Why efficiency is key to BA CityFlyer

The joys and challenges of operations at UK-based regional airline BA CityFlyer.

10.2017 | Text: Victoria Nicholls

Text:
Victoria Nicholls is a specialist for aftermarket topics such as engine MRO, leasing and asset management, as well as international market trends. The British-born editor lives in Berlin and works for MTU’s corporate communications in Hannover and Ludwigsfelde.

Mark Leather prefers the window seat to the aisle. He likes to be placed at the front of the plane, and never puts his seat back. Leather is professional and considerate. A lot like BA CityFlyer, the airline he works for as Head of Fleet and Airworthiness. BA CityFlyer is a premium airline. “Customers rely on us for top-quality service, great on-time performance and regularity,” Leather states, “criteria we always endeavor to fulfil.” The wholly-owned British Airways subsidiary is a point-to-point regional operator in the IAG consortium and provides scheduled and leisure flights in the UK and Europe. The operator carried nearly 2.2 million passengers in 2016, 13.4 percent more than in 2015 and a record number for the airline.

BA CityFlyer currently operates 20 Embraer 170s and190s, having transitioned from RJ100s under Leather’s watchful eye in 2010. “Our entire fleet is under ten years old,” he states, adding that the company takes pride in its appearance and the cleanliness of its planes. Both Embraer aircraft are single aisle and have four seats per row.

MTU Maintenance has been maintaining engines from the CF34 family (CF34--3, -8C/E, -10E) for 15 years and has provided MRO services to over 90 customers across the globe. The maintenance division of MTU Aero engines is a GE authorized service provider and services are performed at MTU Maintenance Berlin-Brandenburg. In addition to comprehensive MRO support, the MTU on-site support teams have enabled customers to avoid over 650 shop visits through their on-wing services since 2003. Support options were further enhanced in 2016, when MTU Maintenance Lease Services and Embraer Aviation International SAS joined forces to provide customers with comprehensive CF34-10E spare engine support. MTU Maintenance performs over 100 off-wing shop visits per year.

“We have generous seat pitchings and highly-trained, polite staff. Customer satisfaction is everything to us,” Leather says. Even in a market where passengers are used to compromising service expectations for low-cost prices? “Especially then. We tend to get very high customer feedback scores. Because customers appreciate our punctuality, and also our service from check-in on the ground and at gate areas through to the service on the plane itself.” The regional operator has two classes, the business class “Club Europe” and the economy class “Euro Traveller.” Passengers in both categories are not charged for checked-in luggage and receive complementary meals or snacks respectively.

London City Airport is the airline’s main base and convenient for business people and tourists alike. “It’s in the middle of London by Canary Wharf, accessible and easy to use. Check-in times are much shorter here, too,” Leather says. Of course, operating out of London City does not come without challenges. There is very limited space and no hangers. And at 5 degrees, the approach to land is pretty steep due to obstacle and building clearance. Only the captain may land the plane. This is significantly higher than the international standard of 3 degrees, which can be landed by first officers too. Heathrow, for instance, is currently trialing a 3.2 degree approach with the aim of increasing to 3.5 degrees at a later date.

Additionally, London City closes for a 24-hour period during the weekend. Previously, BA CityFlyer would operate charter flights from other UK airports to better utilize the fleet during this time. But the strategy has changed. Now, the airline offers scheduled leisure flights from London Stansted over the weekends too during the summer. Furthermore, Birmingham, Bristol, and Manchester were recently added as weekend bases. “We’ve been flying our aircraft a lot more actively this summer,” Leather says. Utilization is particularly important to the airline. “Regional operations are challenging. The market has a different cost base to other airline sectors, so we need to be getting the most out of our fleet at all times.” Current destinations include Amsterdam, Berlin, Faro, Florence, Mykonos and Palma, to name but a few.

britishairways_216861391804821 Hover over the image for a bigger view

Young fleet BA CityFlyer currently has 20 Embraer 170 and Embraer 190 aircraft powered by CF34 engines in operation.

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Young fleet BA CityFlyer currently has 20 Embraer 170 and Embraer 190 aircraft powered by CF34 engines in operation.

britishairways_216861461207712 Hover over the image for a bigger view

High standards The airline prides itself on its highly qualified staff, punctual flights and excellent service.

britishairways_216861461207712

High standards The airline prides itself on its highly qualified staff, punctual flights and excellent service.

Of course, high utilization means the aircraft, and, in particular, their CF34 engines need to be performing at all times. In an industry where safety has the highest priority, maintenance is heavily-regulated and mandated for the engine’s life-limited parts. But Leather also places importance on the efficiency of the engines. “Our biggest challenge is achieving maintenance in the most cost-effective way and in an optimal timeframe, both in terms of shop visit turnaround time and fleet planning,” he says. “MTU Maintenance has been excellent in this regard; helping us prolong time on wing and coming up with flexible cost-reduction strategies.”

In fact, MTU Maintenance celebrated its 1,000th CF34 shop visit on an engine from the BA CityFlyer fleet at the end of June. The engine was returned to Leather and his team in a celebratory ceremony with employees at MTU Maintenance Berlin Brandenburg. “It was a real privilege to be invited and be part of it, we’re really glad our engine was the 1,000th,” Leather says. But he wasn’t the only special guest at the event, the weather also made an impressive appearance: “I’ve never seen so much rain in my life. And I come from Manchester!” Leather exclaims. While he was visiting, around 150 liters per square meter fell from the skies in 24 hours, as recorded in Berlin Spandau – over 25 percent of the yearly average of 580 liters that is expected in Berlin and Brandenburg. Despite its best efforts, the rain couldn’t dampen the celebratory atmosphere or the companies’ partnership though. “MTU Maintenance always goes the extra mile for us, so we were more than happy to put up with a little bit of water for them,” Leather says.

André Sinanian, Managing Director and Senior Vice President MTU Maintenance Berlin-Brandenburg (right), with Mark Leather, Head of Fleet & Airworthiness BA CityFlyer.

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