key operating areas in the terminal building. The robot can move around autonomously and sterilize up to 99.99% of bacteria in its vicinity, including both the air and object surfaces, in just 10 minutes.
Qantas ditches Project Sunrise for now and promise good deals
Qantas has been working for some time with Airbus to launch non-stop flights between London and Sydney. Why anyone would want to sit on a plane that long I have no idea, but given the fact that Australia are unlikely to open their border with the UK this year, it is hardly surprising. Qantas had selected the A350-1000 as the preferred aircraft if Sunrise proceeded. Airbus would have added an additional fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum takeoff weight to deliver the performance required for Sunrise routes.
There has been a lot of talk about how airfares will be extremely high and how it is the end of low-cost flights when we return to flying. Personally, I think this is nonsense. Yes, there will be a period when borders open up and people start to fly when I predict initial high fares. This will be due to limited availability and people needing to fly rather than just fancy a holiday. Once travel starts to return to more normal times, airlines will need to tempt people back with cheap fares.
Alan Joyce, their CEO promised customers and staff several things in an open letter about what it would look like when the airline starts flying again.
“Airlines will be keen to stimulate travel demand to get their people and aircraft back to work and restart their cashflow pipelines, repairing the damage done by the devastating and sudden drop in revenue. That’s good news for consumers because it means plenty of good deals.”
My Joyce also reiterated what we have been expecting that Qantas will start flying domestically long before they restart international travel. However, Australia and New Zealand are discussing allowing reciprocal travel between themselves without a quarantine period. Both countries have managed to get the epidemic under control quickly and are looking at the concept of travel bubbles. This would allow countries to form a travel zone between themselves that did not need quarantine on arrival. There is talk that the UK and Ireland could form a similar agreement.