Following up on their new-and-improved partnership, American Airlines and British Airways have announced a reconfiguration of their New York to London schedule. And they’re making it a “shuttle” service. There won’t be more flights, just different scheduling.
So what will the new schedule look like?
Two morning flights: 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Then, starting at 6:00 p.m., flights leave every half hour, through 11:30 p.m., albeit not necessarily from the same airport. The reconfigured schedule will be take effect in April 2011.
So is this much of a change? I’ve always been impressed, frankly, at the sheer number of flights between New York and London. Here’s the current schedule of New York (JFK and Newark) flights to Heathrow on American and British Airways (chosen for October 28, an arbitrary date in the near future). This list excludes BA002 and 004, which are all-business class flights to London-City Airport. And this obviously doesn’t even take other airlines’ service into account at all, such as Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Continental, Air India, or Kuwait Airways…
Again, this is the OLD schedule:
AA142 departs JFK at 8:30 a.m.
BA178 departs JFK at 8:40 a.m.
AA100 departs JFK at 6:15 p.m.
BA112 departs JFK at 6:20 p.m.
BA184 departs EWR at 6:25 p.m.
BA174 departs JFK at 6:50 p.m.
BA176 departs JFK at 7:35 p.m.
AA104 departs JFK at 8:20 p.m.
BA188 departs EWR at 8:50 p.m.
AA132 departs JFK at 9:25 p.m.
BA114 departs JFK at 9:35 p.m.
BA182 departs JFK at 10:40 p.m.
BA186 departs EWR at 10:55 p.m.
AA116 departs JFK at 11:50 p.m.
From where I sit, a move to flights on the half-hour is a tweak, not a radical shift, but it’s still an improvement in booking ease. It sure is a lot easier to remember your flight options this way. But it’s still the same number of total flights, at the end of the day.
As of Friday, American Airlines and British Airways (and I suppose Iberia, too) finally made their membership in the oneworld alliance closer to equal footing: Prior to Friday, you couldn’t earn or spend AA miles on trans-Atlantic BA flights from the US. As of Friday, you can earn and burn AA on BA, which truly upgrades the alliance. But…
If you’re going to cash in your AA miles for a flight on BA, though, you’re going to pay through the nose. BA slaps fuel surcharges onto the base airfare, which are payable even on frequent flier tickets. Those fuel surcharges can run as high as $500 for a roundtrip ticket in a premium cabin, on top of the miles you cash in. What would cost you $150 cash or so on an AA flight will cost you 5 times as much if booked on BA metal. This is completely and utterly lame.
The logic (and legality) of these fees has always escaped me. When I buy a plane ticket, I’m buying transportation from point A to point B, and the on-ground and in-flight services associated with that transportation. Fuel is part of that transportation equation.
By backing out the “fuel surcharge,” airlines act as if the consumer is just renting space on the plane. But last time I checked, I wasn’t just renting a chair. I also paid for the the movement of that chair across the oceans.
Maybe I’m seeing the glass half empty here. I’ve spent much of the weekend (and all of today) in bed, sick as a dog, so I’ve had had plenty to time to get crabby. Yes, this is better than before. Yes, other airlines and airline alliances play similar games. But these discrepancies within an alliance defeat the spirit of cooperation. They insult and dispirit customers, and they embolden the critics who argue that miles are “worthless” because of airline shenanigans.
I am glad they did something to improve the alliance. But I still hoped for better.
It seems that some flight attendants are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. And it’s happening on both sides of the pond.
In the UK, some representatives of the union representing British Airways flight attendants have apparently lost their marbles:
While I recognize that the phrase “other duties as assigned” is not typically part of the contracted job description of a unionized employee, the labor union Unite is taking a particularly belligerent approach to defining specific work tasks in its ongoing squabbles. The union is essentially telling management that its employees shouldn’t do anything that’s not part of the safety routine. To wit: Flight attendants were advised by union leadership not to distribute hot towels to passengers premium economy on 747s.
And now, a published-and-then-repudiated memo portending to be union-issued has instructed its members to “politely refuse” to close windowshades. The airline had asked flight attendants to close the shades after passengers deplaned; closed shades keep plane interiors from heating up while the plane is parked at the gate, thereby reducing air conditioning (and fuel burn). But the memo argues that the task hasn’t been vetted for health and safety concerns. Seriously. The health and safety argument might have worked for the hot towels, but windowshades?
I empathize with flight attendants’ low pay and anger at losing benefits over the years. Really, I do. But the spat between the flight attendants and management over at BA has simply gotten ridiculous.
Speaking of empathy, I can certainly feel for this guy, too:
A JetBlue flight attendant, apparently upset with an uncooperative passenger on a just-landed flight, on Monday unleashed a profanity-laden tirade on the public address system, pulled the emergency-exit chute, slid off the plane and fled Kennedy International Airport, a law enforcement official said.
That’s a great opening for an article. And really, it just keeps right on going:
One passenger got out of his seat to fetch his belongings from the overhead compartment before the crew had given permission. [The flight attendant, Steven Slater] instructed the man to remain seated. The passenger defied him. Mr. Slater approached and reached the passenger just as he pulled down his luggage, which struck Mr. Slater in the head.
Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public address system and cursed out all aboard. Then he activated the inflatable evacuation slide at service exit R1; launched himself off the plane, an Embraer 190; ran to the employee parking lot; and left the airport in a car he had parked there.
Frankly, I feel for the guy. I wouldn’t want to be the enforcer of the bins, and who knows, I might reach the point of having a Howard Beale moment. But if it’s gotten so bad at work, that you’re taking the emergency slide to make an escape, it’s time to look for another job. Which Mr. Slater probably is doing right now.
Unless they let him slide. (rimshot)
Yes, British Airways crew is on strike, and if you’re booked with BA, you hopefully already know this. There have been abundant cancellations, and I’d refer you to the BA website for details.
But the disruptiveness of the strike isn’t limited to customers and staff at BA. Disrupted as well: Ryanair.
British Airways passengers turning up to Gatwick on Saturday for their 8:20am flight to Edinburgh are in for a slight surprise.
The aircraft waiting for them is scheduled to be one of three that BA has leased from its no-frills Irish rival, Ryanair, to help it cope with the impact of Saturday’s strike. Ryanair flight attendants, who must famously charge for everything from a cup of coffee to a sandwich, will also notice a change to their normal routine: they will have to serve food and drink free of charge.
“It will be BA service and BA catering,” said BA, adding that Ryanair cabin crew had been tutored in what this entailed earlier this week.
However, never missing an opportunity to take the low road, Ryanair management took a dig at their newest client:
“Never mind the coffee – being on time will be a new experience for these passengers,” said Stephen McNamara, a Ryanair spokesman.
The lack of legroom or windowshades may be a surprise for customers, too, big guy.
British Airways has leased aircraft from 11 different providers, not just Ryanair. But the odds are still good that operating flights will be operated by BA crew on a BA plane. Nearly 60% of BA crew apparently showed up for work, despite the strike.
Strikes are scheduled for March 20, 21, and 22 and 27, 28, 29, and 30, 2010. Strap in.
Upgraded: British Airways first class
Downgraded: Qantas first class
Just days after Australia’s Qantas announced that they would be ditching two-thirds of their first-class seats (except on the A380) and making business class their primary premium cabin, British Airways went the opposite direction. Instead, they are pumping serious cash into an upgraded first-class cabin.
Upgraded: British Airways Visa Miles
In the spirit of the last item: In order to actually fly in BA’s first class, you’ll likely want to have a stash of BA frequent flier miles. To help toward that end, the BA mileage-earning Visa card giga-mega-uber-super-deal is back. 100,000 total bonus miles after only $2000 in spending. $75 annual fee. Details via Gary Leff.
British Airways will partner with US-based Solena Group to build a plant in the UK to produce jet fuel from waste that would otherwise head to a landfill. The facility, scheduled to open in 2014, is intended to produce enough fuel to power only 2% of flights out of Heathrow.
Oh, 2007, the heady days of all-business class airlines like Maxjet, Eos, and Silverjet, with a newcomer popping up every few months to offer premium service on heavily-traveled business routes? …And who could forget MiMa? (Milan to Manhattan, quote…)
OpenSkies offers lie-flat seats (“BizBed”) at the front of the plane, and old-style business-class/new-style premium-economy cradle seats (“BizSeat”) in the the rear of the plane.
To me, the significance of this is two-fold:
For starters, it shows that British Airways, which had reportedly been shopping the OpenSkies subsidiary to prospective buyers a few months ago, has recommitted to the brand. This should give customers a smidge of confidence that their OpenSkies bookings are less likely to be canceled anytime soon.
Second, it’s a sign that premium-cabin demand may be coming back. The five Washington-Paris flights per week aren’t being added at the expense of the 17 weekly existing Newark-Paris flights. And the airline’s routemap webpage claims that they “plan to operate non-stop flights from New York to additional Continental European cities including Brussels, Milan and Frankfurt.” We’ll see if the latter claims actually pan out, of course, but even adding a DC flight to the mix says that business travel is starting to pick up.
Fares on the new route are being pitched at $815 plus taxes each way for the “BizSeat” option, and $1570 plus taxes each way for the “BizBed.” Not rock-bottom cheap, to be sure, but far less than the cash fare for an equivalent seat — even on a discounted Z fare — on a major airline. And hey, you earn BA miles.