Malaysia Airlines plans to seal deals for as many as 42 wide-body jets over the next few months as the unprofitable carrier seeks to rebuild its long-haul network following a surge in demand.
Terms should be agreed in the next six to eight weeks for the lease of up to a dozen used Airbus Group SE A330 or Boeing Co. 777 aircraft, Chief Executive Officer Peter Bellew said in an interview. That could be followed later in the first half by an order for 25 to 30 new Boeing 787s or A330neos, as the upgraded Airbus model is known, potentially worth more than $7 billion.
Bellew is looking to expand wide-body operations after Malaysia Air slashed its fleet and route network in response to a bookings slump that followed two fatal plane crashes in 2014. Sales have now recovered to the extent that the carrier posted an 81 percent load factor in the fourth quarter of 2016, including a 90 percent occupancy rate in December, when it made money.
“Things have gone a bit better a bit quicker than I expected,” said Bellew, an Irishman who became Malaysia Air CEO last July after joining as chief operating officer in 2015, following nine years at Dublin-based discount specialist Ryanair Holdings Plc. “We’re ahead of where we hoped we would be.”
The Asian carrier needs the leased jets mainly to replace single-aisle Boeing 737s on 10 or 11 medium-haul routes that are capable of supporting wide-bodies, including services to India, Bali and Hong Kong, Bellew said. The plan has become attractive after hire rates fell 15 percent in 3 1/2 months, he said. China Growth
Malaysian Air is also rapidly adding new routes to China, with nine due this year and another eight in 2018, taking the total to 24. The expansion, part of a plan to make Malaysia a top destination for Chinese tourists, reflects a recovery in bookings that collapsed after the disappearance of Flight MH370 while en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
Bellew said he’ll seek to take half a dozen leased wide-bodies in the first half of next year, followed by the same number in 2019, all about six years old. A330s would be the obvious choice, though 777s would allow the carrier to add longer routes, perhaps reinstating a service to Amsterdam, he said.
The 25 or more new jets that Bellew is evaluating would likely be bought direct from Airbus or Boeing and would join the fleet between 2019 and 2023, with 15 replacing older aircraft and the rest for expansion. The re-engined A330neo comes in two sizes advertised at $255 million and $291 million before discounts, while the 787 Dreamliner has three variants priced between $225 million and $306 million.
The airline is also poised to take delivery of six Airbus A350 wide-bodies, allowing it to move the same number of A380 superjumbos to a new sister carrier specializing in carrying people on the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. 720 Seats
With A350 handovers delayed by a shortage of interior fittings at Airbus, the first plane is due a couple of months late in November or December, Bellew said. All should arrive by June 2018, after which the A380s will be refitted to allow their capacity to be varied between 635 and 720 seats, with the airline commencing operations in December of that year.
Dubbed Project Hope, the startup has yet to be given a permanent name, though most of its management team will be approved at a board meeting next week, Bellew said, adding that a CEO has yet to be chosen but will almost certainly be a Malaysian national. Long-term support deals have been struck with Airbus and engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc and that could extend to investment in the venture next year, he said.
Malaysia Air had a loss last year that was less than half the internal forecast, it said March 1, and aims to reduce the deficit by more than half this year before becoming “consistently profitable” from 2018.
The head of the pilots' union says American Airlines is leaving thousands of standby passengers at the gate to make sure that flights depart on time.
Dan Carey, president of the Allied Pilots Association, said Thursday that nearly 20,000 passengers were denied boarding in February even though there were empty seats. He called it intolerable.
American carried more than 14 million passengers last month.
The airline has been trying to improve its on-time performance. It ranked eighth among the nation's largest 12 airlines at on-time arrivals in 2016, but rose to third in January, the latest month for which government figures are available.
American Airlines is in negotiations to buy a stake in China Southern Airlines in an effort to strengthen both carriers’ position on Sino-US routes, two industry sources told ATW.
According to news reports, Fort Worth, Texas-based American plans to buy Guangzhou-based China Southern’s H shares, released by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, via a $200 million investment.
China Southern is worth about $10 billion at market value. As a stakeholder, American would be able to nominate an observer without voting rights on to China Southern’s board. However, industry sources told ATW that since a final agreement had not yet been reached, specific details of the deal could still change or ultimately fail.
American Airlines declined to comment.
China Southern suspended stock trading March 23 because it was “planning an important strategic cooperation deal,” according to a company statement. However, the airline went on to say it would “reveal the important strategic cooperation deal within five working days and resume stock trading.”
At its annual meeting in January, China Southern said it would “focus on conducting cross shareholding with global leading players or set up a joint subsidiary with them to promote the reforms of diversifying its ownerships [required by Beijing] in 2017.”
Industry analysts pointed out both carriers could enhance their positions on the fiercely competitive Sino-US routes.
According to China Merchants Securities, Beijing-based Air China, which holds a 20% market share of Sino-US routes, has a strategic cooperation deal with fellow Star Alliance member United Airlines, which has a 22% market share. Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines, which finalized a an expanded partnership agreement with Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines in 2015, has a 17% market share, while SkyTeam member Delta has a 10% market share.
Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is set to renew its Geneva-based aircraft allocation from Airbus A320s to an all-Bombardier CSeries 100/300 fleet.
The first aircraft, a CS100, will begin operations March 26 from Geneva on intra-European services to destinations such as London Heathrow, Dublin and Athens.
Geneva will also be the home base of SWISS’s first Bombardier CS300, delivery of which is expected in May. The larger CS300 offers 145 seats, 20 more than the CS100.
By the end of 2018 SWISS said its Geneva-based fleet will consist solely of CSeries aircraft: one CS100 and seven CS300s. The new twinjets supersede the seven A320s that are currently stationed there.
SWISS has placed six CS100s in scheduled services, and one further aircraft is expected to be delivered every month, rising to two deliveries a month at some point later in the program.
On March 22, ATW reported that SWISS is converting its final five CSeries aircraft orders from the CS100 to the larger CS300, to produce a total CSeries fleet consisting of 10 CS100s and 20 CS300s by the end of 2018.
The CSeries aircraft will gradually replace SWISS’s Avro RJ100s fleet on short- and medium-haul routes.
Alaska Air Group will retire the Virgin America brand in 2019, bringing the entire operation under the Alaska Airlines name.
The news comes after months of speculation about whether Alaska, which acquired Virgin America in late 2016, would keep its brand, which is viewed as having broad marketing value.
"We concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name – for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares," says Alaska's vice-president of marketing Sangita Woerner in a media release.
Though it will ditch the Virgin brand, Alaska says it will retain many of the features that made the Virgin America product appealing to travelers.
The company intends to update its airport lobbies and aircraft, outfit employees in new uniforms in 2019, introduce new seats and equip Boeing 737s with "expressive blue mood lighting", the airline says.
It will also equip all 737s with high-speed satellite wireless internet beginning in fall 2018, and will refresh airport lounges.
In addition, Alaska will increase the number of premium seats on Virgin America's Airbus A320 aircraft beginning in 2018.
It will increase from eight to 12 the number of first class seats on the A320s, and equip those aircraft with 18 premium seats in economy, Alaska says.
The U.S. Air Force placed a $16.9 million order to Northrop Grumman to provide engine overhauls for the branch's KC-10 Extender aircraft.
The agreement with Northrop Grumman continues the Air Force's engine support projects for the tanker. Earlier in March, the branch awarded Kelly Aviation Center with a $1 billion KC-10 engine support deal.
The work will be performed in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2017.
Northrop Grumman received all funding at the time of the contract award. The Air Force Life-cycle Management Center is the contracting activity.
The Air Force's KC-10 Extender is an Air Mobility Command tanker and cargo aircraft used to boost mobility for U.S. and allied aircraft. The plane is capable of refueling fighters and carrying fighter support personnel simultaneously while also transporting cargo during overseas deployments.
The tanker can carry up to 75 people and almost 170,000 pounds of equipment at a range of roughly 4,400 miles without refueling.
A move by Delta Air Lines into new terminals at Los Angeles International Airport this spring will set off what LAX officials are calling “a move of airlines never before seen at a major U.S. airport.”
Some 21 airlines will be relocated to accommodate Delta’s move from Terminals 5 and 6 to Terminals 2 and 3, with much of the work taking place from May 12-16, officials announced Tuesday. AIRLINES ON THE MOVE
Schedules could still change, but these airlines are expected to make these move as a result of the realignment:
• Air Canada (moving from Terminal 2 to Terminal 6)
• Allegiant (T3 to T5, T6 check-in)
• Avianca (T2 to Tom Bradley International Terminal, T3 check-in)
• Boutique Air (T3 to T6)
• Copa (TBIT, T6 check-in to TBIT, T3 check-in)
• Delta (T5/T6 to T2/T3)
• Frontier (T3 to T5, T6 check-in)
• Hainan (T2 to TBIT)
• Hawaiian (T2 to T5)
• InterJet (T2 to TBIT, T3 check-in)
• JetBlue (T3 to T5)
• Qatar (T2 to TBIT)
• Southwest (T2 to TBIT, T1 check-in)
• Spirit (T3 to T5)
• Sun Country (T2 to T5, T6 check-in)
• Thomas Cook (T2 to TBIT)
• Virgin America (T3 to T6)
• Virgin Australia (TBIT, T3 check-in to TBIT, T2 check-in)
• Volaris (T2 to TBIT, T2 check-in)
• WestJet (T2 to T3)
• XL France (T2 to T6)
“Delta’s move is one more element of LAX’s massive modernization effort which continues the transformation of the airport and will improve the guest experience,” said Sean Burton, president of Los Angeles World Airport’s Board of Airport Commissioners. “While moving 21 airlines over three nights is a monumental task, Delta and the LAWA team have been planning and preparing for months to ensure a smooth transition.”
Delta is planning up to $1.9 million in improvements over seven years to modernize and connect Terminals 2 and 3 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Delta’s flights will operate from as many as four terminals at times during the move.
The realignment actually began in January, when American Airlines exchanged four gates in Terminal 6 for four gates in Terminal 5 held by Delta.
Airport officials said it will be the largest relocation of airlines in the history of LAX, which is the second-busiest airport in the United States, and the fourth-busiest in the world.
On March 15, 2017, I was very pleased to capture all three Boeing 737's operated by Oakland, California based Kaiser Air at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB). The carrier was operating special charter flights for the online search engine giant, Google. I hope you enjoy the following photos and each aircraft's history.
Rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB), March 15, 2017.
(Photos by Michael Carter)
The aircraft began life almost 26 years ago being delivered to Scandinavian carrier Linjeflyg as SE-DNE on April 15, 1991. On January 1, 1993 the carrier was merged into Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) and the aircraft returned to leasing company BBAM.
On March 15, 1993 it was leased to British Midland as G-OBMX and operated with the British carrier until being transferred to bmi British Midland on February 1, 2001 and again returned to leasing company BBAM.
On March 24, 2001 the aircraft joined the Luxair fleet as LX-LGN and served with the carrier until once again going back to BBAM in early 2005.
April 7, 2005 saw the aircraft join the Czech Airlines (CSA) fleet as OK-WGD "Rakovnik" where it would serve until being leased to Aeroflot-Nord (an Aeroflot regional carrier) as VP-BKP on June 15, 2008. On December 1, 2009, Aeroflots association with the regional company ended and the carrier became known as Nordavia which still operated the aircraft as VP-BKP until it was withdrawn from service and stored on October 12, 2011.
The aircraft was acquired by Southern Aircraft Consultancy on February 28, 2014 and fitted with winglets in March 2014.
The aircraft was bought by current operator Kaiser Air on April 29, 2014.
Caught at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on March 15, 2017 operating a charter flight for Google.
This aircraft was delivered to GECAS and leased to Midway Airlines on February 21, 2001 as N365ML, ex Boeing N1786B and served with the carrier until its demise on July 17, 2002 when all 12 Boeing 737-700's were returned to GECAS (11) and BouAS (1).
On January 28, 2003 it was leased to Australian carrier Virgin Blue as VH-VBT "Launie Lass" where it served until being leased to Kaiser Air on March 31, 2009 with whom it still serves.
Captured arriving at then departing from Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on March 15, 2017 while operating a special charter flight for Google.
The aircraft was originally delivered to GECAS and leased to Pegasus Airlines as TC-APK on April 26, 2001, ex Boeing N1787B.
It was returned to GECAS on July 16, 2003 as N643SH and leased immediately to Shenzhen Airlines as B-5050 on July 23, 2003. It served with the Chinese carrier until being returned to GECAS on December 4, 2015 as N881TM and stored.
On March 17, 2016 it was stored at Tucson (TUS/KTUS) where it was fitted with wiglets then leased to current operator Kaiser Air on June 16, 2016.
The U-2 Dragon Lady seems likely to fly on for several more years. (U.S. Air Force)
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to extend the service life of the U-2S Dragon Lady for several more years. Under previous budget plans, the evergreen spyplane was due to be retired in 2019-20, leaving only the unmanned RQ-4B Global Hawk to perform the high-altitude reconnaissance mission. Managers at the Lockheed Martin (LM) Skunk Works in Palmdale, California, are preparing upgrade proposals for the U-2’s sensors and communications fit.
Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle, who retired last week as commander of Air Combat Command, told AIN last November that “we’re trying to find the money” to retain the U-2. Now a senior Air Force official has told the Skunk Works that the 27-strong fleet will be retained until at least the mid-2020s. “There’s a lot more runway in this jet yet,” said Kyle Franklin, the new U-2 program manager for LM. “We could offer a quantum leap in capability,” he told AIN last week.
Two upgrades for the U-2 are already being developed. A Celestial Object Sighting System (COSS, or “star tracker”) has been designed by Draper Laboratories as an alternative means of navigation. The U-2 flies daily around the borders of North Korea, which has frequently jammed GPS signals. Raytheon has designed an active clectronically scanned array (AESA) for the U-2’s advanced synthetic aperture radar system (ASARS) that would be redesignated ASARS-2B. Both systems are nearing flight test. The aircraft’s alternative electro-optical imaging system, designated SYERS-2C, has recently been upgraded by UT Aerospace Systems to offer 10-band multispectral capability. The U-2’s legacy SIGINT system has been replaced with the Northrop Grumman Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP).
Meanwhile, flight tests of the U-2 with an Open Mission System (OMS) have continued at Palmdale. Three different defensive systems, an electronic attack payload and several classified payloads have now been integrated. Communications systems that allow the U-2 to act as a gateway between fifth- and fourth-generation combat aircraft have also been tested.
In recent media briefings, officials from Northrop Grumman have contended that the Global Hawk can provide an equivalent capability to the U-2. The Air Force has part-funded integration of the Dragon Lady’s imaging systems on the unmanned jet. But the U-2 airframe offers superior performance. It flies much higher and faster, with a greater payload. All except four jets in the U-2 fleet were built in the 1980s, and have 80 percent structural life remaining. LM officials say that over the past decade, the U-2 has demonstrated an unequalled 95 to 97percent mission success rate. According to their analysis of 2015 USAF data, the U-2S collected twice the imagery of the Global Hawk with the same on-station total times.
Lockheed Martin has proposed replacing the U-2 with a semi-stealthy, long-endurance, high-altitude aircraft designated TR-X. To save on acquisition costs, it would re-use the U-2’s engine and sensors, the latter being housed in twin, wing-mounted pods with interchangeable options, similar to the U-2 today. The Skunk Works has indicated a price of $3.8 billion for 30 TR-X aircraft, but is also offering costed options for enhanced low observability, such as conformal antennas.
U.S. airlines are heartened by President Donald Trump’s support of creating a new air traffic control organization, but find themselves at loggerheads with the administration over its proposal to increase the security fee they collect from passengers to help pay for services of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
When the government last increased the security fee, some $1.3 billion in collections was diverted to help offset the federal deficit, said Sharon Pinkerton, Airlines for America (A4A) senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy. A4A, which represents most major U.S. airlines, opposes any further increase. “Our first concern is about raising a fee at the same time you’re diverting $1.3 billion annually away,” Pinkerton told reporters on March 20, during a teleconference to discuss the industry’s 2016 financials. “That seems backwards. The first thing that Congress and the administration have to do is return that money to TSA.”
In the inaugural budget document it released on March 16, the Trump administration proposed raising the Passenger Civil Aviation Security Services Fee instituted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks “to recover 75 percent of the cost of TSA aviation security operations.” That suggests the $5.60 security fee per one-way trip (not to exceed $11.20 per round trip) must grow substantially. The TSA says it spent $6 billion on aviation security expenses in Fiscal Year 2016, offset by $2.2 billion in collections—37 percent of its costs.
Trump’s “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” contends that $80 million per year in spending could be recouped by eliminating or reducing “unauthorized and underperforming” TSA programs to focus on its screening role at airport security checkpoints. It proposes eliminating TSA grants that support law enforcement patrols by state and local jurisdictions and reducing the VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) program that deploys teams of armed federal officers to provide security at rail and bus stations, airports and other transportation hubs.
Last summer, when the industry faced a “meltdown” at airports because of overwhelmed TSA security lines, airlines, airports and the federal government collaborated to alleviate the problem, Pinkerton noted. A4A and member carriers spent nearly $50 million on hiring contractors to support TSA screeners, and airlines now participate in a daily telephone call with security authorities to evaluate airport staffing requirements. As of December 2016, 9.5 million people were enrolled in the TSA PreCheck and Customs and Border Protection Global Entry expedited screening programs—a steady increase over previous years but well short of the goal of 25 million, A4A says.
“I guess the question would be, given the way we’ve worked together in the past, what would the need be for increasing the TSA fee? And that simply has not been demonstrated to us—far from it,” Pinkerton said. “We think that the system we have in place now should be able to realize those efficiencies and ensure that passenger wait times are not excessive.”
In the case of the TSA security fee, Pinkerton argued, the Trump administration apparently has decided that it can raise money by taxing airline passengers. “We strongly disagree with that increase, especially given the revenue diversion,” she added.
At the same time, A4A is “thrilled” with the Trump administration’s support of a proposal to create a new organization to manage the nation’s air traffic control system, separate from the Federal Aviation Administration. Noting that the federal government faces a partial shutdown after April 28 if Congress fails to renew spending, Pinkerton said a separate ATC organization would be detached from politics and better able to accomplish the FAA’s long-running NextGen modernization program.
“Frankly NextGen progress has been painfully slow, and we think that given the amount of money that’s been spent—$7.5 billion in the last decade—we, and I should say, consumers, deserve more progress than we’ve been able to make so far,” she said.
Textron Aviation added the third Cessna Citation Longitude to its flight-test program on March 17. FAA certification of the new super-midsize jet is expected by the end of 2017. (Photo: Textron Aviation)
The third Cessna Citation Longitude joined the flight-test fleet on Friday, making a one hour, 40 minute maiden flight from Wichita Colonel James Jabara Airport to nearby Beech Field, where the super-midsize business jet model will be manufactured. According to FlightAware, the twinjet—registered as N702GL—reached an altitude of 13,600 feet and speeds up to 256 knots during the flight.
Test pilots Corey Eckhart and UJ Pesonen, along with flight-test engineer Mike Bradfield, successfully tested various systems, according to Textron Aviation. The aircraft will be used for avionics and systems development, as well as collecting flight simulator data, it added.
The third aircraft joins the test program less than six months after the first Longitude flew. To date, the first two flight-test aircraft have completed 125 flights, logging more than 250 hours. Certification of the Citation Longitude is expected by year-end, Textron Aviation said.
Meanwhile, the company has started assembly line flow in the company’s east campus Plant IV manufacturing facility at Beech Field, with the first four production Longitudes currently on the line.
An Embraer Legacy 450 operated by Canadian fractional provider AirSprint recently set speed records on round-trip flights from California to Hawaii late last year, the company announced on Thursday. The Hawaii trip was not only a first for the aircraft, but also for the passengers.
The customer demonstration trip left Oakland International Airport on December 5 with two pilots, four passengers and 300 pounds of baggage for Maui Kahului Airport. According to Embraer, the flight lasted five hours, 14 minutes and covered 2,428 miles, the fly-by-wire twinjet's longest flight to date. The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) recorded the aircraft’s average speed at 449.91 mph (NAA uses statute miles).
The Legacy then left Hawaii the following day for San Francisco International Airport with three passengers and the same amount of baggage. This flight lasted four hours, 27 minutes and covered 2,379 miles. Thanks to average tailwinds of 24 knots, the NAA confirmed that the average speed was 525.89 mph.