Vanishing First, Virgin Australia, BA 787-10, Nok-Scoot, COMAC delivers

BA first

Vanishing First

With the worlds airlines struggling to fill first class seats even before Covid19, even more of them are dropping the product permanently or at the very least, for the foreseeable future.

Pre-Covid19 the harsh facts around first class were that 54% the worlds total first class seats were flown out of London Heathrow. Emirates, BA, Qatar, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Qantas operated the vast majority.

Across the world, ElAL is ditching first class, even on it 772’s still fitted with them, it won’t be offering them for sale. Eventually they will all be retrofitted out and turned into business class.

Etihad has stopped selling its Residence super-First on A380’s and first on some other aircraft until May 2021 at the earliest. They’re actively considering the complete removal of first class.

Only a year ago Lufthansa said it would keep first, but has since stopped selling it at all on all flights to the US. Its already physically removed it from 744’s left in service.

Singapore Airlines has cancelled all First Class operations through to November, but will probably restart selling them soon for dates after Nov 30th.

Qantas brand new first on its A380’s was only just installed. (Photo by Nicholas Ellis)

Qantas has had no choice but stop selling first class and it won’t be doing so until 2023 as only the A380 is fitted with them and they’re all going into deep storage in California.

Emirates will continue to sell first, but all of its in-flight bars and showers will be closed for the foreseeable future.

BA, AirFrance and Swiss continue to sell First, but many of the lounges are shut – an important part of the experience for that much money – and the on board service is very much more sanitised than it used to be.

The Asian airlines though, especially in China and japan, still sell the product, though in very limited numbers and in very restricted service standards.

And this is where the problem lies. Why pay for first when its little better than business if you really just want a flat bed? Space is the only real premium now, and is really worth it? Over the next few years airlines will have hard decisions on its future to make.


Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia has been sold to investment company Bain Capital. Richard Branson linked Cyrus Capital failed to secure the deal.

The result is basically the total wipe out of all shareholders – including Branson’s 10% holding.

Bain are expected to inject around US$900m to recapitalise the airline. However expect some sharp rationalisation, job losses and restructuring, before Bain prepare to sell it again when the market and the airline are fit enough. Investment companies don’t stay in for the long haul, they’ll be looking to buy and sell for a profit.


British Airways

BA has taken delivery of its first 787-10, the aircraft was too far along to be deferred or cancelled and it arrived at Heathrow on Saturday, having already been delayed by five months. BA had to pay cash for the aircraft, with a final payment of around £100m.

Fitted with 8 First, 48 Business, 35 Premium Economy and 165 economy seats, totalling 256, its really quite low seating numbers for such a large aircraft. BA’s previous strategy was to prioritise premium seating as that’s where the profit was. Quite how Covid19 and the recession will affect that strategy has yet to play out. Has Zoom killed business travel? Has not being in the office all week even in the future rendered face to face meetings largely obsolete?

I doubt things will ever go back to how they were. That took ten years after the Great Recession of 2008-9. However this time there has been a fundamental change in attitudes and technology has leapt forward. Business seating may be a casualty in such large numbers.

Just to help your perspective – Zoom’s stock price is equal to all 7 of the worlds largest airlines.


Nok Scoot

Nok Scoot, the Thai-Singapore Airlines joint venture is dead. Made up of ex SIA, ex Scoot aircraft, it simply couldn’t keep any level of business up that would make it viable during the pandemic.

The board of directors have voted to liquidate the airline and its employees made redundant.


RyanAir

Having killed off Lauda as a viable airline because staff wouldn’t surrender to harsh contracts, RyanAir has taken on no less than 69 routes from Vienna.

Its also agreed with Gatwick Airport to start up 15 new routes from there and is, so rumour has it, looking for any potential opening at any major airport where it can prise open the door on its terms and compete the opposition to extinction, which is what it usually does.

Just for starters, the routes from Vienna are being offered at €9.99 each way. There’s no way Austrian or anyone else can compete with loss making fares like that.


COMAC delivers its first ARJ21’s

COMAC has delivered the first ARJ21’s to three of China’s principle carriers, China Souther, Air China and China Eastern.

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