Garuda to move its Gatwick flights to Heathrow; Vietnam Airlines did the same in January

Garuda Indonesia is joining the ranks of those airlines that started life at Gatwick before defecting to Heathrow.  According to CAPA, Garuda will start using its new Heathrow slots in March 2016, but there is no information on how it got the valuable Heathrow slots. Slots at Heathrow are, in theory, hard to get hold of.  Garuda used to fly from Gatwick many years ago before suspending services (owing to safety restrictions, due to its bad record). It only returned to Gatwick a couple of years ago. Instead of more ambitious plans, Garuda will eventually just have direct flights to Jakarta from both London and Amsterdam. The runway at Jakarta has to be strengthened for heavy long haul planes. Currently, Garuda serves Gatwick as a “tag” to its Jakarta-Amsterdam flights. Airlines like Garuda are being out-competed by middle eastern Gulf airline rivals.  Earlier in 2015 Vietnam Airlines announced it would be leaving Gatwick to launch a direct service from Heathrow instead, from March 31st 2015.  This will be using Dreamliner 787s. John Holland-Kaye is, of course, pleased. It is reported that due to the shortage of Heathrow slots, the agreement between Heathrow and Vietnam Airlines took 7 years to complete, and “there are currently 30 airlines waiting for slots.” Earlier long haul airlines to fail from Gatwick were Hong Kong Airlines, Air Asia X, Korean Air and US Airways.


Garuda to quit London Gatwick for Heathrow


By Alex McWhirter (Business Traveller)

Garuda Indonesia is joining the ranks of those airlines that started life at London Gatwick before defecting to Heathrow.

The carrier will start using its new Heathrow slots in March, reports the Centre For Asia-Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

Details of how Garuda acquired the valuable LHR slots are unavailable at the present time.

Garuda used to fly out of Gatwick many years ago before suspending services (owing to safety restrictions). It only returned to the Sussex airport a couple of years ago.

Furthermore, the airline has abandoned its ambitious European plans in favour of a more modest schedule – it now simply aims to fly nonstop to Jakarta from both London and Amsterdam.

Currently, Garuda serves Gatwick as a “tag” to its Jakarta-Amsterdam flights.

But even here, the scheduling is not straightforward as Garuda is only flying nonstop between Europe and Jakarta (see news, June 11). Its Jakarta-Amsterdam flights must route via Singapore, rather than nonstop, because of Jakarta’s weak runway.

It remains unclear when the Jakarta runway will be strengthened, which would then enable the Indonesian capital to gain regular nonstop flights to Europe.

Why did Garuda scale back its European plans? Well, it’s rather like the situation at Philippine Airlines, which also returned to Europe after a period of absence but then found the market had changed. It too has axed once ambitious plans.

Twenty and 30 years ago, when Garuda and PAL last served Europe both were major players on the voluminous routes linking Europe with south-east Asia and Australia.

But the market these carriers used to control has shifted. Rival carriers, and especially the Gulf airlines, now handle the bulk of the keenly-priced market which was once the preserve of Garuda and PAL.

It means that PAL now maintains a single route linking London Heathrow with Manila while Garuda operates just the two above-mentioned services.

Earlier in the year:

Vietnam Airlines switches routes from Gatwick to Heathrow

12 Jan 2015 (Buying Business Travel

Vietnam Airlines is leaving Gatwick to launch a direct service from Heathrow airport, starting March 31.

The national carrier currently operates two twice-weekly flights to the UK capital, one from Hanoi and the other from Ho Chi Minh, with a B777-200ER.

From July, the airline will use its new fleet of 787-9 Dreamliners to operate five weekly services to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam said this route will be further increased to a daily service, but have not provided dates on when this will happen.

Vietnam Airlines CEO Dr Pham Ngoc Minh said: “Our vision, and that of the government of Vietnam, is for Vietnam Airlines to become the major carrier in Southeast Asia – and this move represents a tremendous step forwards in achieving that goal.”

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “We are delighted that Vietnam Airlines has chosen to operate its new Dreamliner 787 fleet from Heathrow, securing regular direct flights from the UK to a vital emerging market.

“This demonstrates once again that only a strong hub airport like Heathrow, with a mix of premium direct and transfer passengers, can help Britain win the race for growth,” he added.

Vietnam Airlines launched the first direct, nonstop flights between London and Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in 2011.

The lack of capacity at Heathrow meant the agreement between the airport and Vietnam Airlines took seven years to complete. There are currently 30 airlines waiting for slots.




Heathrow attacks Gatwick over ‘long-haul failure’

Heathrow has attacked Gatwick’s claims that it can support long-haul services to emerging markets in its latest submission to the Airports Commission.

The UK’s hub airport has drawn attention to a string of long-haul routes from Gatwick which have been cancelled over the last five years.

But Gatwick hit back at these claims by saying that it serves more destinations than Heathrow and that some of the long-routes routes were cancelled when Gatwick was still owned by the same company as Heathrow, then known as BAA.

Airlines to axe routes from Gatwick in the last two years include Hong Kong Airlines, Air Asia X, Korean Air and US Airways. Meanwhile Air China has suspended its flights to Beijing for the winter and Garuda Indonesia’s Jakarta service has been postponed until next year.

Heathrow’s chief executive Colin Matthews said: “There is no need for a crystal ball to test Gatwick’s claims that it can provide long-haul flights when we have the hard evidence of 10 years of failure.

“While Heathrow has been full, airline after airline has tried without success to make long-haul flights from Gatwick work.

“Gatwick doesn’t have a flight to New York, one of the world’s most important business and financial centres, so it’s not surprising it can’t support routes to the less popular and more distant destinations that will be critical to future trade.”  [Gatwick now has a direct flight to News York with Norwegian.  AW Note. Nov 2015]

Heathrow said that it did not oppose the growth of Gatwick “as long as it is alongside building an expanded hub airport”.

A spokeswoman for Gatwick said that it serves more UK and international destinations than Heathrow.

“Heathrow is clearly worried about having to compete for the first time in London,” she said.

“Gatwick remains absolutely focused on securing new short and long destinations to the UK as we have shown with Moscow, Vietnam, Istanbul and Jakarta – bringing more choice, destinations and better fares to UK passengers.

“A significant number of the airlines which have left Gatwick over the last five years occurred during BAA’s ownership. These changes reflect the competitive nature of the aviation market. Heathrow itself has lost 15 long haul services to key destinations since April last year including Singapore, Mumbai and Bangkok.”

Both airports have put their cases for expansion to the Airports Commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies, which is looking at the issue of the UK’s hub capacity.

The commission is due to draw up a short-list of potential solutions by the end of the year, although the final recommendation will not be made until after the next general election in the summer of 2015.