Thursday, February 27, 2014

Southwest Airlines now serving Craft Beer on flights

Craft beer fans should dust off their Southwest free-drink coupons: The airline has announced a partnership with New Belgium Brewing that means craft beer will finally be available at 30,000 feet.
The Colorado brewery’s flagship Fat Tire will join the usual macro-brewed subjects like Miller Lite and Heineken as the only craft-brewed option the airline offers. Fat Tire — known for its success as a “gateway” beer for those new to craft brews — is one of the most popular craft brands in the country, and the malty amber ale is now available on all Southwest Airlines and AirTran flights.
Blow all your free-drink vouchers on tiny bottles of Wild Turkey? The cans of Fat Tire will set you back just $5 — the same as the insipid light lagers that Southwest has offered for years.
Recent months have seen more craft brews being offered at airports, with locally brewed craft beers available at LAX, and Stone Brewing opening a bar in the San Diego International Airport.
Hopefully this is just the beginning for craft beer in the friendly skies. Asked if there will be more craft brewed offerings in the future, a Southwest spokesperson responded with this canned but encouraging statement: “Southwest and AirTran continually looks for opportunities to refresh and add variety to its onboard offerings to meet its customers.” 
You have a choice when you fly, and now you can choose craft beer if you’re flying Southwest.
(John Verive - Los Angeles Times)


Qatar 777-300 sports FC Barcelona livery

Qatar Airways 777-3DZ(ER) (36104/769) A7-BAE is now wearing the colors of FC Barcelona and what a striking livery it is.

 Arriving at London-Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) on February 26, 2014.

Nice look at the artwork.
(Above photos by David Apps) 
Departing London-Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) on February 26, 2014.
(Photo by James Mepsted) 

Second hand 737-700's for Southwest Airlines

Our Seattle reporter Joe G. Walker captured these 737-700's at Paine Field (PAE/KPAE) on February 17, 2014. All appear to be destined for Southwest Airlines as most have tapped on Southwest registrations. I do know we are picking up used -700's. Two are coming from China Southern, two, possibly three from Alaska Airlines, one from Virgin Australia and as you can see by the photos one from Inerjet. There are another 10 coming from WestJet but don't know the exact time frame on those. 

Ex Inerjet 737-73V (30249/1128) C-GZEJ tbr N559WN.

Don't know what airline N7815L is from possibly Virgin Australia.

Ex Alaska Airlines 737-790's (30166/700) N623AS tbr N557WN and (30778/724) N624AS new Southwest registration unknown at this time.
(Photos by Joe G. Walker)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Need an early build 787? Hurry Boeing is selling them cheap!

There are 11 Boeing 787 Dreamliners parked on the tarmac at The Boeing Co. plant near Seattle that have been rejected by the airlines that placed the original orders. Normally, Boeing would just march down its order backlog and find another buyer. But these planes are special.
These 11 planes are early versions of the Dreamliner and are heavier than the model now available and also require a number of repairs in order to meet federal standards. Bloomberg cites unnamed sources who say Boeing built a “record inventory” of the planes before getting certification in 2011 and that there are “dozens of older versions” that the company has recently begun upgrading the last of the early versions.

The 11 planes that are available were originally ordered by Russia’s Transaero Airlines (4 planes), Indonesia’s PT Lion Mentari Airlines (5 planes), and RwandaAir (2 planes). Boeing is expected to sell the planes for more than 50% off the list price of $211.8 million.

PT Garuda Indonesia and Malaysia Airline System Bhd are among potential buyers, with Garuda now reported to be considering the 787 alongside the Airbus A350.

If Boeing can’t find buyers for the planes it will have to write them down, and even at a discounted $100 million per aircraft that’s $1.1 billion against the company’s bottom line at some point. Given the difficulties Boeing had getting the 787 in the air that’s just more embarrassment it really doesn’t need.

Another potential impact is that the low-priced planes could hit margins when they are sold and unit costs could pile up, at least briefly.

Boeing’s shares are down about 0.8% in the noon hour Tuesday at $128.50 in a 52-week range of $75.14 to $144.57.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

How about an elevator for your 747-8(BBJ)?

Anyone who can afford to purchase a personal luxury jumbo jet shouldn’t have to climb steps to board his $500 million plaything. At least that’s the pitch from Greenpoint Technologies, which is developing a personal elevator that descends from the belly of a customized Boeing 747-8 to whisk presidents, princes, and tycoons from the tarmac to the plane’s main deck.

Greenpoint’s Aerolift is aimed at customers who are spending up to $250 million to outfit one of Boeing’s iconic humpbacked, four-engine aircraft with wood paneling, bedroom suites, and home theaters. That’s on top of the $356.9 million list price for the unmodified 747. There’s a “cool factor of pulling up to my 747, and out pops an elevator,” says Bret Neely, vice president of sales for Kirkland (Wash.)-based Greenpoint, which creates custom interiors for Boeing’s VIP jets. “We’re trying to sell prestige here as well.”

There is a practical side to the four-person elevator, whose design Greenpoint patented in January: It spares infirm and security-conscious passengers from trudging up a steep flight of rolling stairs, Neely says. VIP aircraft tend to park away from the jet bridges at airport terminals. Greenpoint developed the device at the request of a wheelchair-bound customer shopping for a 747-8 who previously was forced to perch precariously atop forklifts and catering trucks to board smaller jets.

A belly-mounted elevator seems a natural fit for the “small but very profitable market” of high-end private jets, says Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at aerospace consultant Teal Group. “One of the missing pieces in making jet travel luxurious is that interface between terminal and airplane.”

A decade ago, an elevator would have been too heavy. That barrier fell, thanks to new, lightweight composite materials. Working with Boeing, Greenpoint found the one place on a jumbo’s underbelly where it could install the device without disturbing flight controls, fuel systems, and landing gear.

So far, Greenpoint has one elevator customer; it needs another to make a product launch financially feasible. “We have a couple of customers that are looking at purchasing 747-8s and want the Aerolift on board their aircraft,” Neely says. “If that occurs, we’ll go forward.”

(Julie Johnsson - BloomberBusinessweek)

Polet Airlines AN-124

Arriving from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP/KMSP) on Tuesday February 18, 2014 at 07:58 pst as "POT4702."

 Over the Long Beach Tower and C-17A facilities on short final to Rwy 30.

 Rotating from Rwy 30.

An environmentally friendly Russian aircraft to be sure!
Polet Airlines Antonov AN-124-100 "Ruslan" (c/n 9773051359127) RA-82068 spent a few days here in Long Beach following its arrival on Tuesday due to weather conditions in Minneapolis. It finally departed yesterday February 21, 2014 at 11:22 pst as "POT4704."
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Volga-Dnepr Airlines AN-124

Volga-Dnepr Airlines Antonov AN-124-100 "Ruslan" (c/n 9773054155101) RA-82043 arrived at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) from Winnipeg International Airport (YWG/CYWG) as "VDA1604" at 08:48 pst on Monday February 17.
In the above photos the aircraft is captured departing the following day bound for Tulsa International Airport (TUL/KTUL) at 08:10 pst as "VDA1605."
(Photos by Michael Carter)  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Two Antonov AN-124-100 "Ruslans" on the ground at Long Beach Airport

Polet Airlines AN-124-100 "Ruslan" RA-82068 and Volga-Dnepr Airlines AN-124-100 "Ruslan RA-82043 shared the ramp at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) for about 15 minutes on Tuesday February 18, 2014 a most unusual occurrence.
I will post more individual photos of each aircraft later. 
(Photo by Long Beach Airport Operations)

New G450 diverts to Long Beach with maintenance issues

Rolling for take-off on Rwy 30 on February 19, 2014.

Short final to Rwy 30 on February 20, 2014 following its diversion back to Long Beach Airport..

Smokes the mains!

Deploys the thrust reversers!
New G450 (c/n 4295) N617XT was bound for Seattle's Boeing Field (BFI/KBFI) from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) on Monday February 17 but diverted to Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) for mechanical reasons. She was schedule to depart to Anchorage the following day, February 18 but remained here in Long Beach undergoing maintenance checks and engine runs. 
On February 19 the aircraft performed a three hour test flight Long Beach to Long Beach and appeared to be good to go following the flight.
Yesterday, February 20, she departed bound for Anchorage but again maintenance issues reared their ugly head and the aircraft returned to Long Beach were she remains today, February 21, 2014.
(Photos by Michael Carter)   

Gulfstream G450 N300ES visits Long Beach

Taxies on "Delta."

Gulfstream G450 (c/n 4209) N300ES rolls for take-off on Rwy 30 on February 21, 2014. She has been at the Gulfstream Service Center routine maintenance.
(Photos by Michael Carter)  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cargolux orders 14th 747-8F

Air freight firm Cargolux has ordered an additional Boeing 747-8 Freighter as part of its ongoing fleet renewal and expansion program.

The new order, expected to be delivered in March 2015, brings the total number of new generation aircraft expected to serve the airline up to 14.

Currently, the airline has nine 747-8Fs in operation and 11 Boeing 747-400 freighters. In the course of 2014, two more 747-8Fs, LX-VCJ and LX-VCK, will join the Cargolux fleet.

Cargolux was the first airline to take delivery of the new jet in 2011. The firm said in a statement that it had “proven to be a valuable addition to the airline's fleet with unsurpassed economics, lower operational costs and environmental advances.”

Cargolux was recently awarded “Best Performing Cargo Airline” by Budapest Airport for the fifth year running. The airline operates four weekly flights to Ferencz Liszt Airport, using its 747-8 freighters.

(Wort.LU Business News)

Norwegian Air Shuttle to lease another 4 787 Dreamliners despite aircraft growing pains

Norwegian Air Shuttle announced on Thursday the lease of four more Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, despite a series of technical hitches with the planes.

The contract, which brings Norwegian's planned Dreamliner fleet to 14, was signed with the US aircraft leasing company International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) but no financial details were released.
The aircraft -- which can accommodate up to 20 percent more passengers over longer distances than the Boeing 787-8 planes the company currently operates on long-haul routes -- are due for delivery in 2017 and 2018.
Norwegian, one of the few low-cost airlines to have ventured into the long-haul segment, already operates three Dreamliners, which have been beset by a series of technical problems and delays since the company launched routes between Scandinavia, the US and Thailand.
The airline announced on Thursday that it had made a loss of 196.8 million kroner in the fourth quarter (23,6 million euros, $32.27), clocking up 45 million kroner in costs related to its long haul business.

Overall the long-haul launch cost the company 216 million kroner in 2013.
However it still reported a net profit for 2013 of 318,7 million kroner compared to 456,6 million kroner the previous year.

On Wednesday, Norwegian announced that it had obtained an Air Operator's Certificate from Irish authorities, paving the way for the company to run its long-haul business from Ireland, which unlike Norway is a member of the European Union.

The Irish licence gives Norwegian "access to future traffic rights to and from the EU", the airline said in a statement.

Air transport unions claim that the airline intends to use the licence to bypass Norway's labour legislation -- which restricts foreign staff on Norwegian aircraft -- and hire cheaper workers in other countries.

(Yahoo News)

American Eagle pilots reject contract offer

The CEO of American Eagle says the American Airlines regional affiliate will be a different outfit that does less flying after leaders of the pilots' union rejected a contract offer.

Eagle wanted the pilots to make labor cost concessions in exchange for letting them fly new, larger planes. Leaders of the local Air Line Pilots Association chapter rejected the offer without sending it to members for a vote. The union said management demanded cuts that would lock in lower wages than pilots earn at other regional airlines.

Union officials said company negotiators warned repeatedly that without a deal, they would keep shrinking the airline until it's small enough to liquidate.

CEO Pedro Fabregas told employees Thursday that the airline would not shut down but would shift more to performing ground operations for other airlines.

Fabregas said American Airlines Group Inc. will begin looking for other airlines to fly 60 Embraer jets that it ordered in December, and the company might take away the largest planes already in Eagle's fleet. The 76-seat Embraers would have replaced some of Eagle's fleet of mostly 44- and 50-seat planes, which have been falling out of favor at current high fuel prices.

American has tried unsuccessfully to sell Eagle in recent years, and it began outsourcing some of its regional flying to other companies such as SkyWest Inc. to reduce costs.

As of December, Eagle had about 12,600 full-time and part-time employees, compared to about 63,000 at American.

(David Koenig - Associated Press)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Catalina Air Harbor - New on demand air carrier at Long Beach Airport

This morning while getting shots of the latest Indian Air Force C-17A, I discovered a new on demand operator Catalina Air Harbor. I spoke with CEO Mark Rhodes and General Manager Art Aritelli about their operation and found out some very interesting plans. The future holds some awesome plans which include the addition of a De Havilland Beaver on floats and a Grumman Goose.
The Goose harkens back to the glory days of seaplane operations between Long Beach and Catalina Island in the late 1950's and mid-1960's when Dick Probert operated a fleet of Grumman Gooses and the "Mother Goose" the VS-44 which is currently on display at the New England Aviation Museum.    
The De Havilland DHC-2 "Beaver" will see service on the Long Beach - Avalon route in the near future.
(Image provided by Catalina Air Harbor)   

The current aircraft in the fleet is Piper PA-32RT-300T "Turbo Lance II" (c/n 32R-7887148) N401SL.
(Photo by Michael Carter)
Check out their website at for more information on their services.

Mokulele Airlines Cessna Caravan passes thru Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB)

Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208B Caravan (c/n 208B5084) N856MA "The Spirit of Kona" is captured climbing from Rwy 25R at 11:29 pst bound for Hayward Executive Airport (HWD/KHWD) in Northern California as it makes its way to Hawaii to join the carriers inter-Island fleet.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

7th Indian Air Force (IAF) now on flight ramp at Long Beach

Indian Air Force C-17A (F-265) CB-8007 is now on the flight ramp at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB). Indian Air Force C-17A (F-263) CB-8006 is still at Long Beach sitting undelivered as seen in the photos.
(Photos by Michael Carter) 
Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5444) N344GA tbr N344RS performed another pre-delivery test flight today departing Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) at 1325 pst as "GLF16." In the above photo she is captured returning to Long Beach at 1532 pst.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

All Nippon Airways set to retire its last 747's

All Nippon Airways will retire its last two passenger-carrying Boeing 747s next month, ending an era in which the American-made jumbo jet was a frequent presence in Japanese skies, working both the international and domestic routes of ANA and Japan Airlines.
In the 1970s, ANA and JAL were early purchasers of the revolutionary airplane, and they remained loyal to it and to Boeing, which even produced a special high-density, 560-seat, short-haul version of the 747 just for them.
Changes in technology and in travel behavior and a demand for more flights on smaller planes, however, have caused a global shift. For JAL, that has ended 50 years of loyalty to Boeing products.
In the 1980s, Japan Airlines owned 65 Boeing 747 Classics, as the early models are called — more than any other airline. It retired the last one in 2009 and its more modern 747-400s went out of service in 2011. ANA’s last passenger-carrying 747 will land for good on March 31.
I thought it was a wonderful aircraft. There is no comparison,” ANA’s chief executive officer, Osamu Shinobe, said of the 747 late last year.
Employees of All Nippon Airways saluted the Boeing 747 at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
(Photo ANA)
Emotions, however, are no match for economics when it comes to a four-engine airplane and jet fuel that costs $123 a barrel. Along with the two Japanese carriers, Cathay Pacific and Singapore have also eliminated the 747 from their fleets, and Air India, Air New Zealand and Taiwan’s EVA Air are planning to do the same.
“The 747 is plummeting out of service far faster than anyone would have expected,” said Richard Aboulafia, an airline analyst at Teal Group in Fairfax, Va.
The 747 is not the only plane affected by the market shift. The Airbus A380 is much newer than the 747, entering commercial service in 2005. But since the European plane maker began turning out its four-engine double-decker superjumbo, it has sold only 304. Half of those have been ordered by just one airline, Emirates, based in Dubai, which has taken possession of only 40 so far.
“Qantas just deferred a few, Lufthansa has canceled, Air France is public they don’t want more, British Airways doesn’t want anymore,” Mr. Aboulafia said. “The market has said, ‘These are our requirements, we want to buy two-engine wide bodies; quads, not so much.”
Airlines are opting for smaller and far more fuel-efficient two-engine airplanes like the Boeing 777, which carries 315 to 550 passengers, and the even smaller 787 Dreamliner, which carries fewer than 300. In a decision that surprised many in the industry last year, JAL purchased an airliner from Airbus for the first time, ordering 31 A350s. The twin-engine, 300-to-350-seat plane is a direct competitor to Boeing’s Dreamliner.
It was widely reported that the defection was due to JAL’s frustration with the problems it was having with the 787. JAL operates 13 Dreamliners and ANA has 23. Last year the entire 787 fleet was grounded for nearly four months because of safety concerns about the planes’ lithium-ion batteries. It was a costly interruption for Boeing customers.
Jian Yang, a spokesman for JAL, said the decision to do business with Airbus was based on many factors including “safety, quality” and manufacturer support.
“We were disappointed,” said Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president for marketing, commenting on the airline’s decision. “We’ve built a strong relationship with JAL over the last 50 years, and we’ll continue a strong partnership going forward.”
Boeing has had little success selling even its newest 747 for passenger service, though ANA Cargo was one of three airlines that bought the 747-8 freighter. The passenger version, dubbed the Intercontinental, has been sold to just two carriers, Korean and Lufthansa.
Nico Buchholz, Lufthansa’s senior vice president for fleet management, praised the Intercontinental’s many revisions, including increased length and cargo capacity and improvements in engine efficiency.
“It has a new wing. It has the most modern engine of any four-engine aircraft worldwide. There is a lot of new technology,” Mr. Buchholz said.
Yet, for nearly a year after ordering the D747-8, Lufthansa was the plane’s only customer.
“Boeing builds brilliant aircraft, but when you build brilliant aircraft you still need to push them into the market,” he said: “They are all not purchased by themselves.”
Many airline executives, however, say market changes are to blame for the slow sales. They say the mammoth airliner is history — and ANA’s Mr. Shinobe is one of them. When he first saw the 747 in 1979, he said, the Japanese air travel market was booming and the jumbo’s 500-plus seats, in domestic configuration, far outmatched the next biggest airplane, the 320-seat Lockheed L-1011.
Now, he says, the airline does not need that capacity: “Domestic will not grow so much anymore.”
Airlines are investing in medium-size, twin-engine, twin-aisle airliners that fly fewer people on a more frequent schedule; they believe those factors are the key to profitability.
“We believe in frequency,” said Tom Owen, Cathay Pacific’s senior vice president for the Americas. Five flights a day between Hong Kong and New York, using smaller planes, is preferable, he said, to one or two superjumbos daily.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

GECAS to supply Myanma with 737-800's


Myanma Airways, the flag carrier of Myanmar, is planning to resume international operations after inking a lease deal with GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) for six Boeing 737-800s and four Boeing 737 MAX 8s.
“This is the biggest aircraft leasing arrangement in Myanmar history,” said Myanmar transport minister Nyan Htun Aung, announcing the deal at the Singapore Airshow.
State-owned, all-domestic operator Myanma, which suspended international operations in 1993, will use the aircraft to launch services to Japan. “Myanma is now going to re-enter the international market, with the support of GECAS, and become well known again in international air travel,” he said. “They used a Boeing 737 before, so this will be second time there has been 737s in Myanma’s fleet.”
The CFM-powered aircraft will be sourced from GECAS’ existing order book. They will be configured in a dual-class layout, with a business and economy cabin. The exact seating configuration is expected to be finalized by August 2014.
Deliveries will start in June 2015. Three 737-800s will be delivered to Myanma in 2015, followed by another two in 2016 and the final -800 in 2017. GECAS president/CEO Norman Liu did not give a delivery schedule for the MAXs, saying only that they will come “later in the decade” and that all the aircraft will arrive by 2020.
GECAS already has two Embraer 190s on lease to Myanma, which is based at Yangon International Airport and also operates two Fokker F28s, two ATR 72s, a single ATR 42, three MA60s and two Beech 1900Ds.
In addition, GECAS’ AviaSolutions consulting business signed a memorandum of understanding with Myanma. Under the deal, AviaSolutions will advise Myanma on its strategic growth plan, covering network development and marketing, as well as airport and infrastructure planning.
(Victoria Moores - ATWOnline News) 

So what will Boeing name the 777X family?

Boeing is yet to decide on the naming convention for its 777X family, but hopes to finalise a definitive plan soon.

The new 777X family was launched at the Dubai air show in November with orders from Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, but unusually Boeing has continued to use the “X” suffix usually applied just to its product development studies.

When asked at the Singapore air show about the plan for the 777X name, Boeing’s senior vice president global sales John Wojick said: “That’s a very good question, because I don’t know the answer.”

Boeing has applied names to many of its recent programmes, such as the 787 Dreamliner, 747-8 Intercontinental and 737 Max. Wojick says the manufacturer is yet to decide what its policy will be for the 777X.

“We’re in discussions right now about how we come out formally and whether it’s going to be the ‘777 9’ and ‘777 8’, and what’s the right branding for the product going forward. Hopefully we’ll have that in the months to come,” he says.

Boeing has also not disclosed much detail about the 777X’s specification beyond dimensions and basic range and passenger counts.

“We’re still finalising the airplane’s final configuration and what the exact weights and [engine] thrusts could move a little bit,” says Wojick. “So being too definitive might a little beyond where we’re at at this point of time.”

(Flightglobal News)

New Gulfstream at Long Beach Airport

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5463) N563GA rests on the Gulfstream service center ramp on February 11, 2014. It arrived from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) on February 10, 2014 at 1036 pst. Also visible is the tail of G650 (c/n 6076) N676GA which arrived from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport on Saturday February 8, 2014 at 1403 pst.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G550 test flight

Taxies on "Lima."

Rolls for take-off on Rwy 30.

 Just off the deck!

Positive climb, gear up!
Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5444) N344GA tbr N344RS departed Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as "GLF9" at 1454 pst bound for "Shots" on a pre-delivery test flight.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Air India still unhappy with 787

Boeing Co. said Air India Ltd. is dissatisfied with the performance of its 787 Dreamliner, joining other carriers including Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA in slamming the manufacturer for repeated faults on its marquee jet.
"Yes, they are not happy with the reliability portion, neither are we," Dinesh Keskar, a senior vice president at the Chicago-based planemaker, said in an interview at the Singapore Air Show today. "Over the last few months, we understood which are the components that were causing issues, which software needs to be upgraded."
Airlines Stick With Boeing's 787 Despite Bumpy Takeoff
The Dreamliner has experienced a series of malfunctions since its debut in 2011, including a three-month grounding of the global fleet last year after battery meltdowns on two planes. Air India, which hasn't reported an annual profit since 2007, and low-cost airliner Norwegian Air built their growth plans around the composite-material airliner and its promise of more fuel-efficient operation.
Air India diverted one of its 787s to Kuala Lumpur this month as a precaution after a software fault on a flight to New Delhi from Melbourne. Boeing is upgrading software and changing some components on Air India 787s whenever the planes can be taken out of service, Keskar said, adding that a 13th Dreamliner will be delivered to the carrier this month.
Missing Mark
Air India, which has ordered 27 Dreamliners, will seek compensation from Boeing after the carrier found that its 787s aren't as fuel efficient as the planemaker had claimed while selling them, The Times of India reported today, citing officials it didn't identify. G. P. Rao,, a spokesman at Air India, wasn't immediately available to comment.

Fuel efficiency of the Dreamliner is improving after earlier models didn't "quite make the mark" on this count, Keskar said.

More from the Singapore Airshow:
  • Boeing Working Hard on ANA Deal After Japan Air Chooses Airbus
  • Indonesia Officials Skip Singapore Airshow as Tensions Rise
  • GE Weighs Helicopter Leasing as Plane Competition Rises
The 787 is the first jetliner built chiefly of composite materials rather than traditional aluminum. It also relies to a greater degree than other jets on electricity to run the plane's systems, putting a spotlight on the lithium-ion batteries.
Mumbai-based Air India has sparred with Boeing over compensation for tardy deliveries. Even so, Keskar said Boeing sees potential aircraft deals in India later this year. The company is in advanced talks with discount carrier SpiceJet and Jet Airways, the nation's biggest publicly traded airline, to sell 737 Max jets.
In January, Japan Airlines Co., one of the biggest operators of the Dreamliner, found a battery cell in an empty jet smoking during preflight maintenance. Last year's grounding added to a history of setbacks for the Dreamliner, whose entry into commercial service in 2011 for Tokyo-based ANA Holdings Inc. was more than 3 1/2 years late because of production snags.
Boeing will increase its prediction for India plane demand in the next couple of months, Keskar said in Singapore today. The company had forecast last year that carriers in the Asian nation will need 1,450 new aircraft, worth $175 billion over the next two decades.

(Anurag Kotoky - Bloomberg)

Republic Airways shares take a dive

Republic Airways was down 5.2% to $9.34 Tuesday following news of a pilot shortage that will make the airline take 27 planes out of service in 2014.
The airline announced it expects to take 27 of its 41 Embraer planes out of service this year. The airline previously sought extensions on the planes. The move will cut pre-tax income by $18 million to $22 million.
In the announcement Republic Airways said that a "significant reduction" in the number of pilots who meet U.S. experience rules was a factor in taking the plane out of service.

(Shawn Ingram - The Street)

Florida Express Jet set for March launch

Florida Express Jet Travel
A new airline has announced plans to launch intrastate air service at Tallahassee Regional Airport.
Ft. Lauderdale-based Florida Express Jet Travel will begin offering air service between Tallahassee and Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando starting March 20, 2014.
Jeff Thompson, Director of Sales for Florida Express Jet, says fares for the initial flights will be as low as $69 for Tallahassee to Orlando and $99 for Tallahassee to Ft. Lauderdale flights.

Company leaders say they will offer 8 daily flights between the 3 cities.
Tentative scheduling involves departing Ft. Lauderdale daily at 7:00 a.m. and arriving to Orlando at 7:50 a.m. The flight would then continue to Tallahassee where it would arrive at 9:20 a.m. The return flight would depart Tallahassee at 10 a.m. with a stop in Orlando before arriving back in Ft. Lauderdale.

Florida Express Jet
The flight schedule would repeat several times each day with arrivals and departures at Tallahassee Regional Airport. The final flight departing Tallahassee will leave at 5:10 p.m.

"This service pattern will now give Floridians an opportunity to save precious time traveling throughout the State of Florida without having to visit Atlanta Hartsfield Airport for a connecting flight or driving for up to 6-8 hours,” Thompson said.

The flights will be operated by Swift Airlines using Boeing 737-400 aircrafts. The planes will feature Florida Express Jet’s name and a purple and white color scheme representing the Florida sun, water and beaches, palm trees and the state Everglades.

The interior of the aircrafts will feature blue leather seats, Wifi, and food and beverage service; among other amenities.

Later in the year, company leaders say they expect to add air service to Jacksonville, Miami, Key West, and Tampa.

(WTXL-TV - Tallahassee, Florida)

Can Boeing maintain 787 build rate?

The first several months of 2013 proved to be a trying time for Boeing as it launched its new and revolutionary 787 Dreamliner aircraft to the subsequent string of problem after problem while the new planes got acclimated.

Battery fires and circuitry problems were nearly a weekly occurrence, and airlines worldwide were forced to divert flight after flight as the problems mounted. Throughout the year, these problems settled, but Boeing is now facing yet another issue with its technological centerpiece, but this time on the production end.
At a pace of 10 units per month, the 787 is the fastest produced twin-aisle jet in the world, but employees with the company are concerned that the company won’t be able to maintain that rate. Reuters reported them as saying that the two factories that assemble the 787 are struggling to cope with a ramp-up in production that started late last year, and a huge backlog of unfinished work threatens to slow output.

Boeing’s plant in North Charleston, South Carolina reportedly has thousands of uncompleted work orders, and has been sending pieces to the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington, which is larger, to be completed so that the company can maintain its 10-a-month rate, Reuters quoted the employees as saying and adding that a work order encompasses everything from attaching a part to installing a duct system entirely.

One employee — which the site noted as being senior-level — said that much of it had to do with the 787′s complex wiring systems, and fuselage sections were being shipped in from South Carolina with large bundles of wires that were not connected properly.

It’s not a lack of knowledge or ability that’s hindering the South Carolina facility, the senior-level employee to Reuters, but shortage of workers altogether. “There are not enough of them to match the rate increase,” he said. “They can’t keep up.”

Though Boeing knows of the strain on the production line, the company maintains that it’s working through it and will meet its production goals for 2014. ”While we try to minimize it, traveled work is something we deal with in all production programs,” Boeing spokesperson Marc Birtel told Reuters. “The 787 program remains on track to meet its delivery commitments in 2014 and we are producing 787s at a rate of 10 per month as planned.”

Given that the 787 is one of Boeing’s highest-volume planes, its ability to produce them is a crucial component of Boeing’s financial performance for the year. the cash generated will be sunk into new plane development, and for appeasing shareholders’ thirst for dividends and buybacks.

As it stands now, Boeing hopes that the North Charleston factory will put out three jets per month by mid-year, while Everett fills in the remaining seven, Reuters said.

(Justin Lloyd-Miller - Wall Street CheatSheet / Reuters)  

Southwest readies to pounch on rivals downsized markets

Leading U.S. passenger carrier Southwest Airlines Co. is eyeing those markets in which rival carriers have downsized their operations. Southwest wants to tap opportunities in these markets by leveraging from its recent slot pair wins in New York and Washington D.C.
The Dallas-based carrier is targeting Memphis, Tennessee, where rival Delta Airlines Inc. trimmed operations last year. Also on Southwest’s list is the Midwestern city of Cleveland which United Continental Holdings Inc. no longer wants as its hub. Despite being small markets, Southwest is encouraged by the growth opportunities that these offer. We expect Southwest – known for its low fares – will get a strong foothold in these markets with competitive ticket prices.
Such a practice is not new for Southwest, as the carrier has previously benefited by scaling its operations in the city of Nashville in the 1990s and in St Louis, Missouri, where the erstwhile American Airlines had downsized its service.
The last few months have been really fruitful for Southwest. In Dec 2013, Southwest acquired 22 take-off and landing slots at New York’s La Guardia airport (LGA/KLGA) and recently won bids to purchase 27 take-off and landing slots at Reagan National Airport (DCA/KDCA) in Washington. The slot purchase is part of a mega merger deal between American Airlines and U.S. Airways that led to the formation of American Airlines.
The company has decided to add flights to Nashville, Texas, Chicago and Ohio from LGA and expects to expand its operations to large and mid-sized cities from DCA. Apart from slot purchases, the company delivered a stellar fourth quarter of 2013, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate on both lines.
These positives were, supported by the company’s announcement that it will operate non-stop flights from Dallas starting Oct 13, when the Wright Amendment act is lifted. Additionally, the major passenger carrier has also decided to fly beyond national boundaries to three destinations in the Caribbean Island from Jul 2014. It is thus an encouraging time for both Southwest investors and passengers.
  (Zacks Equity Research)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Southwest Airlines - Legacy carrier?

Southwest Airlines 737-3H4 (23938/1549) N334SW "Shamu One" arrives at Portland International Airport (PDX/KPDX) on August 25, 2011.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

Southwest Airlines was already a behemoth when federal regulators were grappling over the latest huge merger in the industry, and this year the airline will get even bigger.

Southwest was the dominant winner in the asset auction that federal regulators mandated as part of its approval of American’s merger with US Airways. The carriers were required to divest takeoff and landing slots at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C., as well as airport gates and other assets in several cities.

LaGuardia and Reagan are both constrained by U.S. limits on hourly aircraft operations due to congestion, so gaining ground in either venue is a big deal. (In a 2008 blog post, Southwest called its entry into New York City “GINORMOUS!”)
Rival JetBlue Airways collected slots for a dozen new daily round-trip flights at Reagan, giving it 30 total. American remains the airport’s largest carrier, with about 56 percent of the slots. Virgin America, which flies daily from Reagan National to San Francisco, is also believed to have bid for slots there, although the carrier has refused to confirm that.

The last batch of slots at Reagan has not been finalized, a Justice Department spokesman said Friday, and federal officials have declined to identify bidders for the slots at either airport aside from making it clear that United and Delta aren’t welcome in the process.
The number of daily Southwest flights at both LaGuardia and Reagan will remain modest: 33 in New York and 44 in Washington. Yet the flight expansion gives the airline more exposure to two airports with many high-paying corporate travelers. It also helps to cement the idea—at least among regulators—that Southwest serves as an effective deterrent to pricing excess by the Big Three legacy airlines. That idea will soon get a field test, with the new flights beginning in the summer.

Rival airline executives have grumbled for several years about how Southwest manages to retain its public image as a low-fare champion, even though the carrier is not always the cheapest option and has aggressively raised fares since the 2008 spike in jet fuel prices. Southwest contends that its two free checked bags per traveler—a $50 extra fee at most U.S. airlines—still keeps it ahead on total price.

Since the end of 2012, Southwest’s average one-way fare has climbed 5.5 percent, to $156.05. Comparatively, that’s still below the national round-trip domestic average of $390, as of Sept. 30, according to federal data. But the carrier has made no secret of its frantic push for new revenue as its rivals revamped their costs in bankruptcy and then bulked up through mergers.

That has left Southwest with higher costs than some newer upstarts, such as Spirit and Allegiant, while no longer being a growth airline. As a result, new business opportunities will come largely from abroad and from luring business travelers in some of the larger markets Southwest once shunned.
Southwest has grown to 3,600 daily flights since its first flight in June 1971, when its fleet numbered three Boeing 737s shuttling travelers among Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The airline is no longer “a small fish in a big pond,” as Edward Jones analyst Logan Purk told Bloomberg News.

On Monday, Feb. 3, the airline will announce a bevy of new destinations from its home base at Dallas Love Field, an airport where flights have been restricted geographically since 1979, when Congress enacted the Wright Amendment to protect Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport 25 miles west. That law expires Oct. 13, and Southwest has been heavily promoting its freedom to fly nationwide from Love Field.

The airline is also about to embark on its first international foray this year, with new flights to Aruba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas starting in July. Southwest is building a new international terminal at Houston’s Hobby Airport to allow it to fly to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. That facility is scheduled to open next year, in what promises to be a year of expansion for Southwest.

(Justin Bachman - BloombergBuinessweek)

Fewer complaints, better service? Not really!

Airline passengers complain dramatically more about large airlines than they do about discounters, even when the actual quality of the carriers’ performance is similar, according to a new paper that examined traveler complaints to the federal government over a decade.

The startling conclusion—and one any C-suite executive at American or Delta has long rued—is that smaller airlines such as Alaska, Southwest, and JetBlue Airways tend to catch a break from the public. How come? One likely reason is that the Deltas and Uniteds of the airline industry carry a higher percentage of business travelers, who pay steeper fares and expect better service in return. Smaller airlines predominantly serve leisure travelers and others who are less likely to even know about the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

“When I first started this, I had no idea it was possible to make a complaint to the government about a service failure,” says Mike Wittman, a graduate student at MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation who compiled the gripe data from 2002 to 2012. His paper was published last month in the Journal of Air Transport Management.

Federal transportation officials compile airline complaints and issue a detailed monthly report on service quality. A complaint to the DOT is also likely to prod an airline to respond to a problem it may have otherwise ignored or overlooked. The consumer protection office also accepts compliments for airlines and tallied a grand total of two positive remarks from travelers in November 2013, the month covered in the most recent report. Travelers submitted 755 complaints that month.

Recent years have seen a steady stream of travel complaints, but whining spiked in both 2000 and 2007 at times when airport congestion led to severe delays. Mergers also seem to lead to an uptick in issues. United saw a sharp increase in complaints during 2012 due to severe operational problems as part of its merger with Continental; Delta has seen its complaint tallies drop ever since it finished absorbing Northwest in 2010.

Aside from those outliers, however, airline performance has been fairly uniform even though the targets selected by complainers have not. United and Southwest, for example, mishandle similar volumes of luggage, but complaints about United’s baggage woes surpassed Southwest’s by a rate of nearly 10 to 1, Wittman found:

Across three common complaint areas—delayed flights, mishandled bags, and denied boardings—Southwest received roughly 4 complaints per 10 million passengers, while United’s complaint rate was 12 times higher in the same period. Likewise, JetBlue’s 76 percent on-time performance was the worst across the industry in the 10-year period studied by Wittman, owing to its hub location at JFK International in New York. Yet JetBlue’s complaint rate for delays came in below American, Delta, United, and US Airways.