The Week In Travel: 13/7/20

Probably the biggest news to emerge this week was the immediate retirement of the British Airways Boeing 747 fleet. That wont be covered here, as I already made a separate post for that.

Elsewhere, there have been a couple of other areas which have caught my eye.

Qantas 747 Officially Bows Out

As expected all the way back in March, Qantas have officially retired their Boeing 747 fleet. To mark the event, the airline undertook three ‘Farewell Jumbo Joy Flights’. These flights were be operated by the one remaining Boeing 747 that the airline has in service, VH-OEJ. The aircraft took to the skies from Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane earlier this week.

The aircraft will then depart Sydney one final time on 22nd July as QF7474 bound for the Mojave desert.

Virgin Atlantic’s Future Secured…

Finally an end to the Virgin Atlantic saga! Not that I expected the airline to fail.

It was announced earlier in the week that the airline had secured £1.2billion to ensure it can ride out the months ahead. The sources providing the extra cash included £200million from Sir Richard Branson, £170million from hedge fund Davidson Kempner and £850million in deferred payments to the Virgin Group (for using the Virgin brand), Delta Airlines and various credit card companies.

However, the airline also said that it expects to make a further 400 redundancies on top of the 3000+ that was previously announced. Further cost cuts made by the airline include leaving London Gatwick airport, Newark airport in the USA, retiring a number of their aircraft and deferring further Airbus A330neo and A350 deliveries.

…And Send Another Boeing 747 To The Scrap Yard

Speaking of retiring aircraft. Virgin Atlantic sent another of their previously retired Boeing 747’s off to the scrap yard earlier this week. G-VAST was the eldest of the seven that remained in service at the beginning of the pandemic. Curiously, this one went to St.Athan in Wales as opposed to Ciudad where the previous aircraft have been flown to.

Purely speculation on my part, but this could be due to the fact that G-VAST was owned outright by Virgin Atlantic. Previously, G-VBIG also went to the Welsh airfield in order to be scrapped. This aircraft was also owned by the airline. The aircraft that have gone to Spain are the cancelled Alitalia -443 variants, therefore were acquired by the airline on slightly different terms.

As mentioned, this is pure speculation on my part. But if G-VXLG goes to St.Athan and G-VROY and G-VROM head to Ciudad then there may be something in it…

Delta Commit To Retiring More Aircraft

Delta Airlines have committed to retiring more aircraft. The Atlanta based airline has already sent both MD88 and MD90 into retirement in the past months. They have also committed to retiring their entire Boeing 777 fleet by the end of the year. This time around they have committed to their small fleet of Boeing 737-700 aircraft and a number of their Boeing 767 wide body aircraft and Airbus A320 short haul aircraft.

Positioning Delta to be a smaller, more efficient airline over the next several years by accelerating fleet simplification with the retirement of entire MD-88, MD-90, 777 and 737-700 fleets and portions of the 767-300ER and A320 fleets in 2020

Delta Airlines

None of these retirements come as a particular surprise. The ten Boeing 737’s are a bit of an oddball in the fleet. Sure, they’re almost identical to the larger 737-800 and -900’s that are operated. But there will no doubt still be some operational differences between the types. Which in turn leads to increased costs. Ditching the smallest fleet that the airline operated would have been an easy decision to make, especially seeing how a number of incoming A220’s and existing Airbus A319’s can easily fill the void.

With the Airbus A320, it’s a similar aircraft to the Boeing 737-800 size wise. However, the Airbus aircraft that Delta operate are much older than the 737-800. Being inherited from Northwest Airlines when the two airlines merged in 2008, they were clearly never Delta’s first choice. However, in more recent times they have ordered more of the larger Airbus A321 in favour of the latest 737 offering from Boeing. Which turned out to be a shrewd decision in light of the 737MAX issues that the likes of American, United and Southwest have had to endure.

Finally, we come on to the Boeing 767. Again, hardly a shocking development. American Airlines already announced that their entire fleet would be withdrawn. British Airways retired their final aircraft in 2018, long before the pandemic. Being not only of the previous generation, but the one before that, the aircraft is disappearing from the skies at a pretty rapid rate. However, Delta wont be ditching their entire fleet of 56, so there will be some around for a while longer. Just don’t expect them to be around for many years to come though.

Emirates Returns Airbus A380 To Service

Finally some positive news! This week saw Emirates return their Airbus A380 to service. Having grounded their entire fleet of 115 aircraft previously, things are slowly picking up again for the airline. Initial destinations for the super jumbo were London and Paris initially. These will be followed by Amsterdam and a second flight to London Heathrow over the coming weeks.

In addition, the airline also restarted scheduled services to Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Geneva, Glasgow, Larnaca, Male, Munich, Rome and Washington. These flights were operated by the smaller Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Emirates returned their A380 to service this week

Heathrow Terminal 5 Sees Huge Queues

Anyone travelling through Heathrow Terminal 5 this weekend was likely met with huge queues. Obviously those who think that flying is thing of the past are very much mistaken. Including Heathrow it seems. Not being there personally, I can’t comment in too much detail but I can only assume that there was a serious lack of staff. And social distancing. Although as I wrote a few days ago, it’s probably best not to expect that if you’re flying anyway.

What I can comment on though is that seemingly Heathrow weren’t expecting things to be quite so busy. Their long stay parking at Terminal 5 is expected to remain closed until September. The fast track security in Terminal 5 remains closed. If the airport was expecting things to pick up quite this much, you would have thought that they would bring some more staff back from furlough to deal with it.

Hopefully the negative press across social media will mean they look into sorting the issue fairly quickly. Preferably before Friday…

Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, 18th July 2020

Hilton Nights Rollover

Hilton Hotels haver become the latest hotel chain to loosen up their requirements regarding status. They had already announced a status extension, but this week also announced that any stays will roll over to 2021.

This essentially means that you could gain silver status with the chain by making 2 stays in 2020 and 2 in 2021. Or hit gold status with 15 nights each year.

Personally, in terms of perks, I found Hilton to offer one of the better loyalty programs out there. More often than not, with their gold status I was given a free room upgrade. And breakfast was always part of the deal too – something that none of the other programs offer. The downside being that one bad experience I had in Boston. Remember folks, when someone is paying their own way, it’s their choice where their money goes… From being Hilton Honours Gold just a couple of years ago, I am now a bottom of the ladder blue card holder. And have no real desire to hunt out a Hilton property when looking for somewhere to stay.

Hilton Honours announced rollover nights this week
Doubletree, Cluj-Napoca

IHG Offers Up To 4X Points Promo

Hilton weren’t the only hotel chain to offer up an incentive to stay with them this summer. This week, IHG rolled out the following promo:

Wherever you go this summer, make the most of every stay. Stay once and earn 2X Bonus Points; then multiply your points with every stay, up to 4X Bonus Points.

Stay now. Earn all the points. Take a big trip later.

Register now and earn on stays until September 8.

Already have a stay booked? Simply register for 4X now and you’ll automatically multiply your points on your stay – no need to re-book.

This is the sort of thing that attracted me to the brand in the first place. Their quarterly accelerate promos became almost a challenge, and you could rack up some serious points in the process. However around early 2019, these promos disappeared (for me at least). Instead, they were replaced with a generic offer like the one above. Although it would appear that even those have disappeared recently.

Site News

Finally, some site news.

Not too sure how many people had noticed the rolling blackouts with this side over the past couple of weeks. I certainly did, as every time it went down, I’d get an email telling me so. After a bit of investigation, it appeared that the issue was with my hosting. I saw nothing but bad reviews, so looked into switching.

Over a 24 hour period this week, the site was migrated to a new host. There were a few false starts but from the outside at least its more or less business as usual now. Still a couple of minor things to fix under the hood, but nothing too serious.

The best part for me is since the migration, I haven’t received a single email saying my site was down – so mission accomplished! It also seems a little quicker to load up when creating new content, and best of all is cheaper than the previous hosting company.

Next week I’ll finally be able to make a long awaited return to trip reporting, so this feature will return in two weeks.

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