British Airways proposing to outsource work of 450 redundant employees

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 29th May 2020) London, Uk – –

Exclusive: airline’s proposals also include closing operation at Heathrow Terminal 3

British Airways is proposing to outsource work being done by at least 450 employees it is making redundant.

The Labour party said the proposals were “disturbing news” and called for the government to scrutinise the plans, revealed by the Guardian.

The airline, owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), is also considering closing its operation at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 completely and shrinking its footprint at Terminal 5, the Guardian understands.

Terminal 3 – which operates BA short-haul routes across Europe and long-haul destinations including Cape Town and Miami – carried about 15% of BA’s Heathrow traffic before the pandemic. Terminal 3 has been mothballed during lockdown, with all BA flights running from Terminal 5 on dramatically reduced schedules.

BA, which has received state aid worth hundreds of millions of pounds, proposed cutting as many as 12,000 jobs last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the thousands of job cuts, the proposals include plans to make at least 450 workers at Heathrow redundant before outsourcing the work they did, according to a person with knowledge of the proposals.

BA has said job cuts are necessary because passenger numbers are expected to be significantly lower for as long as four years, meaning demand will be lower.

Moody’s Investor Service, the influential credit ratings agency, on Thursday downgraded its rating on IAG and BA debt from investment-grade to junk bond status – meaning it faces higher borrowing costs – underscoring the financial difficulties facing the airline sector with the vast majority of planes still grounded.

However, the proposals to outsource the jobs of furloughed workers performing operations still required by the airline prompted criticism.

Jim McMahon, the shadow transport secretary, said: “The government should have done more to protect these jobs. We cannot see roles which are currently paid through the job retention scheme outsourced.”

Jobs at risk in the outsourcing proposals include ticketing services, returning lost baggage to passengers and planning the balance of weight in the plane, known as centralised load control. Load control is currently carried out by teams in offices in London and Prague. The team in the Czech Republic is run by Air Dispatch, a third party supplier who would become a prime contender for some offshoring work.

The outsourcing and potential offshoring proposals come despite IAG receiving British government support worth hundreds of millions of pounds. IAG has borrowed £300m from the Bank of England’s Covid corporate finance facility. The government is paying 80% of the salaries (up to £2,500 per month) of 30,000 furloughed BA workers, support worth £35m to the company in April alone.

Nadine Houghton, national officer for the GMB union, which represents some BA workers, said: “BA’s actions so far have been deeply cynical and opportunistic. Taking taxpayer money through furlough and Covid loans and then offshoring hundreds of jobs to other countries is about as unpatriotic as you can get. This behaviour from our national flag-carrier is unacceptable.”

A BA spokesman said: “We are acting now to protect as many jobs as possible. The airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy.Advertisement

“We are committed to consulting openly with our unions and our people as we prepare for a new future.”

By Jasper Jolly

EasyJet plans 4,500 jobs cuts to stay competitive after crisis

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 28th May 2020) London, UK —

EasyJet to cut 4,500 jobs to stay competitive after crisis

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s easyJet (EZJ.L) plans to cut up to 4,500 jobs and shrink its fleet to adjust to the smaller travel market which is forecast to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.

EasyJet, which employs more than 15,000 people in eight countries across Europe, is moving later than others in announcing job cuts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought airlines across the world to their knees.

Most have been forced to cut jobs, including more than 15,000 in Britain, as they prepare for a market which is not forecast to return to 2019 levels until 2023.

EasyJet, which said on Thursday it would launch a consultation process with staff, also plans to shrink its fleet by 15% to 302 planes by the end of 2021 and to cut costs through deals with airports, maintenance suppliers and in marketing.

Shares in easyJet rose 6% to 751 pence, their highest level since mid-March, before coronavirus grounded its fleet.

“Exactly the kind of overhaul the cost base needs,” Bernstein analyst Daniel Roeska said of easyJet’s cuts, which go deeper than those of Ryanair (RYA.I) and Wizz Air (WIZZ.L), who have said they will lay off 15% and 19% of staff respectively.

EasyJet said it expects to be flying around 30% of its capacity by the fourth quarter, which leaves it trailing Ryanair which is planning to fly 40% in July.

“The leverage to growing market share over the next two years seems to rest with Ryanair and Wizz, who see their cost bases as allowing them to exploit this crisis,” Goodbody analyst Mark Simpson said.

EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said that job cuts would ensure easyJet emerges as “a more competitive business”. Around 8,000 of its staff are based in Britain.

Lundgren told reporters that easyJet was talking to the British government about a 14-day quarantine rule which airlines say will further stifle any travel recovery.Slideshow (3 Images)

Over the last six weeks easyJet has also been grappling with an attempt by its biggest shareholder to oust its senior bosses, and the fallout from a cyber attack.

It said talks with lessors interested in acquiring aircraft on a sale and leaseback basis are ongoing and proceeds would now be 500 million pounds to 650 million pounds ($798 million), around 25% higher than expected in April.

Reporting by Sarah Young

Travel and leisure stocks soared amid reports Spain and Germany would ease travel restrictions

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 26th May 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – European travel and leisure stocks soared on Tuesday amid reports Spain and Germany would ease travel restrictions, and no noticeable increase in infections were reported during the re-opening of businesses after a two-month lockdown.

Travel and leisure were among the businesses hardest hit by coronaries lockdown as countries closed borders, leaving airlines grounded, and strict social-distancing rules closed restaurants, cinemas and pubs.

But Germany and Spain’s plan to ease travel restriction for the peak summer holiday season revived their stocks. TUI (TUIT.L), British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L), easyJet (EZJ.L) and Whitbread (WTB.L) shares jumped 15% to 30%, driving London stock indices higher.

London stocks were top gainers as they played catch-up with continental European stocks, which soared on Monday. The travel and leisure stocks sub-index jumped to its highest levels since April 30.

“There is a lot more hope that travel restrictions across Europe will be eased in time for the summer holidays,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com. “If the summer holiday season can be saved, it would be a big plus after most of us wrote it off.”

European airport operators Fraport (FRAG.DE), Aeroports de Paris (ADP.PA) and Aena (AENA.MC) were rising 5% to 10%.

The German government wants to end a travel warning for tourist trips to 31 European countries from June 15 if the coronavirus situation allows, the dpa new agency reported, according to the magazine Focus. Spain urged foreign holiday-makers to return from July.

Pub operator Mitchells & Butlers (MAB.L) and Cineworld (CINE.L) shares jumped more than 20% on re-opening hopes after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said thousands of shops would re-open next month in easing of coronavirus lockdown.

(The story is refiled to fix typo in TUI, in third paragraph.)

Reporting by Thyagaraju Adinarayan

Germany’s highest civil court rules Volkswagen must pay compensation to motorist over ‘dieselgate’ case

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 25th May 2020) London, Uk – –

Germany's highest civil court has ruled that Volkswagen must pay compensation to a motorist who had bought one of its diesel minivans fitted with emissions-cheating software.

The ruling sets a benchmark for about 60,000 other cases in Germany.

The plaintiff, Herbert Gilbert, will be partially reimbursed for his vehicle, with depreciation taken into account.

VW said it will now offer affected motorists a one-off payment, and the amount will depend on individual cases.

The company has already settled a separate €830m (£743m) class action suit involving 235,000 German car owners.

It has paid out more than €30bn in fines, compensation and buyback schemes worldwide since the scandal first broke in 2015.

VW disclosed at the time that it had used illegal software to manipulate the results of diesel emissions tests.

The company said that about 11 million cars were fitted with the “defeat device”, which alerted diesel engines when they were being tested. The engine would then change its performance in order to improve the result of the test.

Volkswagen has faced a flurry of legal action worldwide, including the UK.

About 90,000 motorists in England and Wales have brought action against VW as well as Audi, Seat and Skoda, which are also owned by Volkswagen Group.

Last month, their case cleared its first hurdle in the High Court, when a judge ruled that the software installed in the cars was indeed a “defeat device” under EU rules.

The carmaker's current and former senior employees are facing criminal charges in Germany.

EasyJet announces cautious restart on some routes from 15 June with strict face mask rule

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Thur, 21st May 2020) London, Uk –

The airline announces a cautious restart on some routes from 15 June ahead of an investor vote that could see its CEO forced out.

EasyJet says it plans to resume a small number of flights next month with strict safety protocols for passengers and crew alike.

Top of the measures, the no-frills carrier said, would be the wearing of face masks for all those aboard its aircraft.

The company said it would likely operate domestic flights within the UK and France from 15 June with the only international service being Gatwick to Nice initially.

The UK airports to see the limited domestic services return will be Bristol, Birmingham, Gatwick, Liverpool, Newcastle,
Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Belfast, easyJet added.

Shares were more than 2.5% up in early trading after a plunge of 60% in the year to date.

The airline made its announcement as it faces a series of headaches away from flight operations – largely grounded by COVID-19 since March.

It revealed on Tuesday a hacking of its digital systems that exposed personal details of nine million customers.

The easyJet chief executive and chairman are also facing a fight for their futures as the airline's founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, bids to have them removed from their posts in a shareholder vote due on Friday.

Easyjet has furloughed thousands of staff and borrowed £600m under a government-backed financing scheme as it seeks to shield itself from the effects of the coronavirus crisis that has hit the industry hard, with BA, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic collectively planning 18,000 job losses.

It said that the cautious commencement of flights would only go ahead with a series of measures agreed with regulators and in-line with the advice of national governments.

These steps include:

:: Customers, cabin and ground crew will be required to wear masks

:: Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of easyJet aircraft

:: Availability of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser onboard

EasyJet said there would be no onboard food service.

The Luton-based airline looks set to be the second operator to resume flights after Wizz Air restarted services from the town's airport earlier this month.

BA and Ryanair are targeting July.

Johan Lundgren, the easyJet chief executive, said of its plans: “These are small and carefully planned steps that we are taking to gradually resume operations.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation across Europe so that when more restrictions are lifted the schedule will continue to build over time to match demand, while also ensuring we are operating efficiently and on routes that our customers want.”

By James Sillars

Rolls-Royce to cut 9,000 jobs amid virus crisis

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 20th May 2020) London, Uk – –

Rolls-Royce has said it will cut 9,000 jobs and warned it will take “several years” for the airline industry to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Derby-based firm, which makes plane engines, said the reduction of nearly a fifth of its workforce would mainly affect its civil aerospace division.

“This is not a crisis of our making. But it is the crisis that we face and must deal with,” boss Warren East said.

The bulk of the job cuts are expected to be in the UK at its site in Derby.

Rolls-Royce employs 52,000 people globally and Mr East told the BBC's Today programme that the company had not yet concluded on “exactly” where the job losses would be, due to having to consult with unions.

But he said: “It's fair to say that of our civil aerospace business approximately two-thirds of the total employees are in the UK at the moment and that's probably a good first proxy.”

Rolls-Royce's civil aerospace business has a number of sites in the UK, but the largest plant is in Derby.

The company said it will also carry out a review of its sites but declined to comment on which ones may close.

John, a worker in Rolls-Royce's civil aerospace division who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity, said that while he expected there would be job cuts, the eventual 9,000 figure was “a shock”.

“Since the Covid-19 outbreak we knew that business would shrink,” he said.

But he said the scale of the cuts as well as the potential closure of some sites was a surprise.

Unite the union said the decision was “shameful opportunism”.

“This company has accepted public money to furlough thousands of workers,” said Unite's assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Steve Turner.

“Unite and Britain's taxpayers deserve a more responsible approach to a national emergency. We call upon Rolls-Royce to step back from the brink and work with us on a better way through this crisis.”

Rolls-Royce initially furloughed 4,000 workers in the UK last month. Some 3,700 people remain on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme though which the government pays 80% of a worker's wage up to £2,500 a month.

But Mr East said: “No government can extend things like furlough schemes for years into the future. We have to look after ourselves and make sure we meet medium term demand.”

Analysis: Domonic O'Connell

Job cuts a heavy blow

This morning's job losses are hardly unexpected – airlines have cut their flying hours by 90% or more, and Airbus and Boeing have slashed their production numbers for the next few years – but they are still a heavy blow to one of the UK's few world-class manufacturing companies.

While the details of where the cuts will fall have not been finalised, it is likely that two-thirds will go in the UK.

The company has already used the government's furlough scheme to help pay the wages of about 4,000 staff, but Warren East, Rolls-Royce's chief executive, said companies could not expect the government to continue such a scheme for several years.

There was also a clear hint this morning that some factories may close – the company said it would review its future manufacturing footprint.

Some questions remain for Roll-Royce. Investors are scratching their head about when the company's revenues – much of which rely on aircraft to be flying for money to flow – will return.

The company has not yet tapped its shareholders for more money – some expect that may eventually come.

Air travel has ground to a virtual standstill since the coronavirus began spreading across the world and many airlines have announced steep job cuts.

Global air traffic is expected to decline by 45% this year, according to investment bank Baird. It also forecasts that airlines are expected to lose $310bn (£253bn) in revenue in 2020.

Rolls-Royce said the impact of the pandemic on the company and the whole of the aviation industry “is unprecedented”.

It added that it is “increasingly clear that activity in the commercial aerospace market will take several years to return to the levels seen just a few months ago”.

As well as the job losses, the company said it would cut costs in areas such as its plants and properties. It expects to make cost savings of £1.3bn.

Paul Everitt, chief executive of ADS, the aerospace industry association, said: “The crisis is having a major impact on aerospace companies who provide high value, long-term jobs in all regions and nations of the UK, putting thousands more jobs at risk now and in the months ahead.”

Some major UK train stations to put crowd-control measures in place

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 18th May 2020) London, Uk – –

Security guards trained in crowd control have been put on duty at some major railway stations following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Train firms operated reduced services during lockdown, but more frequent trains are now running in England.

People are being encouraged to go back to work in England, but only to use public transport for essential journeys when they have no alternative.

Some industry figures expressed concern over increased passenger numbers.

Network Rail said passenger numbers on Monday were “very similar” to last week, when the figure was slightly up on the previous week. However, footfall through major UK stations was only about 10% of pre-pandemic levels.

New crowd-control measures include preventing passengers from boarding a train or entering a platform if there are already too many people.

And more radical steps are being considered, such as passengers being required to book time slots for when they can arrive at a station.

Train operators are already planning to limit numbers boarding specific services.

Many intercity trains will be reservation only and Avanti West Coast has said it would not allow carriages to be more than a third full.

Some train companies will block off seats to ensure that passengers spread out. It is also possible that if a service becomes busy early on, then trains will not stop at other destinations along their routes.

In future, train operators might not open the doors of certain carriages at earlier stations along a route so that people can get on at a later stop and still have the necessary space to keep their distance.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy said an “enormous” effort had been made to manage the flow of passengers.

Stations have been reorganised, signs have been installed and space could be made outside for queuing in case entrances and exits are closed.

“We are relying on people to be sensible,” he told BBC Breakfast – adding that the rail industry was “keen” for people to wear face coverings while on public transport.

“We want people to stay apart if they humanly can and if they can't, then a face covering is a quite sensible thing to do for the brief moments when you might be getting on or off a train or moving through a station,” he said.

However, senior figures from the rail industry insist they will not be policing whether people are following government guidelines.

PC Jason Kelly said the number of passengers on his train from King's Cross to north Hertfordshire had risen from two to up to 40 after lockdown measures were eased last week.

The officer, who was returning home after a night shift, was not confident that social distancing measures could be met if passenger numbers rise further.

“For some people it's just like a normal day, people have got fed up with [coronavirus], they've had enough,” he said.

What is the situation around the UK?

People in England who are allowed to return to work have been asked not to use public transport if possible.

People in Wales have been told to avoid public transport where possible, and a reduced timetable will remain in place on Transport for Wales rail services.

Limited public transport services are running in Scotland for people who absolutely need to get to work and the situation is similar in Northern Ireland.

Transport for London (TfL) said it was introducing one-way systems, safety signs and announcements, and hand sanitiser dispensers to help people to keep to social distancing measures in the capital.

TfL says it will regularly update guidance on the 20 busiest stations to help people to avoid those areas.

The capital's public transport network has spoken to about 300 businesses and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has indicated that office start times would be staggered to manage demand on public transport.

Meanwhile London's congestion charge, which was suspended in March, has been reintroduced.

Analysis: Tom Burridge

Staff often outnumber passengers here at Euston station.

British Transport Police officers and security guards are on duty, in case there are crowds.

Every so often dozens of people stream off a platform when a train arrives into London. However it's still incredibly quiet.

Yellow gates, which are folded-away, are dotted around. They could be used to close entrance points to the station or specific platforms if there are too many people.

There is hand sanitiser on offer in the centre of the concourse.

It's weird for station managers to be pleased that there aren't many passengers – but that's the situation here this morning.

During the crisis the government is covering the losses made by train companies, which saw revenues evaporate when travel restrictions began.

But industry forecasting predicts that significant passenger numbers will return several weeks from now.

BBC transport correspondent Tom Burridge said train companies have said they are nervous about how the situation can be managed, once crowds return, with one source saying: “We are counting on the individual conduct of passengers.”

Another source said the industry had “done everything we can to suppress demand”.

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East Coast train operator LNER introduces mandatory ticket reservations

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 15th May 2020) London, Uk – –

East Coast train operator LNER is to introduce mandatory seat reservations on all train services from Monday.

The measures, to help stop the spread of coronavirus, would mean passengers with flexible tickets would have to pick a train to travel on, in advance.

The company operates services between London and Leeds, and Edinburgh, York, Newcastle and London,

Separately, Avanti West Coast is urging customers to reserve tickets, but has not made it compulsory.

Avanti, which runs services linking London, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham, is also encouraging people to wear face coverings when they travel.

Passengers might be refused travel if the guidelines are not followed.

Chiltern Railways is also advising its passengers to book tickets in advance where possible and to wear masks.

LNER confirmed its shift to mandatory bookings in a tweet.

This contained “tips” for passengers, travelling on its trains, including:

  • Wear a facemask if you cannot keep your distance
  • Ignore the seat number on your ticket and choose your own seat
  • Keep 2 metres apart where possible
  • One person to a row unless travelling as a household
  • In standard class leave two empty rows and one in first class
  • Avoid facing other passengers

The company concluded by asking: “Can you travel another way? Help us keep the trains clear for those who really need them.

Avanti's new measures also take effect on Monday and the company said it may not allow carriages to be more than a quarter full.

“We're appealing to our valued customers to help us and other passengers by only travelling with a reservation,” said Avanti West Coast's managing director Phil Whittingham.

“If everyone does this, we'll be able to keep social distancing in place on board, both for our customers and our people.

“If customers do turn up without a reservation, we'll do our best to help but we can't guarantee they'll be able to take the train they want.”

The train operator is asking passengers to book in advance on the Avanti mobile app where possible, and to avoid using facilities at the station or handling cash.

People should also check before they travel, in case the time of their train has changed.

Other measures being introduced by Avanti include face masks for staff, while waiting rooms and lounges will be shut.

There will also be enhanced cleaning procedures on board trains and at stations, focusing especially on cleaning door buttons, grab handles, tables and all touch points, as well as equipment such as phones, chip and pin machines, self-service ticket machines and point of sale systems.

Shops on board Voyager services, which travel between London and destinations such as Blackpool, Shrewsbury, Birmingham, Edinburgh and North Wales, will be closed and no food and drink will be available.

The shops on Pendolino services will still be open, but re-usable coffee cups will not be accepted.

Increased train services

Avanti said a new timetable was being brought in from Monday, in line with updated travel advice from the government that will see train services increase to about 70% of the normal timetable.

During the coronavirus pandemic only half of normal rail services have been running.

Chiltern Railways also revealed a new timetable, which comes into force on 18 May, and has advised its passengers to book tickets in advance where possible and to wear masks.

The company – whose trains from London Marylebone travel on routes to Aylesbury, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Kidderminster – also told travellers to avoid rush hour and allow more time for their journey.

Meanwhile, bus operator National Express says it has begun selling coach tickets for a restart to services on 1 July, subject to government advice.

The easing of travel restrictions is likely to be done gradually – the government has suggested that working hours might be staggered to limit passenger numbers.

People in England who are allowed to return to work have been asked not to use public transport if possible.

If maintained, the two-metre social distancing measure would cut capacity on trains by up to 90%.

A recent Transport Focus survey suggested more than 60% of UK passengers would not feel comfortable using public transport unless social distancing was in place.

It found 51% would not be happy unless passengers were required to wear masks.

Europe’s largest travel group Tui warns of 8,000 job losses as travel firm faces ‘greatest crisis’

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 13th May, 2020) London, Uk – –

Coronavirus forces Europe’s largest travel group to permanently cut costs by 30%

Tui plans to cut up to 8,000 jobs in response to the coronavirus chaos engulfing the tourism industry.

Europe’s largest travel group said it needed to reduce costs permanently to tackle “unquestionably the greatest crisis the industry and Tui has ever faced”.

It lost €740m (£650m) in the first three months of the year, requiring a rapid German state bailout as the company bled cash and cancelled most of its holidays until June.

Travel restrictions in most of its main markets have destroyed demand for holidays, with nine in 10 Tui employees furloughed or given pay cuts in a desperate attempt to lower costs. Tui had more than 70,000 employees in September.

The German government backed a €1.8bn loan in March to help the company survive, but Tui said the travel industry would change permanently after the pandemic, requiring significant cuts.

Tui told the stock market on Wednesday: “We are targeting to permanently reduce our overhead cost base by 30% across the entire group. This will have an impact on potentially 8,000 roles globally that will either not be recruited or reduced.”

The pandemic has forced the travel industry to shrink significantly, despite job retention schemes. Tui’s job cuts come after British Airways revealed plans to axe 12,000 roles, and Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic said they would cut 3,000 jobs apiece.

Tui was reviewing its business to identify areas to cut and could pull out of entire markets or destinations. Cuts to its airline were highly probable and it would “divest and address” unprofitable businesses.

Tui said it was ready to restart holiday travel, but it also warned of the difficulties faced by travel companies trying to operate with the prospect of a vaccine still far off.

The company said it was preparing to implement physical distancing measures at airports and on aircrafts. It would also call for mandatory masks and stop buffets and team sports in its hotels and cruise ships “without compromising customer enjoyment and travel experience”.

However, customers were still making inquiries online, indicating a continued demand for travel despite the pandemic and economic crisis, Tui said. “Customers want to travel as soon as tourism can take off responsibly and safely,” it said.

By Jasper Jolly

Aviation watchdog warns airlines over passenger refund rights

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 11th May 2020) London, Uk – –

The aviation watchdog has warned airlines that they are legally required to provide refunds to customers who had their flights cancelled because of the coronavirus.

By law, plane operators must refund customers within seven days if their flight is cancelled.

But with fewer than 10% of UK flights taking off, airlines are struggling to deal with all the requests for refunds.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it could take action against airlines.

“We are reviewing how airlines are handling refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, and will consider if any action should be taken to ensure that consumer rights are protected,” the regulator said in a statement.

Last month, consumer group Which? said it had received thousands of complaints from people struggling to secure a refund for their cancelled travel. Instead, airlines were offering customers vouchers to be used when lockdown are lifted.

‘Systematically denying refunds'

The travel industry's own estimates suggested £7bn of travellers' money was affected, Which? said.

Now the CAA has stepped in. “Under the law, consumers are entitled to receive a refund for their cancelled flights, despite the challenges the industry is currently facing,” it said.

“We support airlines offering consumers vouchers and rebooking alternatives where it makes sense for the consumer.

“But it is important that consumers are given a clear option to request a cash refund without unnecessary barriers.”

The regulator said it did not expect airlines to “systematically” deny consumers their right to a refund.

“We expect airlines to provide refunds for cancelled flights as soon as practically possible, whilst appreciating there are operational challenges for airlines in the current circumstances.”

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has said it will take up to six months to refund passengers for flights cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He told the BBC that the airline was struggling to process a backlog of 25 million refunds with reduced staff.

Airlines have been forced to ground the majority of their fleets because of the crisis, which has all but eliminated demand for air travel.

As a result, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair have all announced thousands of job cuts.

Airlines have also said that plans to introduce a 14-day quarantine period for anyone arriving in the UK from any countries apart from the Republic of Ireland and France will further hurt demand.

UK airports suggested that a quarantine “would not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economy”.

Karen Dee from the Airport Operators Association, which represents most UK airports, said the measure should be applied “on a selective basis following the science” and “the economic impact on key sectors should be mitigated”.

UK train services to be increased as travel restrictions ease

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 8th May 2020) London, Uk – –

There are plans to increase train services from Monday 18 May across Britain in preparation for the eventual easing of travel restrictions.

The move will ensure the railways are able to cope with a rise in passengers when some people return to work.

Rail bosses and government sources told the BBC that services will be increased to about 70% of the normal timetable.

At the moment, only half of normal rail services are running due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Adopting a new timetable and reintroducing more trains requires a lot of planning, so preparations are being made for an increase to – on average – around 70% of the full timetable.

Rail bosses say staff shortages within the industry due to illness or people self-isolating means the new timetable is the maximum level of service they can provide.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We are examining a range of options on how transport can respond to support the recovery in a timely way when the time comes and it is safe to do so.

“We continue to prepare for any scenario we might be asked to support.”

Resources are likely to be focused on urban commuter lines, rather than long distance intercity routes.

While services will be increased, this does not mean that large numbers of people will be returning to work on 18 May.

‘Still many questions'

The easing of travel restrictions is likely to be done gradually – the government has suggested that working hours might be staggered to limit passenger numbers.

If maintained, two-metre social distancing measure would cut capacity on trains by up to 90%, so managing any increase in the number of commuters will be a real challenge.

Transport campaigners said retaining customer confidence in the network beyond the pandemic would be vital, but there are still many questions about how this will be achieved.

Darren Shirley, chief executive of the the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Will everyone be required to purchase tickets in advance? Must all seats be pre-booked? Does social distancing still apply? Is PPE necessary or required?

“There are questions that passengers will want to know the answer to and the industry should be make clear before lockdown ends and the rail network seeks to ramp up,” he said.

Estate agents report rise in Homebuyers ‘plotting move to country’ amid increased home working

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri, 8th May 2020) London, Uk – –


Homebuyers ‘plotting move to country' amid increased home working

Estate agents report rise in buyer registrations around Winchester and Berkshire

After the lockdown, the exodus. Estate agents are reporting a surge in the numbers of would-be homebuyers plotting a move out of the city to a rural area or smaller town as people conclude that home working is here to stay.

Firms said that during the last few weeks they had seen a big increase in enquiries about well-connected countryside and “out of city” locations – ranging from English market towns to Scottish fishing villages – where people could split their working week between home and office once life starts to return to normal.

The upmarket estate agent Savills said locations that had seen a rise in buyer registrations included the areas in and around Winchester in Hampshire, Newbury in Berkshire, Canford Cliffs in Dorset and the East Neuk of Fife on the east coast of Scotland.

Lockdown appears to be prompting many people to reassess what is important to them, whether that is a desire to continue working from home for part of the week once normal service resumes or wanting a bigger garden for their children to play in.

The pandemic has effectively pushed the UK housing market into a temporary deep freeze, with people being told by the government to postpone moving until a later date, and there have been claims that several hundred thousand home sales will be abandoned this year.Advertisement

However, Rightmove has revealed that visits to its site during the last three days of April were up more than 20% compared with the first few days of lockdown, as more people stuck at home started to think about a new life in the country.

Andrew Perratt, the head of country residential at Savills, said it might be easy to dismiss an increase in web visits as largely being down to “bored dreamers” sitting at home surfing the internet, but he added: “What is most significant for me is the jump in new buyer registrations.”

Perratt said the big demand was for properties in “the country markets around the major cities,” which included villages and market towns.

The mass switch to working from home had proved that “you don’t need to be in London, or another city, five days a week,” he said. “I think there are lessons to be learned for all of us in terms of the number of times we need to visit a city during a working week.”

Savills surveyed nearly 700 registered buyers and sellers in the so-called prime property market between 21 April and 27 April to find out how their attitudes to moving had changed during the coronavirus crisis. It found 49% expected increased home working to continue post-lockdown, while about four in 10 said they would now find a village or countryside location more appealing than previously, with the latter figure higher for those with school-age children.

This prompted the firm to talk about a potential “rural renaissance”. Winchester has reasonably good rail links with London, with a journey time of just over an hour, and lies at the western end of the South Downs national park. The average house price there is £419,000, compared with £477,000 in London, according to the most recent official Land Registry data.

Newbury is well known for its strong transport links, lies on the edge of the Berkshire Downs and is surrounded by attractive villages such as Highclere and Hermitage.

Perratt said his theory was that Canford Cliffs, an affluent suburb of Poole in Dorset, was an area where some wealthy Londoners were lucky enough to already own a bolthole to escape to, and that some may be looking to “flip” their life so that this becomes their principal residence instead of London.

Similarly with the East Neuk of Fife, which includes picturesque fishing towns such as Anstruther, people might be looking to swap their Edinburgh townhouse for a smaller flat and use the proceeds to buy a bigger home on the coast, he added.

At the Douglas Allen branch in Brentwood, Essex, manager Reece Giles said interest from potential buyers in nearby London boroughs looking to relocate to the area “has kind of gone through the roof”. The Brentwood area includes villages such as Navestock that offer the benefits of rural life but are within an easy commute of London.

The Savills research also found that one in six respondents were ready for a longer commute, with the firm saying it believed some people would be prepared to put up with a two-hour journey to work if they were only going into the office for a couple of days a week.

The latest Rightmove data, meanwhile, named Inverness in the Scottish Highlands as the location seeing the biggest year-on-year increase in searches – up 167%.

Reporting by Rupert Jones

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Source: The Finest

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Ryanair warns refunds to take up to six months

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 1st May 2020) London, Uk – –

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has said it will take up to six months to refund passengers for flights cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He told the BBC the airline was struggling to process a backlog of 25 million refunds with reduced staff.

However, he pledged: “If you want a cash refund, you will receive a cash refund.”

Ryanair is set to cut 3,000 jobs – 15% of its workforce – as it restructures to cope with the coronavirus crisis.

It said the 3,000 posts under threat were mainly pilot and cabin crew jobs.

There are likely to be pay cuts of up to 20% for remaining staff, the airline added.

Mr O'Leary told the BBC that the planned cuts were “the minimum that we need just to survive the next 12 months”.

He said that if a vaccine was not found, “we may have to announce more cuts and deeper cuts in future”.

Brian Strutton, the general secretary of pilots' union Balpa, said: “There has been no warning or consultation by Ryanair about the 3,000 potential job losses and this is miserable news for pilots and staff who have taken pay cuts under the government job retention scheme.

“Ryanair seems to have done a U-turn on its ability to weather the Covid storm.”

The restructuring could involve closing some UK regional hubs, Mr O'Leary said, but he would not say which ones were at risk.

He said Ryanair hoped to announce details of job losses and pay cuts by 1 July.

Mr O'Leary, whose pay was cut by 50% for April and May, has now agreed to extend it for the remainder of the financial year to March 2021.

Litigation lawyer Jonathan Compton, a partner at law firm DMH Stallard, took issue with the idea that ticket refunds could be delayed.

“Where a flight is cancelled, the legal position is clear, the airline must provide a full refund within seven working days,” he said.

“Regulators need to get more active here. The relevant regulator is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA must start instructing airlines to start making refunds, no ifs or buts, and it needs to do this now.”

‘Subsidy junkies'

Ryanair said it expected to report a net loss of more than €100m (£87m) for the first three months of the year, with further losses in the second quarter.

In a sideswipe at rivals, it said its return to scheduled services would be rendered more difficult by competing with flag carrier airlines, “who will be financing below cost selling with the benefit of over €30bn in unlawful state aid, in breach of both EU state aid and competition rules”.

Ryanair said it had entered the coronavirus crisis with reserves of almost €4bn in cash and continued to “actively manage” those resources in order to survive the pandemic.

Mr O'Leary described airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia as “subsidy junkies running around Europe hoovering up state aid”.

Flights resuming

Meanwhile, Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air is resuming flights from Luton airport starting on Friday, but passengers will be required to wear masks while on board.

The airline is among the first European carriers to begin restoring services that have been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The flights will be heading for destinations in Spain, Portugal, Israel, Slovakia, Serbia, Romania and Hungary.

But Wizz Air warned that because of “rapid changes in travel restrictions, the list might be adapted”.

The move comes despite unchanged advice from the Foreign Office against all foreign non-essential travel.

Heathrow ‘robust'

In another development, London's Heathrow airport, normally the busiest in Europe, has said it expects passenger numbers to have fallen 97% in April as demand slumped.

Numbers fell 18.8% to 14.6 million during the first three months of the year, the airport said.

But it added: “Heathrow remains open – and continues operating safely to help people get home and to secure vital supply lines for the UK.”

Financially, it was “robust”, it said.

“Heathrow has £3.2bn in liquidity, sufficient to maintain the business at least over the next 12 months, even with no passengers,” it added.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye told the BBC's Today programme that until a coronavirus vaccine could be developed, airports would have to introduce measures to minimise infection once lockdowns started to ease.

“What this might include – and this needs to be agreed with governments and the aviation sector – is a combination of measures and that might include some kind of health screening as you come into the terminal so that perhaps if that's a temperature check, if you have a high temperature, you may not be allowed to fly,” he said.

“As you go through the airport, you will probably be wearing a face mask, as people from Asia have been doing ever since Sars came out.”

Branson’s holding company to inject £20M into fitness club group Virgin Active

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 24th Apr 2020) London, Uk – –

Virgin Group and Brait are providing a £20m loan to help steer Virgin Active through the coronavirus pandemic, Sky News learns.

Sir Richard Branson's holding company is to inject millions of pounds into the fitness clubs group it part-owns, in a further sign of the strain being inflicted by coronavirus on his Virgin empire.

Sky News has learnt that Virgin Group and Brait, a South African investor which owns a majority stake in Virgin Active, have injected £20m in new loans into the gym chain to shore up its finances.

The injection has emerged days after Virgin Australia was forced into voluntary administration, and as Sir Richard seeks a £500m rescue deal to keep Virgin Atlantic aloft.Coronavirus UK tracker: How many cases are in your area – updated daily

Earlier this week, the billionaire tycoon said he was seeking to raise capital from his Necker Island home to plough back into his portfolio of companies.

Sources said on Friday that Sir Richard and Brait were providing the £20m loan to Virgin Active on a pro rata basis, meaning Virgin's direct contribution is just £4m by virtue of its 20% equity stake.

However, they added that Virgin Enterprises Limited, the UK-based entity which manages Virgin's brand licensing activities, had also agreed to defer royalty fees owed by the fitness chain that are understood to be more than £10m a year.

Virgin Active operates 43 clubs in the UK, employing just under 3,000 staff.

Virtually all of them are furloughed under the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, with Virgin Active topping up employees' salaries to ensure that they are on full pay during the lockdown.

The company also trades in seven other countries, including Australia, Italy and Singapore.

Last month, Sir Richard said he was investing $250m into various Virgin-branded companies around the world, with roughly half of that said to have been injected into Virgin Atlantic.

The airline has asked ministers for a £500m bailout in the form of a commercial loan and guarantees against money being held back by credit card companies.

It is also in the preliminary stages of talks with a range of potential private investors into the company, although EU airline ownership requirements will place limitations on the nature of those investors.

Peter Norris, the chairman of Virgin Group, recently urged Boris Johnson to establish an industry-wide bailout strategy worth up to £7.5bn.

That request appears to have been dashed by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, who has signalled that only “bespoke” aid will be available “as a last resort”.

In an open letter to staff at Virgin-branded companies this week, Sir Richard said he was “working day and night to look after our people and protect as many jobs as possible”.

“We are operating in many of the hardest hit sectors, including aviation, leisure, hotels and cruises, and we have more than 70,000 people in 35 countries working in Virgin companies,” he said.

“We're doing all we can to keep those businesses afloat and I am so thankful to all of you who have continued to work so hard in these difficult times. We have already committed a quarter of a billion dollars to help our businesses and protect jobs, and will continue to invest all we can.”UK lockdown rules explained

Sir Richard insisted that he had not based himself in Necker for tax reasons, and said: “As with other Virgin assets, our team will raise as much money against the island as possible to save as many jobs as possible around the group.”

In total, VEL has agreed to defer tens of millions of pounds in fees owed by the hardest-hit Virgin-branded companies as the coronavirus pandemic decimates revenues across his leisure and travel operations.

Those talks also involve Virgin Cruises and Virgin Holidays, which will now not be required to hand over fees they pay to VEL for use of the Virgin brand until next year at the earliest.

Companies in Sir Richard's portfolio which have been relatively unaffected by the crisis include Virgin Media, the pay-TV broadcaster and mobile phone network operator.

His group's paper value has been dented, though, by the sharp fall in the value of Virgin Money during the last 12 months, with banks suffering from rock-bottom interest rates.

Virgin Group typically owns minority stakes in companies which use the brand, although Virgin Atlantic is an exception, with the billionaire continuing to control its equity.

Virgin Active and Virgin Group both declined to comment.

By Mark Kleinman

Sir Richard Branson warns Virgin Atlantic will fold without aid

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 20th April 2020) London, Uk – –

Sir Richard Branson has warned that airline Virgin Atlantic needs government support to survive.

The boss of the Virgin Group said he was not asking for a handout, but a commercial loan, believed to be £500m.

In an open letter to staff, Sir Richard said: “Many airlines around the world need government support and many have already received it.

The plea comes as Virgin Australia, the country's second largest airline, faces going into administration without aid.

Sir Richard wrote in his letter that without UK government support for Virgin Atlantic “there won't be any competition left and hundreds of thousands more jobs will be lost”.

Virgin Atlantic – which is owned jointly by Sir Richard and US carrier Delta – has reportedly asked for £500m in aid. However, according to an FT report last week, the request has been rejected by the Treasury.

It said the airline had not done enough to show it had explored other options to bolster cash before asking for state aid.

Government support

In his letter to staff, Sir Richard said: “We will do everything we can to keep the airline [Virgin Atlantic] going – but we will need government support to achieve that in the face of the severe uncertainty surrounding travel today and not knowing how long the planes will be grounded for.

“This would be in the form of a commercial loan – it wouldn't be free money and the airline would pay it back (as EasyJet will do for the £600m loan the government recently gave them).”

He pointed out that Virgin Atlantic started with one plane 36 years ago, before adding: “Over those years it has created real competition for British Airways, which must remain fierce for the benefit of our wonderful customers and the public at large.”

Sir Richard offered to inject £250m into the Virgin Group last month, with most of that going to the airline.

Earlier this month, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Heathrow airport and Manchester Airports Group sent letters to the government highlighting the importance of Virgin Atlantic to the UK's manufacturing supply chain.

Australia struggles

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Virgin Australia – in which Sir Richard holds a stake of around 10% – is close to going into administration after being refused help by the Australian government.

The carrier has been forced to cancel nearly all of its flights during the coronavirus crisis and been unable to restructure its debts.

The Australian government refused a request from the company for a A$1.4bn (£720m) loan.

The airline – which employs about 16,000 – is part-owned by Sir Richard along with Etihad, Singapore Airlines and China's HNA.

“The brilliant Virgin Australia team is fighting to survive and need support to get through this catastrophic global crisis,” Sir Richard said.

“We are hopeful that Virgin Australia can emerge stronger than ever, as a more sustainable, financially viable airline.”

He warned: “If Virgin Australia disappears, Qantas would effectively have a monopoly of the Australian skies. We all know what that would lead to.”

Sir Richard also addressed the fierce criticism he has faced in recent weeks over his tax situation.

Critics have pointed out he has paid no UK income tax since moving to the tax-free British Virgin Islands 14 years ago.

Sir Richard is the 312th richest person in the world with an estimated $5.2bn fortune, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index.

“I've seen lots of comments about my net worth – but that is calculated on the value of Virgin businesses around the world before this crisis, not sitting as cash in a bank account ready to withdraw,” he said.

“Over the years significant profits have never been taken out of the Virgin Group, instead they have been reinvested in building businesses that create value and opportunities.”

Turning to the question of living abroad he said: “Joan and I did not leave Britain for tax reasons but for our love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands (BVI) and in particular Necker Island, which I bought when I was 29 years old, as an uninhabited island on the edges of the BVI.

“Over time, we built our family home here. The rest of the island is run as a business, which employs 175 people.”

By Simon Read Business reporter

EasyJet may keep middle seats empty to follow social distancing rules once travel restrictions lift

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 16th Apr, 2020) London, Uk – –

CEO says drop in passenger demand will make option more viable when travel restrictions lift

EasyJet may keep middle seats empty to follow physical distancing rules once coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted, its chief executive has said.

Johan Lundgrensaid it was one of the options being explored as the low-cost airline started planning for flights to resume, following the grounding of EasyJet’s entire fleet on 30 March. The chief executive said a drop in passenger demand would make it easier to keep middle seats empty when travel restrictions are eased.

“Our assumption is that load factors will not be back to normal early on, which means that we will have the opportunity for a middle-seat option, but I’m talking about this as an initial phase and nobody knows for how long that phase will be,” Lundgren said.

“We’re also looking at various disinfection programmes on the aircraft,” he added.

However, the middle-seat option has been dismissed by the chief executive of its rival Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, who said it would be a “hopelessly ineffective” way to keep passengers safe and ultimately unaffordable for airlines.

EasyJet said winter bookings were “well ahead” of last year, after releasing its schedule earlier than usual. It includes customers who were rebooking flights following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Customers have had the option of changing their flights without a fee, receiving credit for their flights or a full refund. Nearly half of passengers had chosen alternative flights or flight credit, the airline said.

EasyJet is now expecting a smaller loss for the first half of the year, of between £185m to £205m, compared with previous forecasts for a loss of £275m. It follows an emergency cost-cutting programme that included a hiring, promotion and pay freeze, a halt to all non-mandatory training, and cuts to its administrative budget. The airline is also offering unpaid leave to staff.

Lundgren said it was too soon to say when flights would be back to normal and how profits would be affected, but he said EasyJet had a dedicated data science team modelling various scenarios.

“I think we just need to be very flexible in terms of how the programme would look, and then we need to see what the pricing will be at that point in time and the profitability of those flights,” the chief executive said.Advertisement

“But I think that’s something we can only know once these restrictions are lifted and we can look at what the impact this will have on sales going forward. The answer to the question is nobody knows today what that means but we’re planing for a number of scenarios on how we will get back to the market.”

By Kalyeena Makortoff and Gwyn Topham

HS2 construction rail project given formal approval despite lockdown

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 15th April 2020) London, Uk – –

The government has given formal approval for construction work on the HS2 rail project to begin despite lockdown measures.

Construction firms involved in phase one of the high-speed rail project will need to follow social distancing rules.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “We cannot delay work on our long-term plan to level up the country.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson approved the decision to build the rail link in February after a review into its cost.

Matthew Kilcoyne, deputy director of the free-market Adam Smith Institute, called the government's announcement “tone-deaf” in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Vanity projects'

Mr Kilcoyne said: “We've got an economic crisis that's going to cost taxpayers billions. We can't afford vanity projects like HS2.

“We need to get back on to a sustainable financial footing.”

The government's official report previously warned that the project could cost more than £100bn and be up to five years behind schedule.

On Tuesday Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned that the coronavirus pandemic “will have serious implications for the UK economy”.

He spoke after the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimated that a three-month lockdown would hit GDP and push up the UK's borrowing bill to an estimated £273bn this financial year.

HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said: “This next step provides thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country with certainty at a time when they need it.”

A notice to proceed has been given to four joint ventures, which will start work immediately, according to a statement by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The announcement was welcomed by the boss of the Construction Industry Council, Graham Watts. “The notice to proceed with HS2 is welcome at this time, particularly for the benefit of the economy,” he said.

“When the current crisis is over, planned recovery is vital and major infrastructural work such as HS2 and from Highways England, together with a recovery in housebuilding, is a key instrument for kickstarting the wider economy.”

Companies with HS2 contracts include Costain, Balfour Beatty and Skanska Construction UK.

Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, said: “The issuing of notice to proceed today ensures that our contractors and their supply chains have the confidence that they can commit to building HS2, generating thousands of skilled jobs across the country as we recover from the pandemic.”

Safety of the workforce

Construction workers on-site will need to observe Public Health England's advice on social distancing during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The GMB union, which represents HS2 construction workers, said that the safety of the workforce “must be the overriding priority”.

Eamon O'Hearn, its national officer, said that construction should be “conditional on rigorous observation of social distancing, provision of personal protective equipment where required”, as well as individual risk assessments for vulnerable workers.

HS2 is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. It is hoped the project will reduce passenger overcrowding and help rebalance the UK's economy through investment in transport links outside London.

HS2 minister Mr Stephenson added: “HS2 will be the spine of the country's transport network, boosting capacity and connectivity, while also rebalancing opportunity fairly across our towns and cities.”