British Airways launches new yuppie flight amidst protests

Protestors were out in force when City Airport’s first transatlantic flight to New York took off at 12.50 yesterday. Local group Fight the Flights was joined by supporters from Plane Stupid and HACAN to protest about the new all-business class flight which sends a handful of yuppie scum to New York and - most irritatingly - brings them back again afterwards.

The campaigners - dressed as City yuppies - had come together to celebrate sarcastically at London City Airport with banners proclaiming 'We love carbon emissions' and 'global warming is cool' and also making a lot of noise using whistles, drums and horns.

Alan Haughton, from Fight the Flights said, "We had a lot of fun but the message was deadly serious. The super-rich are getting pampered. The super-poor are under the flight path getting the noise and pollution. No wonder people are angry."

Elizabeth Baines, from Plane Stupid, said, "This makes a mockery of all BA’s claims that they want to cut their emissions. This sort of flight should have no place in a world threatened by climate change."

Photo by Mini Mouse. You can see more at his gallery.

Boris flies to New York to diss video conferencing

It's a hard life being the Mayor of London - especially when you'd much rather be the PM. But Boris and his Bullingdon chums are never more than a hop-skip-jump away from a freebie, so this week he's flown off to New York to promote British Airways's latest campaign against video conferencing.

That's right: the Mayor of London, who opposed expansion at Heathrow and who is supposed to represent the caring-sharing face of Compassionate Conservativism is taking backhanders (well, four business class flights) from an airline to expressly oppose the idea that we could do quite a lot of what we do without sitting in a tube of metal half-way above the Atlantic.

BA's 'Face to Face' campaign is nothing short of an attempt to derail the recession-inspired decline in flying, which was driven by accounts departments suddenly remembering that it's perfectly OK to call someone with whom you would like to do business instead of packing a bag and heading to Heathrow. Can you imagine a more cruel and heartless world than one where business deals are not concluded in the top floor bar of the Hilton Cairo with a nod, a wink and a large glass of wine?

So, great that Boris enjoyed his holiday. Now BoJo, would you mind staying in the States permanently? It's not like you do any work while you're here - except for phasing out perfectly accessible buses for less frequent, less spacious alternatives...

Downing Street twitters on about flying

In the dying days of Labour, everyone is out for what they can get. After all, once May 2010 comes around, there will be loads of MPs, researchers and other political low-lifes on the hunt for new jobs, as a new breed of political low-life replaces them. So let the firesale of the last vestiges of Government credibility begin. Witness: Number 10 using Twitter to advertise British Airways.

Those of you who haven't been scouring the web 2.0 multiverse may have missed this little advert-dressed-up-as-a-social-enterprise. BA is giving away 4,000 flights to encourage businesses to fly unnecessarily and sell more crap to each other while charging liquid lunches to their expense accounts. Flights that would otherwise have been replaced by, oh I don't know, a phone call maybe? BA claim this is all about kickstarting the economy, but the facts don't bare that out.

BA has low passenger occupancy rates - 73% last month, against Ryanair's 12 month average of 81% - so over a quarter of seats are empty. That means less people buying duty-free and also gives them a fair few seats they can give away, hence this opportunity for naked self-promotion. BA give away seats that would otherwise have been empty - and thus increase their potential revenue from ancillary duty-free sales - and generate loads of nice media in the process. Hell, I bet they even get to write the seats off against their taxes.

Now corporations will always try this sort of bullshit, but for Government officials to be in on the scam is... well, to be expected frankly. The door between government and hte industry has always been a revolving one, and these spineless cretins are always trying to feather their nests. Doubtless whoever dreamt up this tweet has his (or her, let's pretend that the inner workings of Government isn't entirely a sweaty cockpit) eyes on a job in the industry somewhere?

Ryanair's skint, BA's broke and still they want to expand

No, no, no

Gloomy times ahead for troubled airlines: Ryanair announced today that it's going to have to raise prices to cover fuel prices. It's also expecting to ground 10% of its fleet over the winter. If I was prone to anthrompomorphism I'd be talking about the planet heaving a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile BA is considering the budget model - charging for food, check-in and sick bags - again because of rising oil prices. Aviation fuel is skyrocketing, caused partly by a decade or two of unrepressed demand. All those nonsense flights to places you can't spell have sucked up a good deal of oil, and oil producers can't refine it fast enough to satisfy everyone.

Of course any sensible government might take this as a good time to drop their plans to expand Heathrow (and every other airport, just about). After all, with prices rising demand for flights will fall, and that kind of negates the need to turn an ancient village into a runway. So the industry turns to it's figure heads - in this case IATA Director General Giovanni
Bisignani, who slated the UK's airports infrastructure at the annual IATA piss-up. "This year's Worst Regulator Award goes to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Look at Heathrow. Service levels are a national embarrassment." Oh well, if he say's it's terrible we'd better expand, eh?

The party's over: end of cheap flights, says BA

Party cat

Anyone else feel like we're balanced on the edge of a cliff right now, looking down? The head of British Airways, Willie Walsh, seems to, predicting rising oil prices will bring about the end of the 'cheap' flight extravaganza. Yesterday oil hit $135 / barrel, promoting Ministers to utter the word "crisis" in muted tones around the corridors of Whitehall.

Meanwhile aviation fuel is at $1,350 / tonne and rising, and US flagship American Airlines has started charging customers for breathing (well, for checking in luggage and stuff). Back in Blighty airline CEOs are studying bottom lines as never before, trying to squeeze those margins ever tighter. Self-appointed experts predict that we could be seeing bankrupt carriers by the end of the year, and profit warnings from many others.

Ex-BA boss slams third runway

Project Runway

Take one former chief executive of British Airways. Add a hefty dose of criticism, blend with the Sunday Times's campaigning and leave to simmer over a Bank Holiday weekend. What have you got? Another nail in the coffin for the surely doomed third runway.

Bob Ayling, head of BA from 1996 - 2000, has joined the baying mob opposed to Heathrow's expansion, calling the plans to turn Sipson into Airstrip One a "a classic exercise in misguided central planning." While environmentalists have focused on the growth in emissions and residents on intolerable noise and pollution, Ayling has gone straight for the economic jugular, savaging BA and BAA's business plan and the regulatory framework.

BA passenger numbers collapse

BA check in

It hasn't been a good start to the year for British Airways, once the self-appointed "World's Favourite Airline". Surging growth on the domestic railways and a 21 per cent increase on Eurostar following the opening of the high speed route has eroded BA's passenger figures. Now even their pilots are trying to strike.

But the real disaster was of course the 'opening' of T5 with the naive belief that passengers might still want to travel with BA even if one in 34 of the bags that were reluctantly submitted to their care were lost in the bowels of the new terminal. Oddly enough people are deserting the British flagship in droves: BA's figures fell 7.9% in April 2008 compared with a year previously. What's more the number of passengers per plane has been falling - by 5.1 % over the year - undermining the industry's pretend 'efficiency' figures, which rely on cramming more and more people into aircraft to reduce their per passenger emissions.

Could this be why they've taken to plastering London with surreal adverts which show famous landmarks dominated by aircraft apparatus  - including Big Ben transformed into a control tower. Is BA so crazy that they haven't spotted that this is just like waving a red flag in front of the hordes of residents who'd happily trade BA's bankruptcy for a decent night's sleep without the red-eye from Dallas soaring overhead...

What planet is Walsh on?

Metal Earth

It's Sunday, and I'm feeling generous. So let's take a moment to consider the plight of BA boss-man Willie Walsh. British Airways used to be a national institution: the airline into whose arms we collapsed after a week of dealing with our inability to speak other languages. Now it's associated with losing your luggage, strikes, crash landings, lying about climate change and blackmailing pensioners.

Walsh's latest misguided scheme is to persuade local councils to support expansion. Local papers around the airport picked up a BA press release, which urged councils to back the third runway. The same councils which formed the 2M group to oppose expansion. The phrase "coals to Newcastle" springs to mind...

BA blackmails former staff for Heathrow support

BA planes

Sometimes you read an article which is truly shocking. This, dear readers, is one of them. British Airways has been sending leaflets to retired staff, claiming that their pensions are at risk if the third runway doesn't get the green light.

The leaflet urges former employees to write to Ruth Kelly in support of expansion, claiming that their pensions depend upon Heathrow's expansion. A quote in large print from Sigrid Mapp, chairman of the Liason council, which represents retired staff, says: "As pensioners, the security of our pensions depends directly on the longterm success of British Airways and that again depends on the success of Heathrow."

BA have already been rebuked by the Advertising Standards Agency for making false claims about the environmental impact of the third runway in a letter to frequent flyers. Frankly, making nonsense claims to the biggest polluters pales into insignificance compared with blackmailing elderly people who've devoted their lives for your company. If this is how low the aviation industry is sinking, then the forces of opposition must be doing something right...

ASA puts Willie in hot water

Willie Walsh

Outspoken British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has had his knuckles rapped for claiming that the third runway would reduce CO2 emissions.

The day after the consultation, Willie wrote to tens of thousands of members of BA's executive club, claiming that the third runway would save 330,000 tonnes of CO2 as less planes would need to stack in the skies above London, and urging them to write in support of expansion.

The Advertising Standards Agency wrote to Walsh, pointing out that the third runway would actually see 2.6 million tonnes more CO2, from the 220,000 extra flights each year, and ordered him to write a correction. Walsh has so far refused to say whether he will comply.