Friday, 16 November 2012

Qatar Airways to sponsor FC Barcelona, advertise on team's shirt

 Today we get into the fascinating World of football sponsorship, because it has been announced that Qatar Airways is going to become an sponsor of one of the World's top football ("soccer" for American readers!) sides: FC Barcelona. So we are going to see Qatar Airways on the FC Barcelona's shirt next season!

This deal consolidates the relationship between FC Barcelona and the emirate of Qatar (whose Qatar Foundation already sponsors the team) and mirrors similar sponsorship deals that top European football teams have sealed with the emerging airlines of the Gulf (the so called "MEB3"): Emirates is currently sponsoring English team Arsenal, Italy's AC Milan and is also adding FC Barcelona's arch-rival Real Madrid in the coming season, while Etihad Airways, of Abu Dhabi, and Qatar Airways are sponsoring Manchester City and Paris St.Germain, both owned by investors of their respective emirates.

The official accouncement, that can be found on FC Barcelona's website, does not disclose financial details, although sports daily El Mundo Deportivo reports that Qatar Sports Investments would pay €170 million for a six year sponsorship. Qatar Airways logo will then replace Qatar Foundation's one on the FC Barcelona shirts and merchandising. Apparently the possibility of replacing the sponsor's name was included in a clause of the original contract between FC Barcelona and Qatar Foundation.

Another point this announcement does not disclose is what is going to happen with FC Barcelona's current sponsorhip deal with Turkish Airlines. The Turkish flag carrier has invested heavily in sports sponsorship in its quest to position itself as a global super-connector and a competitor with the Gulf carriers and was, until now, the "official airline" of FC Barcelona. This relationship might be now "in the air" (if you allow me the bad joke).

By the way, all these airlines sponsoring several teams at the same time are starting to produce some slightly embarrassing situations: for example, a specially-painted Turkish Airlines aircraft flew FC Barcelona to the 2011 Champions League final, that the Catalan side played against non other than...Manchester United, a team that happens to have a similar sponsorhip agreement with the Turkish airline!

However, in this occasion, the final was conveniently played at Wembley stadium, in London, which made it unnecessary for Manchester United to fly...and, made a bit less blatant Turkish Airlines' alleged support for both teams!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Great time-lapse video of London Heathrow landings

London Heathrow's congestion problem are well is an amazing time-lapse video that @jplanas posted on his twitter stream that makes it easier to visualize Heathrow's airport frantic activity!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

IAG to bid for Vueling?

To bid or not to bid?

The news was out this evening that IAG is considering a bid for the share of Vueling it does not yet control (here is the official communication on the website of the Spanish stock-market regulator).

We will have to wait until Friday to know the details, but it makes sense...IAG is heading to an attrition war with Iberia's unions over the creation of its new low cost subsidiary, Iberia Express (and after this week's court ruling, there is no solution in sight anytime soon). The "new" carrier is IAG's attempt to stem losses at Iberia, particularly in the short and medium haul network.

And while Iberia is in turmoil, and as I already noted here a few days ago, Vueling (that is 40% owned by Iberia) appears to be in good shape. Such an irony, because Vueling is already exploiting successfully the sort of hybrid model that Iberia Express was trying to bring to Iberia's short and medium haul network!

What next then? 

As I said, it's early to say, the offer has not even been formalized, but things are getting interesting...

Could Vueling take progressively take over the Iberia Express project while Iberia focuses on the long-haul routes? After all, Iberia already had a "sister" company until the 90s, Aviaco, that was doing most of the domestic flights in Spain.

This option might not be good news for Barcelona airport, since there might be a risk, if Vueling "becomes Iberia" that the carrier will shift its focus away from its current base, where a major expansion is currently under way (or alternatively that it will split its fleet and network between Barcelona and Madrid).

Could the goal be merely financial, to consolidated the profitable Vueling operation in the not-so-good Iberia's accounts?

Is IAG planning to keep it as it is now, a stand-alone operation, while trying to extract more synergies and know-how from Vueling's experience in running a successful low-cost (or we should better say "hybrid") operation?

Let's wait until Friday to see whether anything new comes out of Iberia's results presentation!

Friday, 2 November 2012

The shortest commercial flight I've ever made

It was last week, courtesy of Easyjet...

When our flight from London Gatwick was about to land at Barcelona-El Prat, the pilot went on air to say that the runway where we were expecting to land had been temporarily closed and that, in view of the fact that we only had fuel for 20 more minutes of flight, we were diverting to Reus airport, 100 miles south of Barcelona, in order to refuel.

And so we did. The interesting part is that we then were to fly from Reus to Barcelona. I had flown short flights in general aviation aircraft before, but this is ceertainly the shortest distance I have flown in a commercial jet aircraft: it took about 15 minutes for the Easyjet A319 to cover the 100 miles that separate Reus and Barcelona airports...

Some curiosities from this experience:

-Upon arrival I noticed that our flight appeared twice on Barcelona airports flight information displays in the arrivals area and both with the same flight number: one for the original one from Gatwick and another one listed as coming from Reus.

-We could enjoy the safety instructions demonstration twice (even if no one exited the aircraft). I know this is standard practice but I found ita bit surreal.

-We were at Reus for longer than expected because the flight plan had to be provided to the pilots in paper and it seems there was no one ready to print it out at that time of the night at Reus airport (which is quite a small airport that gets only a handful of Ryanair flights at this time of the year). I guess this situation will not be hapenning a few years from now, when everyone is using iPads (I ignore if some regulations will need to change to adapt to the new paperless reality too).

This was my shortest commercial flight so far, but might not be the last, I know there are some scheduled flights out there that are even shorter than this, in the Caribbean and also in places like the Orkney Islands, that hold the record to the shortest regular commercial flight in the World!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Allplane in the media

A bit of blatant self-promotion here, I know, but it is nice to see one's work picked up by industry peers, particularly when we are talking about some heavy-weights of online journalism!

My picture of a Thai Airways' Airbus A380 crew sleeping quarters was re-published on the front cover of popular American technology site Gizmodo.

And my article about Vueling's recent expansion was picked up by online travel magazine Skift.

No need to say readership figures went through the roof with all this extra exposure!

Enjoy the read!