2008: The year that was

23 Dec 2008 by Mark Caswell
British Airways A318 at London City


BA unveils its subsidiary airline OpenSkies, the first UK carrier to fly non-stop from mainland Europe to the US.

Hand-baggage restrictions are relaxed at most UK airports,  although there is confusion as
some facilities keep the one-bag rule in place for several more months.

Airmiles revamps its loyalty scheme, creating new redemption values which include taxes and

Thistle Hotels announces it is to spend £100 million revamping 25 of its UK properties.


Ryanair’s  reservations website shuts down for three days for “essential upgrades”.

BA announces all-business class transatlantic flights from London City airport, due to launch in 2009.

  • Varig drops flights between Brazil and Europe, just months after they had been reinstated.
  • Virgin and BA launch a website for the refunding of illegal fuel surcharges to passengers.


  • The first authorised in-flight mobile phone calls are made on an Emirates flight from Dubai
    to Casablanca.
  • Problems with baggage-handling systems cause chaos at the opening of Heathrow’s T5, leading to BA delaying the transfer of long-haul flights to the terminal.
  • The Open Skies agreement between the US and Europe comes into effect, leading to a raft of new transatlantic services from London Heathrow.


  • Safety checks cause United Airlines’ 52-strong fleet of Boeing 777s to be grounded.
  • Turkish Airlines joins Star Alliance, in the same year as the carrier celebrates its 75th
  • Hilton debuts it Doubletree brand in the UK, with the conversion of the Cambridge Garden House hotel.


  • Air France announces a new long-haul premium economy class, code named C38.
  • Easyhotel announces it will open its first budget hotel in Dubai in 2009.
  • Swiss unveils its next-generation business class seating, due to appear on its long-haul fleet from 2009.
  • British carrier Silverjet goes bust, the third all-business class airline to fail in six months.


  • US carrier Delta announces it is dropping its London Gatwick-New York JFK service in the
    same month that the airport celebrates its 50th birthday.
  • FlyDubai says it will commence low-cost flights from Al Maktoum International airport in 2009.
  • Continental announces it is to defect from Skyteam to Star Alliance, as it forges a closer relationship with founder Star member United Airlines.


  • BA buys French all-business class carrier  L’Avion, intending to integrate the airline into its OpenSkies subsidiary.
  • Kingfisher Airlines unveils its new long-haul economy and business class products, ahead of the launch of flights from London to Bangalore.
  • Egyptair becomes the 21st Star Alliance member.
  • The price of oil reaches a record high of nearly US$150 per barrel.


  • Emirates launches A380 flights from Dubai to New York, with features including showers for first class passengers and fully-flat beds in business class.
  • Sofitel opens its new property at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the only hotel attached to the terminal building.
  • Low-cost Canadian carrier Zoom goes bust, citing “acutely difficult trading conditions within the aviation industry”.
  • Lufthansa announces it is to buy Brussels Airlines.


  • United Airlines abandons plans to trial paid-for in-flight meals across the Atlantic.
  • Starwood announces its first W hotels in the UK with properties planned for London and Manchester.
  • Eurostar services are severely disrupted by a fire in one of the tunnels under the English Channel.
  • Qantas takes delivery of its first A380 aircraft, featuring a four-class product and a lounge for business class passengers.


  • Brazilian carrier TAM announces it is to join Star Alliance.
  • Jumeirah announces it will open a “five-star super-deluxe” hotel and serviced apartment property in Glasgow.


  • BA announces a 91 per cent drop in before-tax profits, and plans to cut several short and long-haul services, including Gatwick-Zurich and Heathrow-Kolkata.
  • Oneworld member-elect Mexicana launches a twice-weekly service from Mexico City to London Gatwick, commencing in January.
  • Capsule hotel group Yotel signs an agreement to open two properties in Abu Dhabi.
  • Low-cost long-haul carrier Air Asia X announces the launch of flights from London Stansted to Kuala Lumpur.


  • Virgin says it is in talks with Lufthansa over the future of Bmi.
  • Belgian carrier Brussels Airlines announces it is to join Star Alliance.
  • Oil prices fall to US$45 per barrel, around one-third of their peak earlier in the year.
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