Saturday, January 21, 2017

McDonnell Douglas MD-11 (48769/603) N9166N

This naked MD-11 was captured on Kodachrome K64 slide film as she rolled for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) in August 1996 as "DACO603 Heavy" bound for "Shots" to perform a pre-delivery flight check. The aircraft was finally delivered to VASP as PP-SFD on November 27, 1996.

The aircraft later served with Varig as PP-VQX, TAM Linas Aereas as PT-MSJ and currently operates with FedEx as N573FE "Tom."

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Airborne Express Douglas DC-8-63 (46122/506) N823AX

Captured on Kodachrome K64 Slide Film, this gorgeous aircraft is seen on short final to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) in March 1997.

I used to love spotting and photographing these beauties, a real airplane in my opinion, the sound of and the smoke that used to pour out of  the Pratt & Whitney JT3D-7 engines when on approach and departure what a sight, you don't get that with a wimpy Airbus these days.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Boeing uses drone for runway water spray tests on new 737 Max jet

Boeing airplane engineers have, for the first time, used a drone to help conduct special tests on how its new 737 Max performs when as it hits heavy water while speeding down a runway.

The drone made its debut in special water tests the Chicago-based company conducted recently in Glasgow, Montana, according to a video added to Boeing's website this week.

The unmanned aerial vehicle, which Boeing called "a new teammate," helped flight test engineers capture footage from directly above the 737 Max to show exactly how the passenger jet performs as it races through simulated extreme water conditions. The images from above were combined with images they also captured from beneath the aircraft.

The jet was tested at almost takeoff speed to simulate real conditions, created with almost 3,000 gallons of water poured between foam blocks placed on the runway, Boeing said.

In the video, Matthew Filak, a test and evaluation ground operations engineer, said the tests aimed to put the new 737 Max through its paces in extreme water conditions, not unlike those in a good Pacific Northwest winter rainstorm.

The tests ensure that water sprayed up by the jet's nose gear and main landing gear won't have any negative effects on engine performance or the auxiliary power unit, Filak said.

Boeing's video stated the auxiliary power unit inlet for the 737 Max was redesigned to include a retractable door, which engineers wanted to ensure worked properly in the extreme conditions.

Boeing flight test photographer John Parker said the drone helped document the spray pattern created by the speeding 737 Max in the carefully organized tests.

"They want to make sure that water doesn't penetrate into the engine," Parker said.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Aeromexico to launch Mexico City-Seoul 787-8 service


Aeromexico will launch Mexico City-Seoul service starting May 27.

The service will be operated 4X-weekly with a Boeing 787-8. From Mexico City, the aircraft will make a stop in Monterrey, Mexico, before continuing on to Seoul. The flights from Seoul to Mexico City will be nonstop. Seoul will be Aeromexico’s third Asian destination; the Mexico City-based airline currently serves Shanghai and Tokyo.

Aeromexico’s 787-8s are configured to carry 243 passengers, including 32 in business class.

Aeromexico noted that Mexico is South Korea’s top trading partner in Latin America while South Korea is Mexico’s sixth-largest trading partner overall. “Aerial connectivity has a positive impact on tourism flows and is a fundamental axis to maintaining our competitive position in the world,” Mexican tourism minister Enrique de la Madrid Cordero said in a statement. 

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

MRJ first delivery expected to be delayed again

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. is expected to announce a further delay to the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) program on Jan. 23.

Japanese newspaper The Nikkei reported that Mitsubishi Aircraft parent Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has confirmed the delay of first delivery of the MRJ90 to Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) to mid-2020. Mitsubishi Aircraft has called a press conference for Jan. 23 to provide an MRJ program update. A spokesperson told ATW Mitsubishi Aircraft would not be providing any details until the press conference.

Mitsubishi Aircraft had been officially targeting first delivery to ANA by mid-2018, though Mitsubishi Aircraft executives had talked in recent months about achieving first delivery by the end of 2018. Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. America chairman and CEO Masao Yamagami told ATW in November that it would be “challenging” to achieve first delivery in 2018.

The first delivery of the first Japanese-produced commercial aircraft since the NAMC YS-11 turboprop was originally targeted for the first quarter of 2014. But the MRJ program has been delayed numerous times, with first flight not occurring until November 2015, more than three years late.

Four MRJ90 flight test aircraft have flown, and three have been transferred to the US, where the majority of MRJ flight testing is occurring. A fourth flight test aircraft is slated to join the other three aircraft at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington state, where US MRJ flight testing is based. A fifth flight test aircraft will remain in Japan.

Speaking to ATW in November, Yamagami noted that it has been 50 years since the NAMC YS-11 was certified. “This process is completely different than 50 years ago,” he said. “At the time, aerodynamics was the most important issue. But now it is software. This is a fly-by-wire aircraft … It is similar to detecting a computer bug. [The challenge for the MRJ program is determining] how to delete those bugs as quickly as possible. Or do we find something more serious and have to make changes to the software?”

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Saudia outlines 2017 fleet delivery plan

Saudi Arabia’s national carrier Saudia will take delivery of 30 aircraft this year, according to a Jan. 17 statement.

The SkyTeam alliance member said the expected aircraft comprise eight Airbus A320neos, 10 A330-300s, five Boeing 777-300ERs and seven 787s.

The first new aircraft this year, an A330-300, will be delivered to Jeddah Jan. 26.

Saudi plans to phase out 18 aircraft in 2017, including 777-200s. Group DG Saleh Al-Jasser said in a statement the aircraft retirement and delivery program will reduce the airline's average fleet age from 5.87 to less than four years.

In September 2016, ATW reported the influx of new equipment is part of the airline’s transformation program launched in 2015, with the aim that by 2020 Saudia will have a fleet of 200 aircraft, 1,000 daily flights and fly 45 million passengers annually.

On Nov. 11, 2016, Saudi Arabian Airlines Group appointed former SunExpress CEO Jaan Albrecht as the CEO of mainline carrier Saudia. “One of the key strategies of Saudia is to become a high-quality carrier like other companies in the Middle East region,” Albrecht told ATW.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

War of words starts as Machinists union files for organizing vote at Boeing South Carolina

The National Labor Relations Board is expected to call for a vote in mid- to late-February to decide if the International Association of Machinists will represent the approximately 2,850 production employees in North Charleston.

With the official announcement Friday morning by the Machinists union that it has filed a petition for a vote to organize production workers at Boeing South Carolina, the union and management immediately entered into a bitter war of words.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is now expected to call for a vote in mid- to late-February to decide if the International Association of Machinists (IAM) will represent the approximately 2,850 production employees in North Charleston.

Mike Evans, the IAM’s lead organizer at Boeing South Carolina, said Friday that wages are 36 percent lower there than in the Puget Sound region factories represented by the union.

“Boeing workers just want to be treated with the respect they deserve,” said Evans. “Why should they be subject to a different set of standards and rules than folks building the exact same plane in Seattle?”

He said the union was forced to postpone a previous vote in April 2015 “due to unprecedented political interference on the part of South Carolina lawmakers and the rampant spread of misinformation among Boeing workers.”

He said the company had hired outside anti-union lawyers to wage a campaign of “mistruths and outright lies” as well as intimidation of workers.

The union canceled the previous vote when it was clear it wouldn’t have a majority.

But this time, Evans said, “we feel this group is ready to take a stand.”

“I can unequivocally say there will be a vote this time around,” he said. “We’ve met with numerous workers at Boeing in recent months and are confident.”

Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager at Boeing South Carolina, issued a response criticizing the union’s record in North Charleston.

She recalled the poor contract the union signed in 2007 with Boeing supplier Vought, before Boeing took over the plant, which led to the workers voting to decertify the union two years later.

She cited remarks by IAM representatives in Washington state during the 2009 campaign to win a second 787 Dreamliner assembly line that contrasted the experienced workforce in Everett with the lack of experience in North Charleston. She characterized those remarks as “repeated insults regarding our teammates’ abilities.”

And she recalled how, after Boeing did locate the second 787 assembly line in North Charleston, the IAM claimed it was in retaliation for its Puget Sound workers going on strike the previous year and petitioned the NLRB to block the new assembly line.

“While we’ve continued to grow and improve here at Boeing South Carolina, nothing has changed with the IAM,” said Robinson-Berry. “Our teammates have good memories. They’ve not forgotten the IAM’s poor history here.”

In a news conference outside the plant, Robinson-Berry responded to the IAM’s reference to the higher wages of Boeing workers in the Puget Sound region by saying that the company pays its South Carolina workforce “at or above market today in this region.”

Asked about Boeing’s hiring of an outside anti-union law firm to help in its campaign for a “no” vote, she said the company will use “every resource available to us” to ensure “a union-free environment” in South Carolina.

Boeing and the IAM have set up competing websites and Facebook pages to reach out to the workforce.

At the company website, a video shows someone speaking as if he’s a Boeing South Carolina worker, complaining that the “the IAM is back,” and that this is “the same union that insulted us and our abilities for years … the same union that left a trail of broken promises.”

However, the person in the video is not an employee, but “a paid spokesman,” Boeing confirmed.

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times)

Washington Dulles to get non-stop India flights on Air India

Washington’s Dulles International Airport will get a non-stop flight to India thanks to new routes being added by Air India.

The service would begin in July, with India’s state-owned national carrier planning nonstop service from Delhi. The capital-to-capital route is expected to operate three times a week on Boeing 777 aircraft, The Times of India reports.

Washington Dulles becomes Air India’s fifth U.S. destination, joining Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK, Newark Liberty and San Francisco. Air India would be the only carrier offering nonstop service to India from Washington.

The Dulles service would bring Air India back to Washington for the first time since May 2010, when the airline flew to Dulles “as a tag on its flights into New York,” according to Routes Online.

The Dulles route is one of several that Air India revealed via its social media accounts this week. Another high-profile international service detailed by the carrier: non-stop service between Delhi and Copenhagen. Air India plans to fly that route with its Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today In The Sky / USA Today)

Japan Airlines to launch NYC-Tokyo Haneda flights

Japan Airlines will add nonstop service between New York JFK and Tokyo’s close-to-downtown Haneda Airport, the carrier announced Thursday.

The new route – which will be in addition to JAL’s existing service between JFK and Tokyo’s more-distant Narita airport – will launch April 1. The airline will fly one daily round-trip flight on the route using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Narita is Tokyo’s primary international gateway while Haneda’s route map is more heavily tilted toward regional flights. For many travelers, Haneda is the preferred Tokyo airport because of its proximity to the city.

In announcing the Haneda-JFK route, JAL said the service “is being offered to enhance customer convenience and to provide greater access to and from Japan-domestic connecting flights at Haneda Airport.”

JAL was able to add the route at slot-controlled Haneda airport by freeing up slots from another route. To make that happen, JAL’s Honolulu-Haneda route will be shifted to Narita, according to the airline.

Meanwhile, JAL also said it would expand capacity on its existing flights between New York JFK and Tokyo Narita. The airline will do that by switching to 244-seat Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, providing an 83-seat boost from the 161-seat Boeing 787-8 “Dreamliner” the carrier currently flies on the route.

The switch to the 777-300ER also will allow JAL to offer a first-class product between JFK and Narita. The airline's 777-300ERs seat eight in first class, 49 in business class, 40 in premium economy and 147 in standard coach. JAL’s 787-8s are configured with 38 business class seats, but they do not have a first-class cabin. The 787-8s also seat 35 in premium economy and 88 in standard coach.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today In The Sky / USA Today)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

BAE Systems To Replace Head-up Display on the F-22

The pilot will not notice much difference when viewing BAE’s all-digital HUD.
(Photo: BAE Systems)

Lockheed Martin has selected BAE Systems to replace the head-up display (HUD) on the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter with an all-digital version. BAE’s Electronic Systems business unit at Rochester in the UK will provide its digital light engine (DLE) for a development contract that is expected to lead to full production for the entire U.S. Air Force F-22 fleet.

BAE Systems provides the current HUD for the F-22, and for many other fighter aircraft, notably the F-16. It has developed the DLE version as a “form and fit” upgrade that removes the conventional cathode ray tube image source and introduces a more advanced digital display solution. The digital technology offers increased reliability, eliminates high-maintenance and obsolete items, and provides a constant luminance performance.

Andy Humphries, director of advanced displays at BAE Systems, said: “F-22 pilots deserve the most advanced situational awareness technology available today. We’ve worked closely with Lockheed Martin to deliver a completely modernized HUD solution for the F-22 fleet that meets the long-term needs of the Air Force.” In fact, the pilot sees very little difference when a BAE Systems DLE HUD is installed; it retains the existing optics, video camera and control panel.

The DLE package is compatible with any existing aircraft interface, and BAE Systems has been marketing it to F-16 operators. But the F-22 contract is the company’s first for this new technology. BAE Systems has produced more than 15,000 head-up displays that have been in service on more than 50 different aircraft types in more than 50 countries.

(Chris Pocock - AINOnline News)

Robinson Deliveries Down, but Hopes Are Up for 2017

While Robinson Helicopter's delivery numbers were down last year, the average unit price sold increased substantially thanks to customer-specified options such as the Garmin G500H glass panel, Aspen autopilot and, as seen on this R66, pop-out floats.
 (Photo: Robinson Helicopter)

Robinson Helicopter's 2016 annual delivery numbers dropped sharply from 2015. Last year Robinson delivered 234 aircraft, down from 347 the previous year. The delivery mix included 63 R66 turbine singles, 114 R44 Raven IIs, 26 R44 Raven Is, 12 Cadets, and 19 R22s. That compares with 2015 deliveries that included 117 R66s, 152 R44 Raven IIs, 44 R44 Raven Is and 34 R22s.

While delivery numbers were down, the average unit price sold increased substantially thanks to customer-specified options, such as new glass panels with the Garmin G500H and Aspen autopilot recently made available by the company, said CEO Kurt Robinson. “Our sales may have been down, but the people who are buying aircraft are buying them fairly loaded. They are putting all the bells and whistles on them.”

Robinson said sales of the new two-seat R44 Cadet are going well as the helicopter gains certification in more markets. “We're not worried about the Cadet at all; we think it is going to do very well given its price and the options it gives you,” he noted.

This week, Robinson delivered a Cadet to the University of North Dakota's (UND) flight-training program. Robinson said he expects 2017 to be better than 2016. “We have seen orders spike up a little bit. Maybe it's the optimism about the economy. I've got to kick the R44 production line up a little bit. We're doing three helicopters a week right now and I think by summer we are going to have to increase that to four.”

(Mark Huber - AINOnline News) 

United thins management ranks, top exec departs

United Airlines has tightened its belt and one of its highest-ranking executives is departing the company as the airline progresses deeper into its corporate makeover.

The highest profile departure came Thursday when Julia Haywood, the carrier's chief commercial officer, left the company, a spokeswoman for the airline confirmed.

The U.S.'s third largest airline said Wednesday it laid off some managing directors and disbanded, for example, its fuel hedging group, reassigning staff to other areas within the company.

"Our structure has to follow our strategy," Oscar Munoz, United's chief executive, said Wednesday.

Since Munoz returned from a medical leave in March following a 2015 heart attack and a January 2016 heart transplant, United has restructured its products and management ranks.

In August, the company revamped its financial officer positions, adding Haywood as chief commercial officer and recruited American Airlines executive Scott Kirby to be United's new president.

However, Haywood's exit is an about face by the airline, coming just six months after she joined United from the Boston Consulting Group, where she will return. The spokeswoman said in a statement that "We appreciate the contributions Julia has made during this transformative period for United and wish her the best."

Top exec out at American Airlines is new president at United

Munoz acknowledged Wednesday that there have been layoffs among the management ranks after internal reviews "found some bureaucracy and redundancy in some areas," but noted that the re-structuring meant promotions for some staff.

United declined to say how many staff had departed, but Munoz called the exits a "relatively small number."

The company stresses that it is adding jobs to its front line employees like flight attendants and pilots.

Queen jumbo 747 heads for U.S. retirement this year

United under Munoz's leadership has been working to move the airline beyond the tumultuous half-decade of merger integration woes with Continental Airlines. The company hemorrhaged elite fliers, saw fresh labor strife and lackluster operational performance.

The Chicago-based airline is retiring older jets and recently introduced a complete overhaul of its business class, introducing new in-flight and airport amenities for its highest-yield passengers and will soon be selling no-frills basic economy fares.

Munoz, formerly a United board member and president of railroad CSX, took over the reins of the airline in September 2015.

(Jon Ostrower - CNN Money)

Boeing's Dreamliner workers in South Carolina headed toward union vote for second time in two years

Machinists and other workers at Boeing's 787 Dreamliner facilities in South Carolina appear set to hold a vote on whether to join the International Association of Machinists in the next few weeks..

The IAM said in a news release Thursday it will hold a news conference Friday morning, where IAM leaders will make what they called a "major announcement about the ongoing organizing campaign to secure collective bargaining rights for workers at Boeing’s North Charleston operation."

The IAM said other labor and community groups that are supporting the Boeing workers efforts to form a union also will attend. They are expected to reveal they've filed a petition to hold a union election at the South Carolina Boeing facilities.

The IAM District 751 already represents thousands of Boeing machinists in the Puget Sound region.

The union drive comes at a time when Boeing is making major cuts to the workforce in its commercial airplane division, both in the Puget Sound region and in South Carolina.

The cuts have seen hundreds laid off and hundreds more offered and taking voluntary buyout packages as the company tries to reduce its headcount amid sagging sales of large passenger jets.

If the union vote proceeds, it would be the second union drive the IAM has filed in two years, The Charleston Post & Courier newspaper reported.

A previous attempt in 2015 to organize Boeing workers at its facilities in South Carolina was withdrawn by the union after its officials accused the company of creating a "toxic environment" with misinformation and outside political interference, the newspaper reported.

Boeing employs 7,600 people in North Charleston, but only about half of those might be eligible to join the union.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey were vocal critics of the IAM the last time it filed for a union election.

This time, things will be different because of changes to National Labor Relations Board rules in 2015 have accelerated union elections.

Prior to the changes, it took an average of 5 1/2 weeks between the time a union petition was filed and an election was held. Under new NLRB rules, the vote could be held as soon as 13 days after a union petition is filed, the newspaper said.

Boeing's South Carolina complex includes not only its Dreamliner plant, but a second plant that builds interior parts, such as overhead bins, for the wide-body jets. It also includes a research and technology center that focuses on advanced manufacturing and composite fuselage manufacturing; and an engineering design center which supports Dreamliner production.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Russia’s S7 Airlines to begin E170LR operations in April


 Russia’s S7 Airlines will start Embraer E170LR operations from April 1 with services from Novosibirsk to Surgut, Gorno-Altaisk, Nizhnevartovsk, Noyabrsk and Novy Urengoy.

In December 2016, the carrier agreed to lease 17 used Embraer E170s from GE Capital Aviation Services. The first aircraft will be delivered in the spring.

Before the end of the year, S7 will receive all ordered E170LRs. The 76-seat aircraft will be based at Novosibirsk Tolmachevo airport, which is one of the carrier’s main bases along with Moscow Domodedovo.

S7 Group commercial director Igor Veretennikov said Novosibirsk can easily “connect the regions in most efficient way so passengers will spend less time traveling from Ural and West Siberia to Russia’s Far East and Central Asia.” He said currently many travelers must fly via Moscow airports.

S7 Airlines will be the first E170 operator in the country.

(Polina Montag-Girmes - ATWOnline News)

Lufthansa, Iran Air to codeshare

Iran Air and Lufthansa have reached an agreement to codeshare from Frankfurt and Munich to Tehran beginning Feb. 1.

The cooperation allows Iran Air to add its IR designator on Lufthansa’s daily Frankfurt-Tehran Imam Khomeini International (IKA) Boeing 747-400 service, as well the German carrier’s 3X-weekly Munich-Tehran Airbus A330 services.

Star Alliance member Lufthansa plans to negotiate further agreements with Iran Air.

On March 14, 2016 Lufthansa and Iran Air signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to increase cooperation between the two carriers to explore “further business and partnership opportunities.” 

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

ANA’s C-3PO-themed 777 to launch in March


Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has scheduled the inaugural flight of its newest Star Wars-themed aircraft—a Boeing 777-200 featuring C-3PO, on Tokyo Haneda-Kagoshima service March 21.

The aircraft, which will continue to fly on various Japanese domestic routes, is part of the continuing ANA Star Wars Project.

According to ANA, on the C-3PO ANA JET, “passengers will experience the world of Star Wars with specially designed C-3PO paper cups and headrest covers and cabin attendants will wear C-3PO aprons.”

The C-3PO ANA JET will join ANA’s fleet of existing planes that have Star Wars characters as livery: the R2-D2 ANA JET and BB-8ANA JET both are flying on international routes, while the new C-3PO ANA JET is assigned to Japan domestic routes.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6251) N651GA

Short final to Rwy 30 as she arrives from the factory in Savannah.

Taxies towards a Rwy 30 departure.

The front office!

"Positive Climb, Gear Up!

Smoking the mains on Rwy 30!

A nice look at the deployed thrust reversers and spoilers.

Done for the day, time for a cold beer!

Another new green Gulfstream G650 arrived at Long Beach airport (LGB/KLGB) as "GLF9" from the factory at Savannah-Hilton head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) on January 17, 2017 our first new gulfy this year.

Following her initial arrival, the crew took the aircraft to the mid-field run-up area for about 15 minutes then proceeded to taxi back to Rwy 30 and depart on a short 1 hour flight out over the Pacific. Normally the aircraft go straight to the Gulfstream service center ramp and that's it for the day so this was a special treat for some nice photos.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Oman Air plans to double contribution to national economy

Oman Air Boeing 787-8
(Rob Finlayson)

The coming year will see continuing expansion of Oman Air’s fleet and network, as it seeks to increase its input to the Omani economy, the carrier will announce at its annual internal conference.

The conference, which will be held in Muscat Jan. 19, will hear an update on the perennially loss-making carrier’s financial performance for 2016 and will discuss the outlook for 2017.

Oman Air has been regarded by the country’s government as an instrument of the national economy, notably in delivering tourists to the sultanate’s steadily growing tourism industry. It recorded a net loss of RO86 million ($223 million) in 2015, the last full year for which figures are available, but has been slowly reducing its deficit in recent years.

A restructuring program has been underway for some years and the airline is aiming for profitability by the end of 2017.

The contribution from government has shrunk considerably, and faster than anticipated. At 2016’s staff conference, it was announced that the national treasury would underwrite the airline RO40 million; in fact, this year’s conference will hear that that figure in fact dropped to RO20 million.

Lower oil prices have affected government revenues in Oman, as in virtually every other Middle East oil-producing nation.

Meanwhile, the airline’s contribution to the economy has been expanding. Staff will hear that Oman Air contributed RO415 million to Oman’s GDP in 2016, up 6% on 2015. However, in the coming year, that figure will more than double, to RO900 million.

Oman Air faces increasing global competition and pressure from other carriers. However, it plans to continue to grow rapidly, particularly to India, while it will launch new services to Nairobi, Kenya and Manchester, UK.

The carrier’s fleet is expanding steadily, with six new Boeing 737-800s joining the fleet in 2016. The 46-strong fleet is composed of four Boeing 787-8s, six Airbus A330-300s, four A330-200s, five 737-900s, 22 737-800s, a single 737-700 and four Embraer E175s.

Three more 737-800s are scheduled to join the fleet this year, as are an unspecified number of 787-9s, while the A330 fleet will undergo refurbishment. 

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

United outlines basic economy roll out; to start with Minneapolis

United Airlines will initially test basic economy fares on flights to/from Minneapolis before rolling out the offering to its entire domestic network.

United president Scott Kirby, speaking to analysts and reporters to discuss United’s 2016 earnings, said the Chicago-based airline wants to “make sure everything works” with basic economy before it rolls it out “to the rest of our domestic system in the near future.” Basic economy fares will go on sale soon for United’s second-quarter Minneapolis flights.

Once the domestic network is covered by basic economy fares, United will add the offering to near-international flights, such as to the Caribbean, Kirby said. United has not yet decided whether it will roll out basic economy fares on long-haul international flights.

Kirby outlined United’s basic economy roll-out timetable on the same day American Airlines, for which Kirby previously was president, announced it would also start offering basic economy fares. Like United, American will not allow basic economy passengers to bring overhead bin carry-on bags aboard aircraft.

United and American will both charge basic economy passengers who bring overhead bin carry-on bags to the gate a check-bag fee plus a handling fee. There is no handling fee if the bag is checked at the check-in counter. Kirby said United is working on “clever ways to make sure we can get bags in the [airport] lobby” rather than at the gate.

He made it clear that, if a bag is not collected at the check-in counter or the gate, United flight attendants will not be policing basic economy passengers aboard aircraft regarding baggage. “We’re not going to ask our flight attendants to monitor anything,” Kirby said.

Kirby said United expects to generate $250 million in incremental revenue this year associated with rolling out basic economy fares.

He emphasized that United is focused on ensuring customers buying basic economy fares understand the fares and what is included (and not included). “We’re making sure we’re communicating it clearly to customers,” Kirby said. “We’re making sure we’re crystal clear.”

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

AirAsia to expand fleet with A320neos


 The Malaysia-based AirAsia low-cost carrier (LCC) group will ramp up its fleet growth this year, with many of its new additions consisting of Airbus A320neos for its Malaysian and Thai operations.

AirAsia expects to receive 32 aircraft in 2017. This includes 11 A320neos and six A320ceos delivered from Airbus, and 15 aircraft from third-party lessors that will go to its affiliate carriers, an airline spokesman said.

The group began taking delivery of A320neos in September, and now has five of the type. Three aircraft went to the parent Malaysian operation, while two went to Thai AirAsia. Of the 11 neos being delivered this year, seven are expected to go to the Malaysia-based carrier, and four to the Thai affiliate.

The new additions highlight a return to growth that has been previously signaled by AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes. However, the 32 additions for 2017 are significantly more than the growth rate of about 15 aircraft Fernandes forecast six months ago. The Malaysia-based carrier has kept its fleet size relatively flat over the past few years, and the group has deferred some Airbus deliveries.

AirAsia is one of a handful of Asian LCCs that have inflated manufacturers’ order books with agreements to buy hundreds of new narrow-body aircraft. AirAsia has about 400 Airbus A320neos and A321neos on order. A significant number are earmarked for a separate unit that will lease the aircraft to AirAsia affiliates, and possibly third-party operators.

Thai AirAsia has been the most successful, financially, of the group’s offshore affiliates. The Thai carrier plans to add six A320-family aircraft this year, including the four neos, a spokesman for that airline said. It currently has 51 aircraft in its fleet.

The Thai affiliate aimed to carry a total of 17 million passengers in 2016, and it is believed to have exceeded that goal. The target for 2017 is 19.5 million, the spokesman said.

(Adrian Schofield - ATWOnline News)