SoCal Aircraft Spotting, Douglas Aircraft Company (DAC) and Gulfstream News, plus Domestic and International Airline News
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Caught Boeing 737-4Q8 (25109/2561) N416BC arriving this morning at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX). The aircraft is operated BJNA472B and is late of Solitarie JY-SOA "Hala" and Alaska Airlines N776AS.
Can a vehicle that looks like a tow truck crossed with a Prius improve commercial aviation and air quality?
Airplanes burn a lot of jet fuel using engines to drive between terminals and runways, adding to polluting emissions and costing airlines money in fuel and maintenance. The airline industry is trying to develop electric-powered alternatives, both on and off the plane.
For passengers, this could mean that soon the anxious, slow trip to the end of the runway before takeoff may be silent—and come after less waiting.
An electric-powered tug that can be controlled by the captain in the cockpit is being tested here. LufthansaYour ValueYour ChangeShort position hopes to start putting it in regular passenger-flight service next year.
Called "TaxiBot", it slides under an airplane's nose wheel and tows the plane, steered by the pilot moving the nose wheel just as if the plane were taxiing under its own power using its engines. An aviation startup is testing a new kind of motorized wheel to move the plane on the ground. And a partnership of two big aerospace firms,F.FRinYour ValueYour ChangeShort position is testing the two main wheels of another motorized wheels system for single-aisle planes.
"You're starting to see quite a push in aviation for green initiatives," said Honeywell Vice President Brian Wenig.
Lufthansa has been testing TaxiBot since May at Frankfurt International Airport in the middle of the night, when the airport's flight curfew curtails other activity. The vehicle, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, looks just like the souped-up tractors that push and pull airplanes into and out of gate areas.
But the TaxiBot is really a robotic tow truck for planes. It has a safety driver onboard who makes the coupling with the plane. The tug drives up to the nose wheel and raises it off the ground. The plane and tractor brake using the airplane's brakes. And each tug has its own navigation system, accurate to about 1 foot. It knows the airport and can help guide planes, automatically slowing down when a sharp curve is ahead so there is less wear on brakes.
The TaxiBot, which will cost at least $1 million for the smaller version and perhaps twice as much for a bigger model capable of towing jumbo jets, has the advantage of being completely separate from the plane. There are no motors or equipment to install on jets that add weight and increase fuel burn.
The average taxi-time in Frankfurt is 10 to 12 minutes. Gerhard Baumgarten, director of marketing in Lufthansa's engineering unit, says the net savings using TaxiBot to deliver aBAinYour ValueYour ChangeShort position 737 to an area near the end of the runway is about 35 gallons of jet fuel, which costs more than $100 at today's prices.
For an Airbus A380 superjumbo jet on a 10-minute taxi, TaxiBot would cut 95% of the fuel burn, or a net savings on each departure of about 130 gallons of jet fuel costing nearly $400.
Airlines also stand to save on maintenance, since engine overhauls are scheduled based on hours of use. Brakes would get less wear. And damage from litter around airport terminals that gets sucked into engines should drop since engines won't be starting by the terminal.
Starting aircraft engines at a holding area near the runway instead of around the terminal also saves time. Often planes block alleys and gates while they start engines, leaving other planes sitting with engines burning fuel.
Engineers are working to fine-tune the system, Mr. Baumgarten said, so pilots feel no difference between their engines and a TaxiBot tow. "We are not there, but we are getting closer and closer," he said.
New Competition for Tugs
Honeywell and Safran say their competing Electric Green Taxiing System, or EGTS, should be ready for airline service in 2017. That system has some big supporters: Airbus and Air France have both signed as partners.
"Electric motors are not complex, but it is a new system added to aircraft and it needs to fully integrate into aircraft," said Mr. Wenig, who oversees EGTS at Honeywell. The system must undergo lots more testing and win certification from regulators like the Federal Aviation Administration.
EGTS, which was demonstrated on an aircraft at last summer's Paris Air Show, uses electric motors mounted on the main landing-gear wheels under the center of a plane. The motors can back the plane away from gates and taxi it to the end of a runway with the pilot using the plane's tiller to steer. "It will reduce or eliminate tugs," Mr. Wenig said.
Beyond the environmental benefits, the system would speed up departures, since planes—and passengers—wouldn't have to wait for pushback tugs to decouple and get out of the way.
Mr. Wenig says EGTS only makes sense for single-aisle aircraft like the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737. Wide-body jets would require bigger electric motors on the wheels and they typically fly long trips with relatively little time each day taxiing on the ground.
Fuel burned to carry the extra weight would nullify any savings from using the electric motors at the airport. But smaller planes tend to fly short trips all day long and spend a lot of time on the ground. EGTS will add about 700 pounds to the weight of airplanes, but each flight can carry less fuel since it won't be needed for taxiing.
Mr. Wenig estimates fuel savings of about 4% from not using engines during taxi. Honeywell said airlines could save about $200,000 a year on each aircraft with EGTS.
Sideways Parking Job
WheelTug, the brainchild of startup company WheelTug PLC, is an electric-powered nose wheel installed on planes that replaces existing nose wheels. The system's savings come not from lower fuel burn but from quicker maneuvering on the ground. Planes can park sideways to terminals and unload and load from rear doors as well as front because there's no exhaust blast from engines.
Thirteen airlines—most of them low-cost discount carriers like Mexican airline Volaris—have reserved delivery positions for 731 aircraft, said Isaiah Cox, WheelTug's chief executive. He thinks the system will enter service in 2015, FAA-permitting. One attraction: WheelTug is offering the system free in exchange for a promise to pay the company half of what the airline saves.
That savings can come in many forms beyond lower fuel burn. Mr. Cox figures less time spent at gates means airlines will be able to operate more flights per day. In addition, WheelTug could let airlines squeeze in an extra takeoff at airports with curfews. If the curfew bans starting engines before 5 a.m., for example, a WheelTug-equipped plane could be waiting at the end of the runway to start engines at 5 a.m. and take off while other airplanes were still back at gates waiting to start engines.
Southwest was flooded by applications for just 750 flight attendant openings.
Ten thousand people applied for 750 openings to work as flight attendants for Southwest Airlines in just two hours and five minutes, the airline says.
Applications were accepted last week, the first time the airline hired flight attendants from outside the company since 2011, according to Bloomberg.
"Of course anytime we do it, it's like opening up the floodgates," CEO Gary Kelly said in a recorded message for employees.
The global airline industry is on pace to see record profits in 2014. Full-time employment by U.S. carriers has not risen accordingly, but its rate of decline is slowing.
Data from the U.S. DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows the number of full-time employees in the U.S. airline industry dropped .8% between October 2012 and October 2013, the smallest decline since September 2012.
Most low-cost carriers reported an increase in full-time employees, but Southwest reported a 2% drop (to a total of 45,074).
For the first six months, Southwest's new flight attendants will earn $22.36 per trip, a spokesperson for the airline said. A trip is about 55 minutes of flight time, and attendants usually fly at least 72 trips per month.
The wing of a British Airways Boeing 747 crashed into a Johannesburg airport building, slightly injuring four ground staff.
The accident at Johannesburg's OR Tambo airport late Sunday night was caused by the plane using the wrong taxi way which was too narrow for the passenger jet, the South African Civil Aviation Authority said Monday.
Air traffic control had instructed the crew of the British Airways Boeing 747-400 departing for London to use a specific taxi way, said SACAA spokeswoman Phindiwe Gwebu in a statement. However, the plane traveled on a different taxi way that was narrower.
This resulted in the plane's wing clipping a building behind the SAA technical hangars, she said.
Four ground-handling staff in the building sustained minor injuries when they were hit by debris after the aircraft's wing struck the building.
"The 17 crew and 185 passengers who were in the aircraft escaped unharmed and were evacuated," said Gwebu.
She said there was fuel spillage, but that this was contained by the airport's fire services.
Investigators witnessed the recovery of the aircraft, and the removal of the flight recorder, she said.
"The investigation continues," said Gwebu.
The aircraft was moved to a remote location and airport operations had not been disrupted by the accident, she said.
Boeing is celebrating the delivery of the first 747-8 with performance-improved GEnx-2B engines as part of the airplane’s Performance Improvement Package, or PIP. A Cathay Pacific Airways 747-8 Freighter was the first to be delivered with the PIP engines.
The engine is the first of the package's three improvements to enter service. The two other components, Flight Management Computer (FMC) software upgrades and reactivation of the horizontal stabilizer tank fuel system on the 747-8 Intercontinental, are expected to enter service later this month and in early 2014, respectively.
"With this improvement, 747-8 customers will use roughly 30 fewer trucks of fuel per airplane per year."
Boeing Test & Evaluation teams validated that the engine improves the airplane's efficiency by 1.8 percent.
"With this improvement, 747-8 customers will use roughly 30 fewer trucks of fuel per airplane per year," said Eric Lindblad, vice president and general manager, 747-8 program.
All three PIP components can be retrofitted on the 747-8. The tail fuel reactivation is applicable only for the 747-8 Intercontinental, and the Flight Management Computer upgrades also can be made to 747-400.
The holiday travel crowds at Los Angeles International Airport will be even bigger this year, with passenger volume expected to be 8.2% higher than last year, the airport said.
From Friday until Jan. 2, 2.6 million passengers are expected to fly in and out of LAX, compared to 2.4 million in the same period last year. LAX is the sixth-busiest airport in the world and the third-busiest in the U.S.
The busiest days in the 14-day holiday travel period will be Friday, Saturday, Thursday, Dec. 27, Dec. 29 and Jan. 2. On each of these days, nearly 200,000 travelers will file through the airport. The least busiest days will be Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
The increase, according to travel experts, is the result of more available seats added by airlines flying bigger planes.
Making travel through LAX even tougher will be ongoing construction of a $4.1-billion modernization program, particularly in the late-evening and early-morning hours, airport officials said.
You know what the say: mo’ planes, mo’ money. Boeing vice president and general manager Jack Jones told Reuters on Thursday that the company is close to hitting its production target of 10 787 Dreamliner jets pet month, which would be the fastest build rate of any airplane Boeing has produced to date.
Boeing delivered 54 jets through November and, if it hits its target, could break 60 for the year despite a three-month production delay due to battery issues with the jet.
Boeing is focusing an enormous amount of attention on its commercial division in light of waning government business for its defense division and waxing demand for commercial jets from around the world. The 10 plane production target is just a stepping stone to a target of 12 planes per month by mid-2016, and of 14 per month by about 2019.
Boeing estimates that between 2013 and 2032, the world will demand 35,280 airplanes valued at $4.84 trillion. Most of this demand is expected to come from Asia Pacific ($1.89 trillion, or about 39 percent of total) and Europe ($1 trillion, or about 20 percent of total).
On Friday, Boeing announced a deal with Cathay Pacific based in Hong Kong for 21 777-9x airplanes valued at more than $7 billion. The 777x program was launched just one month ago at the Dubai Airshow and has already racked up 259 orders valued at $95 billion, making it the largest production launch in commercial jetliner history. First deliveries of the aircraft are scheduled for 2020.
Boeing reports that the 400-seat 777-9x “will be the largest and most efficient twin-engine commercial jet in the world with the lowest operating cost per seat of any commercial airplane and no competitor in its market segment.”
Boeing reports in its 2013-2032 long-term market outlook that the industry is expected to sustain a growth rate of about 5 percent per year. Passenger traffic and air cargo traffic are expected to grow at 5 percent annually through 2032, although air cargo traffic has moderated recently, contracting 1.5 percent in 2012. Boeing stock is up more than 81 percent on the year.
The iconic aviation-themed Proud Bird restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport, slated to close for good on Dec. 21, will instead remain open for at least one more year, the restaurant’s chief executive said Thursday.
John Tallichet, head of Specialty Restaurants Corp., said he has agreed in principle to a one-year lease with landlord Los Angeles World Airports. He said the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners must approve the deal and likely would take up the matter in January.
Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles World Airports, said the new lease, if approved, would expire on Jan. 31, 2015.
It was not immediately clear how much rent the Proud Bird would pay for the next year. Tallichet said he had planned to close the restaurant, which opened in 1967, because the airport wanted to raise his rent to more than $500,000 a year. The restaurant has been paying about $18,000 per month airport officials said.
Airport officials said any new lease would have to be at a market rate, but it was never clear how the airport would calculate the market. An airport source said the sides may have been able to work out a deal by reducing the amount of parking spaces controlled by the Proud Bird.
Tallichet said the restaurant will only be viable for the long term if it can secure a 20-year lease at a reasonable rent. Negotiations on a longer term deal will continue over the next year, he said.
In recent days, Tallichet said the focus had been simply to reach a stop-gap measure. He said it would have been difficult to reopen the restaurant if it did close, as scheduled, next week.
“What we have been talking about is this one-year deal,” Tallichet said. “We wanted to keep operating during the process.”
This is actually the second reprieve for the restaurant. It had been scheduled to close on Nov. 21, with only the restaurant’s banquet facility remaining open for another month. But business was so strong in the fall, Tallichet said, that he changed his mind and chose to keep both parts of the facility open until Dec. 21.
“I’m glad this has been resolved and the Proud Bird will remain open for the next year,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
Etihad Airways said Thursday that beginning in a year it will offer three round-trip flights per week between the United Arab Emirates and Dallas, making it the fifth U.S. city served by the Persian Gulf carrier.
The airline plans to use 237-passenger Boeing 777 jets to fly between Dallas and Abu Dhabi. The planes will include eight seats in first class, 40 in business class and 189 in economy.
Like Middle Eastern competitors Emirates and Qatar Airways, Etihad has been expanding service to the United States, raising objections from some U.S. airlines. Qatar announced last week that it will begin daily nonstop flights between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Doha next July.
The Air Line Pilots Association said Etihad's expansion of U.S. service threatened jobs at U.S.
airlines. It said that Etihad can buy Boeing jets with export subsidies paid by U.S. taxpayers — a benefit not available to U.S. airlines. Etihad said that its Dallas flights would begin Dec. 3, 2014, and depart on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The airline expects many passengers to come from the oil and gas industry. Etihad already flies to New York, Washington and Chicago and plans to add Los Angeles in June.
Bombardier and Embraer will split an order by the newly-merged parent company of American Airlines and US Airways for 90 76-seat regional jets.
Coming only three days after American and US Airways completed their historic merger, the orders signed today add another piece to the ongoing re-fleeting of the US regional jet market, but also leave questions unanswered about the future of American Airlines Group subsidiary American Eagle.
“Now that we’ve closed our merger with US Airways, we can deliver a top-tier regional product that offers a first class cabin, main cabin extra, an in-flight wi-fi,” says Kenji Hashimoto, senior vice-president for regional carriers with American Airlines.
Embraer won the largest share of the deal with firm orders for 60 E-175s, plus options for 90 more. The first aircraft will be delivered in the first quarter of 2015, but American has decided to not automatically assign the jets to American Eagle. The identity of regional carrier that will fly the E-175s will be decided later, American says.
The E-175s will be configured with 12 first class, 20 main cabin extra and 44 main cabin seats.
Bombardier, meanwhile, will deliver 30 CRJ900 NextGen jets beginning in the second quarter of 2014 to American, but they will be operated by US Airways subsidiary PSA Airlines. The order also includes options for 40 more.
The CRJ900s will be configured with 12 first class, 32 main cabin extra and 32 main cabin seats, according to the airline.
Both the CRJ900s and E175s are powered by GE Aviation CF34-8 turbofan engines.
For Embraer, the order helps sustain the E-Jet production line until the arrival of the E2 E-Jet family beginning in 2018. A recent decision by JetBlue to delay deliveries of several dozen E-190s to beyond 2020 opened a gap in Embraer’s production line after 2015.
Bombardier, meanwhile, adds more CRJ900s to the backlog while it continues to work to bring the CSeries family into operational service.
Over the past year, US airlines have been ordering 76-seat regional jets in bulk as less-economical 50-seat jets acquired from the early 1990s are phased out.
“These new regional jets are also a big win for our employees at our regional subsidiary, and will greatly improve economic efficiencies by lowering operating costs,” Hashimoto says.
Embraer has dominated the balance of orders for US regional carriers over the past 15 months. Including American’s order today, Embraer has received firm orders from four airlines totalling 167 E-175s. Bombardier has signed firm orders with two airlines now for a total of 70 CRJ900s.
Air Canada announced an order for up to 109 Boeing 737 Max aircraft today, in a deal valued at $6.5 billion at list prices. The firm order includes 33 737 Max 8 and 28 737 Max 9 aircraft with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2017 and run through 2021. The Montreal-based carrier also has the right to substitute the 737 Max 7 for any of its firm orders.
The order includes options for an additional 18 aircraft and purchase rights for a further 30. “We are pleased to announce our agreement with Boeing for the purchase of 737 Max aircraft as part of the on-going modernisation of Air Canada's fleet," says Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive of Air Canada.
Air Canada is one of the first pure Airbus A320 family operators that Boeing has flipped to the Max.
The airline operates 29 A319s, 36 A320s and 10 A321s, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows. It plans to replace the A320s and A321s, and is transitioning its A319s to its low-cost subsidiary Rouge.
Competition between Airbus and Boeing for the order is understood to have been intense, with sources telling Flightglobal that Air Canada was leaning towards an order for a combination of Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft as recently as the end of November.
Air Canada is scheduled to take delivery of two 737 Max aircraft in 2017, 16 in 2018, 18 in 2019, 16 in 2020 and nine in 2021.
UK investigators are examining a Gulfstream G550 which damaged the instrument landing system at London-Stansted (STN/EGSS) airport during an early morning arrival, forcing a downgrade of the site's low-visibility capability.
While the Air Accidents Investigation Branch confirms it is probing the incident, it has not given details of the jet involved. However, a source familiar with the situation indicates that the aircraft is a Saudi-registered airframe HZ-A6 (c/n 5038) and that it touched down some 25m (82ft) short of the runway threshold while landing at about 03:30 on 10 December.
The long-range, large cabin business jet struck an antenna and suffered undercarriage door damage as well as scratches to the hull.
Stansted’s operator has not given any detail about the event beyond confirming a G550 was involved and that the aircraft “landed safely”. It states simply that the incident “resulted in some damage to our ILS”.
NOTAM information for the airport states that the runway 04 ILS has been “withdrawn from service” and that the runway 22 ILS is downgraded to Category I.
Poor weather at Stansted combined with the ILS damage forced the subsequent diversion of several flights.
UK air traffic control service NATS, which is responsible for the ILS, has been working to restore the system to full capability.
Cathay Pacific unveiled the third edition of its "Spirit of Hong Kong" livery at a ceremony on December 9. The livery features the silhouettes of 110 winners selected from a competition, and was painted onto Boeing 777-300ER (35299/670) B-KPB.
(Photo - Cathay Pacific)
The first "Spirit of Hong Kong" livery was unveiled in 1997, followed by a second edition in 2000.
Here's a paradox: The airline that gets the fewest complaints also seems to have the most things go wrong, according to data compiled by Crain's Chicago.
The news outlet calculated the rate of infractions for things like mishandled baggage, late flights, and overbooking, and threw the results into an infographic.
Among the five categories surveyed, Southwest led seven U.S.-based airlines for rate of:
Involuntary boarding denials — 1.19 per 10,000 passengers, compared with 0.01 for JetBlue, the lowest.
Mishandled baggage — 3.61 per 1,000 passengers, compared with 0.97 for Virgin, the lowest.
Fewest on-time departures — 66.6%, compared with leader US Airways at 84.6%.
Yet, Southwest also had the fewest rate of overall complaints — 0.34 per 100,000 passengers, compared with the leader, United, at 2.3 per 100,000.
This probably tells us a few things. First, some infractions are probably more egregious than others. Southwest actually had the second-best on-time arrival rate. It's not immediately clear why there's not a one-to-one correlation with on-time departures, but it seems reasonable that landing promptly is more important than taking off promptly.
Second, you get what you pay for. No one airline can claim the overall lowest prices all instances, but Southwest is known as *the* low-cost airline, so expectations may be lower going in.
Finally, Southwest consistently outperforms on customer service surveys. A recent poll by AirFareWatch.dog.com found Southwest placed second in customer satisfaction ranking, behind JetBlue — which had the worst on-time arrival rate of the seven airlines surveyed.
When your stock ticker is LUV, evidently, your reputation precedes you.
Emirates A380-861 (c/n 136) A6-EEO arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 4, 2013. (Photo by Michael Carter)
Emirates Airline launched the longest Airbus A380 commercial nonstop flight Dec. 2 on a daily Dubai-Los Angeles service. The aircraft replaced a Boeing 777-300ER on the route.
Emirates took delivery of its 40th and 41th A380 Nov. 28. The newest A380 fleet additions have an increased take-off weight of up to 575 tons.
“With a higher take-off weight, we are able to do year-round nonstop operations from Dubai with an A380 to places like Los Angeles, San Francisco or Houston,” Emirates president Tim Clark stated. “The demand is there and people [have] always asked us when we [would] come with an A380.”
Emirates ordered 50 Airbus A380s during the Dubai Air Show, marking its fifth A380 order and taking its total commitment to 140 of the type.
Emirates A380-861 (c/n 134) A6-EEM arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 5, 2013. The carrier upgraded it services to LAX with the A380 just three days earlier on December 2.
(Photo by Michael Carter)
Emirates Airline—which placed a huge order for Boeing 777X and Airbus A380 aircraft at the Dubai Air Show—wants to be ready for a “quantum leap” in air travel over the next 15 years. According to an internal letter, the order was placed to position the carrier for a world civil airline market that will more than double by 2030.
ICAO predicts that while three billion people traveled by air in 2012, that figure will climb to more than six billion by 2030.
“We need to be prepared for the quantum leap in air travel,” the letter stated. “You also know that we are gearing up to receive 70 million passengers by 2020.”
Emirates’ order at Dubai was split between 150 777Xs (excluding 50 options) plus 50 A380s. The airline puts the value of the 777X order at around Dhs279 billion ($76 billion) at list prices, with the A380 deal worth a further Dhs84 billion. Combined, they formed the largest aircraft order in civil aviation history.
The letter noted that Emirates will be retiring around 50 aircraft in three years and the Dubai Air Show order will help replace those outgoing aircraft and increase fleet numbers. Delivery of the 777X is due to start in 2020, while delivery of 25 of the A380s will begin before the first quarter of 2018.
The letter stated the 777-8X variant “will potentially seat 342 passengers in three classes” while the 777-9X “will seat over 440 passengers in two classes.”
The new A380s will come in two- and three-class configurations. Internal seat numbers were not given.
American Airlines and US Airways closed their merger today, nearly 10 tumultuous months since they announced their plan to create the world’s largest carrier. The creation of American Airlines Group is the last major step in consolidation among the US mainline carriers, which began with the merger of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines in 2008. The deal leaves just four carriers – American, Delta, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines – carrying roughly 85% of all passenger traffic in the USA.
“We are taking the best of both US Airways and American Airlines to create a formidable competitor, better positioned to deliver for all of our stakeholders,” says Doug Parker, chief executive of Fort Worth, Texas-based American and widely seen as the mastermind of the deal, in a statement. “We look forward to integrating our companies quickly and efficiently so the significant benefits of the merger can be realised.”
The first sign of the merger for passengers will be reciprocal frequent flier benefits, which begin on 7 January 2014.
American and US Airways plan to begin codesharing in February 2014, with all flights carrying an American flight number by the end of that month.
US Airways will enter the Oneworld alliance on 31 March 2014, a day after it exits the Star Alliance.
A single operating certificate is expected by the end of 2015, American president Scott Kirby told Flightglobal on 5 December.
Parker began pushing for the combination of American and US Airways as chairman and chief executive of the latter shortly after American filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2011.
He secured support from American’s major labour unions in 2012 before signing a non-disclosure agreement to officially discuss a combination with American management that August. The deal was announced this past 14 February, Valentines Day. The deal proved far from done.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) unexpectedly challenged the merger on 13 August, with assistant attorney general in charge of the agency’s antitrust division Bill Baer saying: “We think the right solution here is a full-stop injunction.”
The airlines and the Justice department reached a settlement that included the divestiture of 52 slot pairs at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, 17 pairs at New York LaGuardia, as well as two gates and associated facilities at Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles International and Miami International airports three months later.
A bankruptcy court judge approved the merger with the settlement on 27 November, paving the way to today’s closing.
American, which is listed under the ticket AAL on the Nasdaq stock exchange, operates nearly 6,700 flights to more than 330 destinations with more than 100,000 employees.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved a deal for American Airlines to transfer 17 slot pairs at New York LaGuardia airport to Southwest Airlines and Virgin America. Southwest would keep five pairs that it already leases from American and receive six additional pairs for new service at New York’s close-in airport, while Virgin America would receive six pairs in order to begin service to LaGuardia.
The slot divestiture is part of a deal that American reached with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on 12 November in exchange for antitrust approval of its merger with US Airways.
The carriers are also required to divest 52 slot pairs at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, and two gates and related facilities at Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles International and Miami International airports, under the terms of the settlement.
The FAA says that the transfers are “in the public interest and would not adversely affect safety”, in a decision issued on 2 December and made available today. The filing also says that the Justice department has approved “the acquirers”.
Southwest and Virgin America had previously expressed interest in the LaGuardia slots, as well as other assets that American and US Airways must divest.
Burlingame, California-based Virgin America says that it is interested in “any airport assets that could be made available through the settlement process”.
The acquisition of LaGuardia slots has raised questions about where the airline might fly. Its main bases are currently Los Angeles International and San Francisco International airports, both of which are beyond LaGuardia’s 2,414km (1,500 mile) perimeter.
The perimeter applies to every day of the week except Saturdays.
One possible suggestion by industry followers is that Virgin America could use the slots to begin flights between New York LaGuardia and Dallas Love Field in conjunction with acquiring gates at Dallas’ close-in airport that American is also divesting under the settlement.
The airline declines to comment on the suggestion but confirms that it is looking at the Love Field gates.
Airlines will be able to fly from Love Field to anywhere in the country once the Wright Amendment, which limited flights to only states bordering Texas and Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Missouri, is lifted in October 2014.
"American has reached agreements with other airlines regarding 34 slots at LaGuardia airport, and the divestitures have been approved by the Department of Justice," says the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier. "American and the other carriers have agreed to transition the operation of the slots over time in order to minimise customer disruption."
Southwest was not immediately available for comment.
Air Canada’s new Boeing 787-8s will feature three cabins with 251 seats, the carrier revealed today. The aircraft will be divided into international business class, premium economy and economy cabins in a colour scheme based on grey and neutral colours accented with red and blue.
The new interior product will be featured on Air Canada's 787-8s entering the fleet in 2014 and the larger 787-9s that it will start to receive in 2015. Seating capacity for the latter variant has not yet been revealed.
The international business class cabin on the 787-8 will feature 20 “executive pods” with B/E Aerospace lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. The seats feature headrests with pneumatic cushions and a massaging function and will offer aisle access.
Credit: Air Canada
Each business class pod will include an 18in screen with touch handsets for Panasonic Avionics' inflight entertainment system, as well as USB and universal power outlets.
Credit: Air Canada
Air Canada’s premium economy cabin on the 787-8 will be outfitted with 21 Recaro seats in a 2-3-2 configuration with a 38in pitch. The seats measure 19.5in wide and provide 7in of recline.
Credit: Air Canada
The premium economy seats will have 9in or 11in touchscreens for inflight entertainment and power. Air Canada will offer extra perks for premium economy passengers for meals and beverage service as well as priority check-in and baggage delivery.
The economy cabin is configured with 210 slimline B/E Aerospace seats in a 3-3-3 configuration, with a 31in pitch. Economy passengers will have 9in touchscreens for IFE and in-seat power.
Credit: Air Canada
Air Canada has not yet detailed the specifications for seat capacity on the larger 787-9 aircraft that it will start adding to the fleet a year after the first 787-8 delivery.
Air Canada will start receiving 37 787s in the first half of 2014, with the first of 15 787-8 aircraft entering service in July. The order also consists of 22 larger 787-9s, which will start entering the fleet in July 2015. The carrier plans to receive all of the aircraft by the end of 2019.
"We are very excited to introduce completely re-designed seating and cabin amenities that will offer Air Canada customers the very best in comfort and contemporary design," said Ben Smith, executive vice-president and chief commercial officer of the Montreal-based airline. "With the arrival next spring of our first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Air Canada continues to renew its international widebody fleet with the next generation of modern and fuel efficient aircraft.”
Airbus and Rolls-Royce aim to boost the market appeal of the A340-600 with reconfiguration and support initiatives that address operating costs. The plan was unveiled in London on 4 December to an audience of over 100 delegates, who included bankers, appraisers, brokers, financiers and lessors.
"The meeting was to demonstrate Airbus, Rolls-Royce and CFM’s joint common commitment to the A340 programme," says Andreas Hermann, vice-president of freighters and A340 asset management at Airbus. "The key message is that it is not only one party, it’s all three parties who are very committed to the A340 programme."
Airbus has delivered a total of 377 A340s, including 246 CFM56-powered A340-200/300s and 131 R-R Trent 500 powered -500/600s. It is currently remarketing 16 A340s, including seven -300s, four -500s and five -600s, says Hermann. "For quite a few of these we have a solution to be announced sometime soon," he adds.
Airbus acknowledges that the A340-600 burns 12% more fuel than the similarly sized Boeing 777-300ER, but it claims the four-engined aircraft can be competitive thanks to its lower ownership costs, which it claims averages $850,000 per month, and by tackling engine maintenance costs.
Central to the latter is a pledge by R-R to bring maintenance costs for an A340’s four Trent 500s in line with those of a pair of General Electric GE90-115Bs, which power the 777-300ER.
A presentation given by Airbus at the conference included a slide about engine manufacturer support for the Trent 500 which stated: "Four engines for the price of two (four Trent 500 = two GE90-115)".
In response to cynicism that this pledge is nothing new, Hermann says: “That is where Rolls is very happy that they will be proven, not on their words, but on their actions.”
Airbus has also undertaken to certificate a high-density seating configuration for the A340-600 by raising the exit limit from the current 440 seats to 475. This configuration centres on a one-class all-economy layout with eight-abreast seating using 18in (46cm) wide seats at 31/32in pitch. "To go to 475 seats does not compromise the comfort standards," says Hermann.
However, Airbus is also offering an alternative two-class layout which uses narrower economy seats to permit nine-abreast seating. This has 18 business-class seats and 457 economy seats, the latter being 16.7in wide.
"The 475-seat certification requires about a 10-12 month lead time project and as it stands today we do not need to go through an evacuation test," says Hermann. "There is market interest and Airbus has committed to go ahead and do it. It is not subject to a customer commitment but we are having discussions and we’ll shortly have customers signing up for it."
Airbus says it is targeting operators of high-density Boeing 747-400s operated by charter operators with the 475-seat A340-600. It claims that the -600 burns 21% less fuel per trip and although the 747 has higher revenue-earning potential and lower ownership costs, a 475-seat A340 has an overall cost monthly advantage of $557,000.