Halfway into 2018 and the list of things going on in the airline business just grows. All of which will make for some lively discussion at this year’s WTM London airline programme!
The aftermath of the bankruptcies of Monarch & Air Berlin has lead to further steps in the consolidation process of European airlines. Monarch’s slots have been sold to other airlines including British Airways and Wizz. Air Berlin’s assets have been principally carved up between Lufthansa and easyJet whilst its Austrian affiliate, now renamed Laudamotion, sees Ryanair as a surprise minority shareholder with ambitions to take a majority stake. Perhaps the biggest bolt from the blue has been the move by IAG, parent of BA, to take a 4.6% stake in Norwegian with a view to potentially taking over the Long Haul Low-Cost Carrier. Norwegian has been very successful in attracting customers but its ultra-rapid growth, adding routes and aircraft at a breakneck pace, has seen it losing money. Even so, a takeover by IAG is far from a done deal, indeed it may never happen, but just to make things interesting, Lufthansa has now acknowledged it is also in dialogue with Norwegian. One to keep a close eye on in the months ahead.
Amidst all this excitement, there is one piece of consolidation which is dragging on and that’s the future of Alitalia. While the Italian government has requested expressions of interest from bidders for the airline, the window, which was due to close in April, has now been extended until October with, once again, Lufthansa and possibly easyJet being in the frame as interested parties.
Away from consolidation, a flavour of other big topics in circulation:
Brexit continues to exercise the minds of airline industry leaders with an uncomfortable lack of clarity as to what it means for air services once the UK leaves the European Union next year.
In the UK, the Government has just confirmed its support for a new runway at Heathrow and a Parliamentary vote is likely to support this. It’s a runway which the airline industry is crying out for, but it still faces a number of hurdles before it can be built.
We’re also seeing some airlines exposed to technical headaches with state of the art engines powering a number of new generation Airbus A320 NEO’s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Deliveries have been delayed, some aircraft grounded and schedules have had to be reworked.
Last, but not least, the important issue of lack of women in senior industry positions came to the fore at the recent IATA conference. There are very few women leading the airline business but watch this space. We hope to have one of them at this year’s WTM London!