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What will we see from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic in 2019?

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What can we expect to see from British Airways / Avios and Virgin Atlantic / Flying Club in 2019?  I’m not into predictions, but the lead-time in this business is so long that we usually have a good idea of what is coming down the line.

What will British Airways deliver in 2019?

The big event in 2019 is likely to be the launch of the new Club World seat.

BA isn’t in a rush, however.  It will first appear on the new A350 aircraft arriving from mid-year, but only four of these will be in service by next Christmas.  As they have no First Class, you won’t be seeing them on ‘prime’ routes like New York either.

The Boeing 777 fleet will be retrofitted but, again, this is a slow process.  Two aircraft are promised by next Christmas.  The full process is expected to take ….. and I kid you not ….. four years.  Even then, it is not certain that the A380 fleet will be included and it is very unlikely to go onto the Boeing 747 fleet as retirement looms.

All we know as a fact is that all seats will have direct aisle access and that the TV will be fixed in place (ie you can’t fold it away, it will sat in front of your nose for the full flight).  I have a sneaky feeling BA is simply going to use a version of the existing Iberia seatwhich I reviewed on the A350 here – which is perfectly acceptable.  It’s not Qsuite, but it is better than we have.

You can also look forward to BA’s 100th birthday celebrations (although nothing discussed so far seems exciting), some updates to the ‘soft product’ in First Class and World Traveller Plus (ie food, blankets etc), continued roll-out of wi-fi (I am still to get on a BA flight which has it) and new uniforms.

If IAG, BA’s parent, manages to acquire Flybe or Norwegian Air then there will be a lot more going on, of course.

In terms of Avios, we know that a shake-up has been approved by BA and is presumably just waiting for the IT to be done.  This means 2019 looks safe, and potentially 2020 too 🙂  If I was asked to guess, I would expect:

a move to revenue based earning for BA flights, although this is actually far more complex than the current model because it doesn’t work on codeshares, partner flights or trips containing multiple airlines.

some merging of the way cash and Avios flights are offered, especially as ‘Part Pay With Avios’ and ‘Pay With Avios and Money’ are hugely confusing.  The Etihad Guest system is an interesting model, where you can either book a standard reward at fixed pricing or an ‘anytime’ reward at a points price driven by the current cash price.

My Avios Group contacts are fairly sanguine, so let’s see.  On the earning front, there are some interesting things in the pipeline which I can’t discuss but which will be interesting.

British Airways plans for 2019

Moving on to Virgin Atlantic ……

As with BA, the big story for 2019 is the new Upper Class seat coming on the A350 aircraft.

I have zero inside information, although the fact that everyone is being very tight lipped implies a major change.  My view is that the current layout, which never caught on with the rest of the industry, has had its day.

The big question is whether Virgin Atlantic goes for something ‘standard’ such as the ‘cubby hole’ seats adopted by Finnair, Aer Lingus, Iberia etc or pushes the boat out and goes for something like the Qatar Airways Qsuite, where each seat is a mini-suite with a sliding door.

I have seen no discussion on whether this new seat will be rolled out to existing aircraft.  Until the Boeing 787 engine issues are fixed, I doubt Virgin has the ability to take additional planes out of service for long periods.

The route network is likely to see further tweaks.  Dubai ends in March but there are rumours of Tel Aviv coming.  Virgin owns various slots at Heathrow which are leased out so it is not as constrained as it likes to imply.  It is possible there are additional long-haul routes eastwards which would make good connecting opportunities for incoming US passengers.

2019 will also be a big year for Virgin Flying Club.  From April, your miles will be the property of the new Virgin Group Loyalty Company (VGLC), not Virgin Atlantic.  VGLC is a new loyalty company which will work across many Virgin Group investments to help you earn and redeem miles.

Virgin Flying Club itself will remain part of the airline in the same way that British Airways Executive Club is part of BA and buys Avios from Avios Group when you travel.

This matters, because the two companies will soon have different shareholders.  VGLC will be buying reward seats for cash from Virgin Atlantic and, although I am told availability should not change, this is unlikely to hold.

My best guess is that VGLC will get a fixed number of seats per flight from the airline at a fixed price, to allow it to continue to offer fixed price redemptions.  Anything beyond that will require the airline to be willing to sell them cheaply to VGLC which is unlikely on peak flights.

Subject to regulatory approvals, the other massive development will be the integration of KLM and Air France into Flying Club.  They will be both earning and redemption partners, and given the devaluations at Flying Blue recently I can imagine a lot of UK KLM flyers switching schemes.  This is part of the process which will see Air France KLM take a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic and join their transatlantic joint venture with Delta.

As with BA, the potential acquisition of Flybe could be the wild card event of the year.

Whatever happens, Head for Points will keep you in the loop!

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Comments

  1. Ot- flying lufthansa in Feb in economy bhx-jed. Travelling with my 6 month old baby for first time, do you normally have to pay for bassinet or seat selection? I was under the impression when travelling with Emirates or ba you didn’t pay for either?

    • It’s free to select a bassinet. You can also select your seat in advance in light of choosing a bassinet for the baby. There are minimal taxes for child under 2 years. I have done the same with KLM and Turkish airlines on several occasions.

  2. Undoubtedly partner awards on VS will get devalued, which will be a huge loss for me.

  3. Shoestring says:

    Thank you – and goodbye. It’s over & out from old Shoestring for 2019. I’ve posted my last, (well, midnight marks the spot.) Taking a break.

    Many will, say good riddance, no problem with that.

    True, I am hopeless on hotels, nothing to offer there apart from my 0.5p/ Avios woes.

    Tesco is no more & my old dog trick 0.3p/ point failed with the demise of Direct. Hangs head.

    As one of the only people to ‘get’ Avios + Money = unlimited Avios @ 0.8p, I could have made a brief comeback when Raffles re-runs that one, but I’ll be long gone.

    Fare ye well, oh points collectors, sorry Julian if I ever called you slightly loquacious, you are always actually a riveting read – Genghis, Alan – mates! – goodbye ye cuddlies as I must hie me hither. Nige – see you in the Centurion lounge.

    See you in 2020.

    • Have a good year Harry and speak when you resurface.

    • See you in your next reincarnation mate! All the best.

    • See you in 2019 TRH1 – look forward to working out what your new moniker is!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Happy New Year Harry. Thanks for all the gems.

      Hopefully see your around these parts when you make a comeback

      • Squills:

        My knowledge on points collecting etc is nowhere near yours(and others)-thanks for all the tips.

        However, I do know how to deal with a cat lazing on a landing- it’s to put your foot up its backside before attempting to descend downstairs! Make sure you keep this in mind when you get back to Cornwall, otherwise your return to HFP might again be delayed!

        Take it steady, Worz.

        • Well said and good advice Worz; at least one hopes he is at his ‘place in the sun’ and not at HM’s Pleasure . Don’t worry the Squills, RH1 and Shoestring etc. Fan Club; this is an annual event, nothing to worry about….there will be another reincarnation…

        • The Original Nick says:

          Brilliant Worzel, I remember that one too. It was one of the funniest I’ve heard from Harry. He’ll be back we all hope.

    • And we had so much in common! I’ll have to wait for someone to spot the new you as I’m hopeless…

      • Anna,
        Alan is the man for this….he even knows where Squills Towers is-I scoured the Balearics to no avail !

        As for the new Shoestring, I think we can safely rule out Len, Lionel and Bob 🙂 .

    • Hasta Mañana Señor.

  4. dicksbits says:

    “a move to revenue based earning for BA flights” – does this mean a back-door way of cutting avios airline flying on BA?

    • Based on what other airlines have done it’ll mean less for cheaper tickets and more for pricier ones. I earn more points through credit card though so more bothered about revenue-based redemptions if they were to come in.

      • dicksbits says:

        Thanks. So long as they don’t extend it to TP as that could cut the numbers of people with status in the airline – a good thing in some people’s eyes!

        • Unless they also bring in a minimum revenue requirement for different levels of status as is common in the USA…

        • But trickier due to the greater use of partner airlines in Europe vs US ….

        • I’m hoping they’ll think so but they’re not always renowned for making customer-friendly decisions!

    • Probably, although those flying on fully flexible business class tickets would do better.

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