Saturday, November 29, 2014

U.K. Royal Air Force takes delivery of its first A400M

The UK Royal Air Force has welcomed its first Airbus A400M Atlas tactical transport for training use, as the service makes preparations to stand up its first operational squadron with the type early next year.


Lead aircraft ZM400 was formally revealed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on 27 November, some 10 days after it arrived on its delivery flight from Airbus Defence & Space's final assembly site in Seville, Spain.


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Crown Copyright


It was flown again the day after its receipt, before remaining on the ground due to an undisclosed technical fault, the RAF says. The transport was used to support ground-based training during this period, but is due to be returned to flight status by the end of the week, the service adds.


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Airbus Defence & Space


The first of 22 A400Ms on order for the UK, production aircraft MSN15 will be followed swiftly by several other RAF examples, with two more expected to be handed over before year-end. The second aircraft was transferred to Airbus's Getafe site near Madrid on 26 November to have its defensive aids system equipment installed, the service says, while a first flight date will soon be set for its third example.


Despite a roughly two-month delay to ZM400 arriving at Brize Norton, programme officials still expect the RAF to be able to declare initial operational capability with the transport in March 2015, following the acceptance of its first seven aircraft and the availability of sufficient trained crews to operate them.


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All 22 of the UK's new aircraft will be in use by 2018, with the type to progressively assume responsibility from the RAF's Lockheed Martin C-130Js. This process will start next year, with Atlas crews beginning the process by initially performing strategic transport tasks, the service says.


The A400M will also have full capability to support special forces operations by the time the last Hercules leave use in 2022, says Wg Cdr Doz James, officer commanding the 24 Sqn training unit at Brize Norton.


Activities are already under way at the A400M Training Services-run "school house", with a test intake of instructors currently using the facility before 70 Sqn's lead instructors start their course in January. The facility has equipment including one full-flight simulator and maintenance trainers now in use.


Welcoming the new arrival, minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne notes that the aircraft has been introduced "on time against the re-baselined contract profile, and on-budget".


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Airbus Defence & Space


The type's introduction with the UK military has also been eagerly anticipated by the aircraft's manufacturer. "We see the RAF's use of the A400M as being the central pillar of a government-supported export strategy," says Airbus UK president Paul Kahn.


Meanwhile, Airbus Defence & Space executive vice-president military aircraft Domingo Ureña Raso says a new sale of the A400M could still be finalised before the end of the year. "We are working very hard," he says, pointing to market interest in the type from Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. "We are working with several countries, and the interest is going up.”


"A contract could not be so far away," he adds, noting: "there are air forces who need to replace a lot of old capabilities."


(Craig Hoyle - FlightGlobal News)

German Chancellor behind Air Berlin - Etihad dispute

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is backing loss-making Air Berlin in a dispute over whether its Abu Dhabi-based partner Etihad is exercising too much control, Focus magazine reported on Saturday.



Etihad, which owns a 29 percent stake in Air Berlin, is under investigation by German and European authorities over its partnership with Germany's second largest airline after Lufthansa.


For Air Berlin to maintain its European operating license, it must be majority controlled by European investors.


Without citing its sources, Focus said Merkel told Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt at a cabinet meeting that she did not want to "dig the grave" of Air Berlin and that Germany needed competition between two strong national carriers.


The German government declined to comment on the report.


Dobrindt will only make a decision on Etihad's involvement in Air Berlin early next year, the Wirtschaftswoche weekly reported on Saturday, citing sources at the transport ministry.



The Wirtschaftswoche cited an unnamed source at Lufthansa as criticizing the delay in reaching a decision.


Last month, the German federal aviation authority (LBA) suspended a decision to block Etihad from selling tickets for some flights operated by Air Berlin.


The LBA checks codeshare deals every time airlines submit winter and summer schedules for flights to and from Germany.


Deutsche Lufthansa has said it would not fly between Abu Dhabi and Frankfurt in the summer of 2015 because it had become uneconomical due to overcapacity it blamed on Etihad and Air Berlin, calling their code shares "unjustified."


(Reuters)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Azul announces order for 63 A320neo aircraft

Azul has committed to 63 Airbus A320neo aircraft, citing comfort and lower operating costs over the competing Boeing 737 Max for its decision.


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Azul


The Brazilian carrier will buy 35 aircraft directly from the European airframer, lease 20 from AerCap and another eight from GECAS, it says. Delivers will begin in 2016 and continue through 2023.


“Azul will soon offer even more seats on our longer haul flights, allowing us to reduce operating costs," says David Neeleman, founder and chief executive of Azul, in a statement. "In addition to its market leading economics, which will allow Azul to stimulate new demand, the A320neo is also a perfect complement to our E-Jet fleet, giving us additional seats and capacity.”


The aircraft will be configured with 174 economy seats, which is larger than its fleet of ATR 72-600s, Embraer 190s with 106 seats and Embraer 195s with 118 seats.


Azul has selected CFM International LEAP-1A engines for its A320neos.


(Edward Russell - FlightGlobal News)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Vietjet Air takes delivery of first factory fresh A320

VietJet Air has taken delivery of its first Airbus A320 aircraft ordered directly from the airframer.

The A320, VN-A697, is part of an order in which the airline has placed for 42 A320neos, 13 A320s and seven A321s, Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database.

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(Airbus)

“The A320 has proven to be extremely efficient in service with VietJetAir and is a favourite with our passengers,” says managing director Luu Duc Khanh.

“Based on this experience, we look forward to developing our business across the Asia-Pacific region, with the most economic and comfortable aircraft. We are delighted to celebrate this delivery as we embark on a new phase in our expansion."

Ascend shows that VietJet has 16 A320s in service.

(Aaron Chong - FlightGlobal News)

A350 training wins industry approval

Toulouse, France-based Airbus Training will see its revolutionary “learning by discovery” pilot and engineer type-rating training system put to the test for the first time next month as Airbus A350 launch customer Qatar Airways prepares to put its aircraft into service.

Director of A350 flight operations and training support for Airbus, Christian Norden, says customer feedback from all the early A350 buyers has so far been unanimously enthusiastic, as has the reaction of the national aviation authorities. Meanwhile the EASA and the US Federal Aviation Administration have accepted the A350 as a variant of the A330 series, thus according it a common type rating.

Norden says Airbus has noticed major changes in what airlines look for when introducing a new aircraft into service. “The days of rewriting manuals are gone – even for the legacy carriers,” he says. “It’s a cost issue, but the complexity is too high now. And where manuals used to be written by development engineers, now they are written by Airbus flight operations engineers, with the customers.”

Norden says that all kinds of carriers are now more likely than ever to seek turnkey solutions to training needs, and they expect the original equipment manufacturers to be able to supply them.

The “learning by discovery” concept puts pilots into the A350 full flight simulator to experiment with the full range of aircraft manual handling characteristics far earlier in the type rating course than is traditionally the case. Airbus has also introduced new training tools that extend that philosophy.

One of them, a laptop-based programme called ACE (Airbus Cockpit Experience), replaces traditional computer-based learning. It introduces pilots to the flightdeck and its systems via a virtual display that allows them to scan 360° around the instrument and control panels, push buttons with mouse-clicks, and see the results.

Toulouse, France-based Airbus Training will see its revolutionary “learning by discovery” pilot and engineer type-rating training system put to the test for the first time next month as Airbus A350 launch customer Qatar Airways prepares to put its aircraft into service.
  
(David Learmount - FlightGlobal News)

787-8 in service report by FlightGlobal News

Flightglobal should have published this Boeing 787 in-service report about 18 months ago.

That would have been about 18 months into the type's service life – a period Flightglobal has traditionally regarded as long enough for a new aircraft to be over normal teething problems, and thus a good time to report in detail on what operators are thinking about the type.

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(Boeing)
 
But in the case of the 787, 18 months after launch customer All Nippon Airways began revenue service with a charter flight from Tokyo Narita to Hong Kong was April 2013 – and the entire fleet was grounded while Boeing scrambled to resolve lithium-ion battery problems. As a result, it has taken until now to bring together a balanced view of operators’ experience with an aircraft type that has been as troubled as it is technically ambitious.

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(Boeing)
 
To prepare this assessment of a programme that has seen an unusually large measure of anticipation, criticism and praise, Flightglobal dispatched five correspondents to visit operators on three different continents – including several of the earliest customers with the most experience operating the 787-8.

In summary, the 787-8 operators we interviewed are satisfied with the overall performance of the aircraft, but frustrated by lingering teething issues and sub-par reliability levels.

For the full picture, check out our dedicated 787 in-service report page.

Lion Group announces new 40 ATR-72-600 order

Indonesia's Lion Group signed a purchase agreement Thursday for 40 additional ATR 72-600 turboprops in a deal worth $1 billion at list prices.
 
The agreement was signed in Rome and brings the Lion Group’s total order book for ATR 72-600s to 100, making it the largest customer for the type.
 
Lion Group already has three of its subsidiary airlines operating ATRs: Wings Air with a fleet of 32 ATRs in Indonesia; Malindo Air with 10 ATRs in Malaysia; and Thai Lion Air, with one aircraft in Thailand.
 
The additional 40 ATR 72-600s will be used to meet the growing demand forecast over the next five years both within the Group's existing operators' networks and to develop other opportunities for ATR operations throughout Asia and developing markets worldwide, ATR said in a statement. Deliveries of this set of aircraft will start in 2017 and run into 2019.
 
The Pratt & Whitney-powered ATR 72-600 seats between 68 and 74 passengers and has a maximum range of 900 nautical miles.
 
“The ATR 72-600 aircraft are very competitive as they enable us to ensure a high frequency service. With these new generation airplanes in our fleet, the Lion Group will continue to contribute to the economic development in Indonesia, Malaysia and Asia, including remote regions as well as tourist driven markets such as Bali, Java, Kalimantan [Borneo] and Sumatra,” Lion Group chairman Rusdi Kirana said.

Lion Air was established in October 1999 and started operations in June 2000.

(Karen Walker - ATWOnline News)

The airlines battle for LAX-JFK passengers

Los Angeles International Airport has become a battleground for airlines trying to draw well-heeled business executives and Hollywood celebrities flying coast to coast.
 
The weapons in the fight for the transcontinental VIP are luxuries like down pillows, in-flight espresso machines, chauffeur-driven Cadillacs and meals cooked up by celebrity chefs.
 
"Movie stars, movers and shakers. It is why airlines compete so rigorously for the transcon," said George Hobica, an airline industry expert and founder of the website Airfarewatchdog.com.
    These fliers are the most lucrative segment of the 3.15 million passengers who fly from L.A. to New York each year — the country's third-busiest domestic route.
 
The transcontinental route has become highly competitive because of the high percentage of fliers who are paying with a company credit card and don't worry how much it costs. Then there is the celebrity crowd that routinely shuttles between Los Angeles and New York and is used to being coddled.
 
"It's extremely profitable because it's one of the few routes in the country with a significant volume of people who will pay for first- and business-class seats," said Henry Harteveldt, an airline analyst and co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group.
 
Airlines won't disclose the names of the VIPs who take advantage of the extra perks. But television host Carson Daly, TV fashion judge Nina Garcia and actors Neil Patrick Harris and Tim Daley have tweeted rave reviews of American's transcontinental service.
 
Actresses Jessica Alba, Jamie Pressley and Vanessa Hudgens have either posted tweets or been photographed flying on Virgin America's transcontinental flights.
 
Business executives say they enjoy the luxuries offered on the transcontinental flights but most important to them is good service, a comfortable seat with room to work and a reliable wireless Internet connection.
 
"The key is that they understand that I have to be someplace, and I have to attend a meeting," said Alex Gerwer, a health insurance executive from Los Angeles who travels often to the East Coast on Delta. "So the airline becomes a de facto partner in getting me there. That is important."
 
Carriers disagree over who initiated the latest arms race for VIPs.
 
United Airlines launched a "Premier Service" from L.A. and New York in 2004, but the airline upped the ante with lie-flat seats and other extras last year. Now fliers on the six daily round-trip flights between LAX and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York get complimentary noise-reducing headphones, eye shades, duvets and pillows, and wines picked by a master sommelier.
 
"It's very important to us because you have the two largest cities in the country for business, and L.A. is the entertainment capital so you have lots of celebrities on that route," said Karen May, a spokeswoman for United.
 
Not to be outdone, Delta Air Lines, with eight daily round-trip flights between L.A. and New York, hired celebrity chef Michael Chiarello to create multi-course meals for Business Elite passengers. Elite passengers get a chauffeured Porsche to take them between terminals to make connecting flights.
 
JetBlue Airways in June started a new brand of service called Mint that features lie-flat seats, pre-takeoff drinks, meals created by New York restaurant Saxon + Parole and amenity kits filled with beauty and grooming products. The airline now has six daily flights between LAX and New York.

The service has been so profitable that JetBlue just announced plans to add more flights from L.A. to New York and San Francisco to New York.

American Airlines entered the battle by adding 17 new A321 jets to its fleet earlier this year, dedicating most of them to fly 13 daily flights between Los Angeles and New York, the most of any carrier at LAX.

"Over the last two years, there has been a significant evolution as the competition has upped their game," said Andrew Nocella, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at American Airlines.

Passengers on American's transcontinental flights get to sip piping-hot espresso from an onboard machine while enjoying as many as 700 movies, TV shows, songs and video games. A chauffeur-driven Cadillac can meet them at the tarmac to make tight connecting flights in style. The plane even has a ventilated pet compartment in the first-class section.

American offers an extra amenity at LAX: A special check-in gate at Terminal 4 lets high-profile VIPs avoid the crowded terminal to slip into the front of security screening lines, then zip back into the airline's premium lounge to wait for their flight. VIPs can cut to the front of the line because the airlines and the airports — not the Transportation Security Administration — control the queues that lead to the screening gates.

If you're not rich or famous and end up in the back of the plane in economy, the perks disappear.

Gina Kano, a marketing executive from Los Angeles, said she recently flew American from Los Angeles to New York. She had to sit in the economy section because she lost her premium loyalty status when she took a new job.

"It's so cramped back there that we couldn't even work on our laptops," she said. "Once the person in front of you reclines, you are done."

(Hugo Martin - The Los Angeles Times)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NokScoot unveils new livery

Thai long-haul, low-cost carrier NokScoot has unveiled the first Boeing 777-200 painted in its distinct livery.
 
The white and yellow fuselage is similar to 49% shareholder Scoot’s livery on its own 777s, while the distinct NokScoot logo is featured on the tailfin. It also bears the ‘beak’ motif found on Nok Air’s 737s.
 
The Thai budget carrier also owns a 49% stake in NokScoot, with the remaining 2% held by a company established by Nok's management.

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(Image NokScoot)

“The design not only represents our spirit of adventure and exploration, but it also reflects who we are. Our fun, cheerfulness and friendliness will be present both in the air and on the ground at all airports,” says NokScoot chief executive Piya Yodmani.

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(Image NokScoot)

Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database shows that the Rolls-Royce Trent 884-powered aircraft was built in 2001, and was purchased earlier this year from Singapore Airlines.

NokScoot secured its air operator’s certificate on 30 October, and plans to launch services to Japan during the first quarter of 2015. It is based at Bangkok Don Mueang International airport.

(Ellis Taylor - FlightGlobal News)

Alaska Airlines announces Milwaukee service

Alaska Airlines announced its entry into Milwaukee Tuesday morning through an expansion that is adding three new destinations from the airline's Northwest hubs.

The expansion is through a partnership with SkyWest Airlines and will allow Seattle-based Alaska to begin offering daily nonstop flights between Seattle and Milwaukee starting July 1, 2015. It also will be adding flights between Seattle and Oklahoma City and between Portland, Ore., and St. Louis.

The only other nonstop Milwaukee-to-Seattle flight is offered by Southwest Airlines.

Alaska's trips will be flown on new Embraer E175 jets featuring 12 seats in first class and 64 in coach. One-way introductory fares on the new routes have been set at $119.

"The E175 is new for the Alaska brand and fills a specific need to serve 'long, thin routes' -- destinations that are too distant for our regional aircraft, but currently don't have enough customer demand to fill a mainline jet," said Andrew Harrison, senior vice president of planning and revenue management for Alaska Airlines, in a news release.

The Utah-based SkyWest has purchased seven E175 aircraft to fly on behalf of Alaska under a capacity purchase agreement. The first three aircraft will arrive in summer 2015, and the remaining four will be delivered in early 2016.

(Rob Gebelhoff - Milwaukee Business Journal)

Ethiopian takes delivery of fourth B777 freighter

Ethiopian Airlines’ fleet expansion continues, with Africa's largest cargo operator taking delivery of its fourth 777F last week, 777-F60 (42032/1252) ET-ARI.
 
The acquisition of the latest pair of 777 freighters (the third was delivered last month) has been financed in part through a $41.4m loan from ING Capital.
 
The arrival of a new generation freighter will add further capacity and flexibility to a route network that serves 24 destinations in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Ethiopian is still the only African operator of the 777 freighter.
 
(AirCargo News)

 

US and Mexico open the door to new crossborder routes

A new civil aviation agreement between the US and Mexico, due to come into force from January 2016, could see major new cross-border opportunities emerge for cargo carriers.

The agreement includes “unlimited market access for US and Mexican air carriers, improved intermodal rights, pricing flexibility, and other important commercial rights,” according to a statement from the US Department of Transportation.
 
Negotiated and agreed as a key element of the US-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue, the agreement is set to see, for the first time, both cargo and passenger airlines having commercial freedom to fly between any city in Mexico and any city in the US.

Cargo airlines, in particular, will have expanded opportunities to provide service to new destinations that are not available under the current agreement.

“Travellers, shippers, airlines, and the economies of both countries will benefit from competitive pricing and more convenient air service,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

(AirCargo News)

Asiana set to take delivery of first 747-8F

Asiana will take delivery of the first of five Boeing 747-8 freighters set to join the South Korean operator’s fleet.
 
The aircraft, initially destined for Atlas Air in an order that was not taken up, is being leased from China's ICBC Financial Leasing Co.
 
Asiana currently operate Boeing 747-400Fs (plus a single 767-300F) on routes encompassing Asia, Europe and North America.
 
(AirCargo News) 

FAA may require fix for 787 proximity sensors

LAN 787-8 (42224/205) CC-BBH arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on October 22, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration proposed requiring a fix for Boeing's 787-8 Dreamliner on Wednesday, a move prompted by "numerous reports of failures of proximity sensors" on the high-tech plane's wings.

A sensor failure could cause the plane to go off the runway while landing on a short runway or in adverse weather, the FAA said in a proposed airworthiness directive scheduled to be published on Friday.

The directive, if adopted, would affect 15 planes registered in the United States, the FAA said. FAA actions are often followed by non-U.S. airlines. Through the end of October, Boeing has delivered 197 787-8s worldwide.

"We have received numerous reports of failures of the proximity sensor within the slat skew detection mechanism assembly (DMA) leading to slats up landing events," the FAA said.

"It was determined that the failed sensors had broken magnet wires due to stresses induced by thermal expansion and contraction of an epoxy applied around them," the agency added.

The new rule would require 787-8 operators to replace the slat skew detection mechanism assembly within two years of the date the directive takes effect. The cost is estimated at $935 per plane.
 
Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company had advised airlines in March about the problem, in a service bulletin, the FAA said. The FAA action would make action mandatory.

(Alwyn Scott - Reuters)

188 House members urge Norwegian Air rejection

A bipartisan group of 188 lawmakers is urging the Department of Transportation (DOT) to reject Norwegian Airlines’ bid to increase flights to airports in the U.S. and Europe. 

Norwegian Air is attempting to gain access to airports that are covered under the U.S. and European Union’s Open Skies agreement by registering its airplanes in Ireland, which is a member of the EU. 

The Scandinavian company has said it will be able to offer transatlantic flights for as low as $150 each way if its effort is approved by the Department of Transportation, where it has been pending for most of the year.

However, a group of 188 lawmakers signed a letter this week to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx urging him to reject the Norwegian Air (NAI) bid because they said it would be unfair to U.S. airlines that register their airplanes domestically and abide by strict federal aviation rules.
 
“We urge DOT to deny NAI's pending application for a foreign air carrier permit,” the lawmakers wrote. “We remain concerned that granting NAI's application for a foreign air carrier permit would not be in the public interest and would unfairly put domestic airlines at a competitive disadvantage.

We also reiterate our belief that the business model of NAI does not comply with the provisions of the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement.”

The letter, which was spearheaded by Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.), comes ahead of a scheduled meeting between transportation officials in the Obama administration and their counterparts from the European Union about the controversial Norwegian Air bid this week. 

Labor unions that represent pilots and flight attendants that work for U.S.-based airlines have campaigned vocally against the Norwegian Air “Open Skies” application for nearly a year, arguing the company is only able to offer lower ticket prices for international flights because it skirts labor laws that are normally applied to air carriers.

The airline’s CEO, Bjorn Kjos, said in a speech in Washington last week that opponents of his company’s plans were painting a false picture of its operations.
 
“It’s a Boeing. It’s the same crew. It’s the same pilots and they’re definitely not unsafe,” Kjos said of the planes Norwegian Air would fly to the U.S. if its “Open Skies” application is approved.

Norwegian Air currently flies planes that are registered in its home country to airports in New York, California and Florida under a subsidy company that is known as Norwegian Air Shuttle. The company argues the low-cost business model for his company's main airline requires access to more "Open Skies" airports in Europe, which also requires U.S. approval as part of the original agreement, to provide more route flexibility in its flight network. 

Norwegian Air has been trying to get approval for a full foreign carrier permit by registering its airplanes in Ireland instead of in its home country, which has riled members of the U.S. aviation industry because they argue that Irish aviation regulations are more lax than other EU nations.

Critics of Norwegian Air's bid already won a victory from the Obama administration when the DOT ruled in September that the company did not qualify for an exemption that allows foreign carriers who are seeking access to U.S. airports under the Open Skies agreement to begin providing flights while their full applications are still being review by federal regulators.

The lawmakers who wrote to Foxx this week said the DOT should press forward now with a full rejection of Norwegian Air, noting that the Republican-led House has already passed legislation intended to prevent maneuvers like the company is attempting now. 

“That initial decision by DOT was critically important to the U.S. aviation industry and its hundreds of thousands of employees who strive to compete on a level playing field,” the letter said. 

“As you know, in June, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed an amendment that would require the DOT to ensure that any foreign air operators' applications follow the terms of the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement and U.S. law,” the lawmakers continued.

“That amendment was driven by the belief that NAI's flag-of-convenience business model does not comply with U.S. and international law, and would be detrimental to the future of the U.S. aviation industry, aviation workers and our national economy.”

(Keith Laing- The Hill) 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Boeing begins final assembly of first 787-9 at South Carolina facility

Boeing has started final assembly of the 787-9 Dreamliner at its South Carolina facility. The team began joining large fuselage sections of the newest 787 Nov. 22 on schedule, according to a Boeing statement.  

The North Charleston, South Carolina, site joins Boeing’s Everett final assembly in Washington state, which began 787-9 production in May 2013. United Airlines will take delivery of the first South Carolina-built 787-9.

(Linda Blachly 0 ATWOnline News)

Avianca looks at 160 narrowbody aircraft order

Avianca Holdings plans to order more than 160 narrowbody aircraft by the end of the year, chairman Germán Efromovich told ATW in Abu Dhabi.
                                                                       
“We have not yet decided which manufacturer to go with,” Efromovich said, adding the decision is between Airbus and Boeing. “This is a delicate process,” he said, confirming the order will be “all together more than 160 narrowbody aircraft.” He said it would be a long-term order for deliveries around 2024. He added, “80% of these aircraft will be for replacement.”

Avianca is expecting to take delivery of the first of 15 Boeing 787-8s next month. “The first 787-8 is sitting in Seattle, waiting for certification and was originally expected in 2010,” he said.

Efromovich said he is also studying the larger variant 787-9 and did not rule out the possibility of swapping out some of the -8s for -9s.

Avianca Holdings has around 75 new aircraft in its current orderbook, which comprises 15 787-8s, 10 Airbus A350s and 50 A320 family aircraft, according to Efromovich.

Avianca Brazil, which was scheduled to launch long-haul flights this year, has postponed flights until “next year,” Efromovich said.

“Brazil is a growing market and there is a demand for long haul. The delay is more comfortable in terms of planning this more safely. There were elections [in Brazil] recently and the dollar is going up.”

Avianca Brazil’s first routes will be Orlando and Miami, Florida. European routes are being planned for later on.

According to Efromovich, Avianca Brazil will start with four Airbus A330s, which will increase as necessary. “In 2018, this could be up to 10 Airbus A350s,” he said.

Efromovich is studying routes to Asia from Latin America, “but not for next year. China or Japan could be some spots we would operate [Boeing] 787s through Los Angeles,” he explained.

As of Sept. 30, Avianca’s fleet comprised 180 aircraft—165 of which are currently operational—including:

58 A320s (27 on operating lease); 36 A319s (17 on operating lease); 12 Embraer E-190s (two on operating lease); 11 ATR-72s; 11 A330s (10 on operating lease); 10 A318s (all on operating lease); 10 Cessna Grand Caravans; nine ATR-42s (five on operating lease); eight A-321s (six on operating lease); five A330 freighters; five Fokker 100s; three Boeing 767 freighters (one on operating lease) and two Fokker 50s.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Frontier Airlines orders A321ceos

Colorado-based Frontier Airlines has placed its first Airbus A321 order, inking a deal for nine of the type to join its all-Airbus fleet.

The order takes Frontier to a backlog of 89 Airbus aircraft, including 80 A320neos. Airbus said the carrier has not yet announced its engine selection or seating configuration for the A321s.

Frontier began its transition to an all-Airbus fleet when it took delivery of its first Airbus aircraft in 2001. The Airbus single-aisle family has allowed the airline to expand its route network while minimizing operating costs.

Frontier Airlines CEO David Siegel said, “We continue to come back for more A320 family aircraft because they fulfill our mission of providing low fares through low operating costs. The A321 is a natural fit with our unique brand of low fares.”

Frontier Airlines currently flies a fleet of 35 A319ceos and 20 A320ceos.

(Victoria Moores  - ATWOnline News)

Rude air passengers fuel holiday frustrations

As millions of travelers take to the sky this week during the year's busiest travel period, hassles and frustration stem not only from airport crowds and inefficient airlines but from rude passengers, who are uninformed — or unconcerned — with in-flight manners, according to recent surveys.

And it's not all about the reclining seat controversy that grabbed so much attention this summer when several flights had to be diverted because of onboard air rage incidents concerning reclining seats invading the personal space of the passenger behind.

Beefs about reclining seats ranked sixth, according to a list of 10 "Flying Faux Pas" by travel app TripIt.

The top gripe was other travelers being rude to airline crew and staff, and to airport security personnel. Undisciplined children who misbehave or disturb others ranked second, followed by seatmates who hog space, and loud-talkers.

This Thanksgiving holiday period, nearly 25 million passengers are expected to travel on U.S. airlines, up 1.5 percent over last year, according to airline industry group Airlines for America.

O'Hare International Airport is expected to be the third-most-traveled airport, after airports in Atlanta and Los Angeles. The busiest travel day during the holiday — and for the year — will be the Sunday after Thanksgiving as many travelers return from holiday visits.

The survey found other air travel offenses were:

•People blocking the baggage claim area.

•People bringing stinky food on the plane.

•Travelers who hog the carry-on bin.

•Those who rush off the plane instead of waiting for passengers in front to exit.

•People who block aisles during a flight.

"Knowing the behaviors that are the biggest turnoffs to travelers can make everyone's experience better during the travel-heavy Thanksgiving holiday, and year-round," TripIt says.

TripIt conducted the survey in September among 400 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

Of course, airlines and airports contribute to hassles too.

In a separate survey by flier-advocacy group Travelers' Voice, passengers said the most frustrating aspect of air travel was the fees — for checked bags, seat assignments and other services that used to be included in the price of an airline ticket.

Flight delays and cancellations came in second, with the overall cost of flying ranking third.

Tops on passengers' wish list was increasing the amount of legroom between airplane seats and the size of the seat itself.

The biggest onboard frustrations, according to the Traveler's Voice survey, stemmed from sitting in front of a young child who frequently kicks and pushes your seatback. Sitting near a crying baby came in second, followed by sitting in the same airplane row as a snoring adult.

That survey was conducted Oct. 16-19.

(Gregory Karp - Chicago Tribune)

A successor to the 777......really?

Boeing needs no introduction. The aerospace giant has been supplying airplanes for both commercial and defense purposes for a very long time. The company's market penetration is by far the largest in its line of business. The company is known for its innovation and its revolutionizing aircrafts.

Recently, though, the company has seemed to put this in question. For a company known to develop the latest and most up-to-date aircraft and related technologies, sticking to supplying the same old model of 777 aircraft after having announced its successor seems strange. This has more to do with the fact that planes that are built today burn less fuel and need less maintenance than their predecessors.

Boeing faces that issue with its 777, a jumbo jet that has become a well-liked staple of global airline fleets over the past 15 years. The 777 sales problem drew a fresh spotlight this week, when Delta Air Lines announced an order for 50 twin-aisle jets from Airbus, split between the A350 and A330neo models, to replace Delta's aged 747 and 767-300 fleets. Boeing's focus on the 777 is understandable.

With a list price of $330 million, the 777-300ER accounts for virtually all of the remaining 777 order book-making it a key component of Boeing's profitability. The Delta deal is driven in no small part by the lower prices and faster delivery speeds Airbus was able to offer the airline.

But the older 777s Boeing pitched for use at Delta's Seattle hub and on its trans-Atlantic routes was a big factor, and Delta's decision underscores the market's lack of interest in a plane that is awaiting replacement.

The Production Gap Issue:

Boeing has promised to bridge the production gap from the old 777 to the 777X, its next-generation replacement, by netting as few as 40 orders per year. The order scenario so far this year is that Boeing has taken 55 orders for the 777, including a deal announced on Thursday to sell 10 to Kuwait Airways.

The new order is worth $3.3 billion at list price, but Kuwait Airways probably negotiated a discount in excess of 50 percent, given both Boeing's need to move 777s and the price breaks manufacturers typically offer customers.

The industry experts feel that the aero-giant can fulfill the gap requirement either by turning out fewer than eight 777s each month or by offering steep discounts to buyers. The current rat of 100 crafts a year has the analysts skeptical about the company's promise.

Available Options:

The company's ground-breaking 787 Dreamliner, which recently clocked over 490,000 hours in service with 21 airline operators since its service entry in November 2011, is another option the company has. The company's fixation with 777 seems pretty irrational when the option of 787 is available.

The analysts feel if the company replaces the production of 777 with 787 for a year, there might be an unbelievable surge in the company's profits. The long-range, midsized, wide-body jet consumes at least 20% lesser fuel compared with similar jets.

With seat capacity ranging between 242 and 323 across the three models -- 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10 -- Boeing claims the plane offers about 10% lower cash seat mile cost. The craze of this plane was such that it attracted a highest bid of $34,000 for a seat in the maiden commercial flight in October 2011.

Now, would someone show the company reason to give up its fixation with the 777? The company badly needs a reality check.

In October 2013, Boeing had lifted its 787 deferred cost projection from $20 billion to $25 billion on account of increased spending to launch the 787-10 and related plans to augment capacity at its factory in North Charleston in 2014 and 2015.

However, in the latest quarter, Boeing reported that the Dreamliner's deferred cost has shot up by $947 million and gone past $25 billion to $25.2 billion. In spite of the ongoing problems, the company's order book remained strong for the quarter.

The pay-out too has been decent. It waits to be seen though, how the company goes about fulfilling its promise. As for the investors, they can always expect good returns from the company.

(GuruFocus)

Southwest Airlines in battle with TWU 555 and ground operations employees

Transport Workers Union Local 555 plans to picket Tuesday at Dallas Love Field by highlighting the fact that Southwest Airlines has more reports of lost or damaged bags than any other U.S. carrier.
It also is taking out a hard-hitting ad in USA Today that attacks Southwest chairman and chief executive officer Gary Kelly, accusing him of putting profit ahead of people and service.

“In our industry, it’s all about the customers,” Local 555 president Charles Cerf said in the union’s notice. “We can’t stand idly by while management makes bad decisions that drive away passengers. If people keep losing bags on Southwest, they’ll vote with their wallets and select other carriers – and that threatens the livelihood of our members.”

While the union doesn’t point it out, Southwest also carries the most passengers of any carrier.
Here are some factoids from U.S. Department of Transportation’s consumer service reports:

– Southwest has carried more passengers than any other U.S. airline since 2005.

– Southwest has received more bag reports – damaged, lost or other unhappy results with passenger bags – than any other U.S. airline every year since 2006. Just about every month, it has more reports than any other carrier.

– Southwest’s position relative to other carriers has gotten worse since 2008 when other airlines began charging for checked bags, causing more of their customers to use carry-on bags rather than checking their luggage.

– Between 1998 and 2010, its rate of bag reports was worse than the industry average only once – in 2001. Since 2011, Southwest’s rate has been worse than the industry average for three of four years.

– Through September, the 2014 rate is 4.27 bag complaints per 1,000 passengers, or 10th out of 14 U.S. carriers. That compares to the 1998-2013 average of 4.10 reports per 1,000 passengers.

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King issued this response:

“Although it’s a common practice, informational picketing does not change the Company’s approach to negotiations. We continue to share the Union’s sense of urgency to secure a fair agreement. Reaching the right deal for both Employees and the Company remains a top priority; and it must be one that is fair to all Employees, enables the Company to grow, and protects our position as a low-cost leader in the industry.
 
“We have a renewed focus and effort on improving baggage delivery and over the past few months, we’ve seen a steady decline in our mishandled baggage rate. In October, we proudly delivered approximately 99.5 percent of our bags correctly and we continue to see improvements.
 
“Regarding the number of bag carried, the packing habits of Southwest passengers haven’t changed. Customers continue to pack the same number of bags since the “Bags Fly Free” campaign was initiated in 2008. What the campaign has done is attract more Customers to Southwest, improving the bottom line. At the same time, the number of bags carried on other airlines has decreased, which improves their overall DOT ranking.
 
“As the number of Southwest Customers increase, we continue to hire in response to that growth. Over the last three years, the annual number of bags handled per Ramp Agent has steadily declined, not increased.”
 
Back to original item:

TWU is taking out an ad in Tuesday’s USA Today with the message “Help me… I’m Lost.” In TWU’s release, Cerf noted that Southwest is operating bigger airplanes — 143-seat and 175-seat Boeing 737s rather than the 122-seat and 137-seat 737s of the past.

“Quite simply, under the leadership of Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines places profit ahead of people and a quality product. The airline now flies larger planes packed with more bags than ever before but doesn’t hire additional baggage handlers and in the past four years, hasn’t provided a raise to half of its ground workers,” its ad says.

While the ad says Southwest was “historically known for rarely losing luggage,” the carrier has ranked in the bottom half – the worse half – of the industry for eight of the past 17 years. It has finished first only once.

“With more suitcases, larger planes, tighter schedules and an overworked ground crew, it is sadly no surprise that we’re losing more bags than anybody else. That means delays for all Southwest customers – even those who don’t check their baggage,” Cerf said.

Contract talks between Southwest and Local 555 started in July 2011. The union had picketed in March 2013 and focused its criticism then on Southwest’s efforts to use more temporary labor during high-demand periods.

Cerf was one of 10 union presidents to sign a June letter in which they criticized the poor morale at the carrier and urged management to reach new contracts with their labor groups.

Below, we have some charts of Southwest’s position relative to the industry.

First, here is Southwest’s ranking on total bag reports (complaints) and on total passengers carried.

YearReportsPassengers
199854
199953
200043
200122
200232
200332
200432
200531
200611
200711
200811
200911
201011
201111
201211
201311
201411

Next, here is Southwest’s rate of bag reports per 1,000 passengers compared to that of all carriers tracked by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

YearSouthwestIndustryDifference
19984.535.20-0.67
19994.225.08-0.86
20005.005.29-0.29
20014.774.550.22
20023.523.84-0.32
20033.354.19-0.84
20043.354.91-1.56
20054.256.04-1.79
20065.346.73-1.39
20075.877.03-1.16
20084.575.26-0.69
20093.433.91-0.48
20103.473.51-0.04
20113.653.390.26
20123.083.09-0.01
20133.723.220.50
20144.273.710.56

(Terry Maxon - Dallas Morning News)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Copa Holdings 3Q net income drops 47.6% on Venezuela capacity cuts

Copa Airlines 737-8V3 (36550/3114) HP-1537CMP arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on January 25, 2012.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Copa Holdings, parent company of Panama-based Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia, reported third-quarter net income of $66 million, down 47.6% year-over-year, compared to the company’s $126 million net in the year-ago September quarter.

Total revenue for the quarter was $663.7 million, down 2% year-over-year as expenses came to $552.6 million, up 4.3%; the company’s operating income totaled %111.1 million, down 24.7% year-over-year from $147.5 million in the third quarter of 2013.

Third-quarter yield fell 7.7% year-over-year to 15.9 cents as RASM dropped 9.9% to 12.5 cents though CASM improved to 10.4 cents (falling 4.1% year-over-year). CASM excluding-fuel was also down, dropping 5.7% year-over-year to 6.4 cents. Copa’s third-quarter fuel expenses were $212.6 million, up 7.3% year-over-year (a result of a 7.2% increase in gallons consumed during the quarter, Copa said).

Copa said the quarter’s lower passenger revenue yields were driven largely by the carrier’s 50% reduction of capacity in Venezuela, as well as the stipulation that ticket sales in Venezuela must be sold in bolivars, as opposed to US dollars.

As of Sept. 30, Copa Holdings reportedly has $520.7 million in funds subject to exchange controls in Venezuela still pending repatriation.

Consolidated traffic during the third-quarter was up 6.3% year-over-year to 4.04 billion RPMs on an 8.7% capacity increase to 5.3 billion ASMs, resulting in a quarterly passenger load factor of 76.3%, down 1.8 points year-over-year. Copa’s consolidated passengers-carried during the third-quarter was 1.9 million, down 3.5% from the year-ago quarter.

In a Nov. 20 quarterly results conference call with analysts, Copa announced its intention to launch Copa’s own customer loyalty program in July 2015. Until then, United MileagePlus will continue as the company’s frequent flyer program. Additional details about Copa’s new loyalty program will come in March 2015.

Copa Airlines [Panama] took delivery of three Boeing 737-800s during the quarter, bringing Copa Holdings’ consolidated fleet, as of Sept. 30, to 96 aircraft.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News) 

Emirates first A380 completes first 3C check

Emirates A380-861 (c/n 011) A6-EDA arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) as "UAE7223 Super" on August 5, 2008 as it operates a demonstration flight to the airport.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

Emirates Engineering has completed a 3C check, the largest maintenance check on any aircraft, on the first A380 delivered to Emirates Airline. The Dubai-based carrier received the A380 (registration EDA-Echo Delta Alpha) in June 2008.

Emirates said in a statement the major overhaul has restored the carrier’s first A380 to near pristine condition. In a round-the-clock operation, which took 55 days, two teams of highly specialized engineers stripped the entire interior of the double-decker aircraft to the bare metal hull, inspected and overhauled every single part, and then reassembled the components.

“The entire check is meticulously planned with no room for delays. Grounding an aircraft for such a long time is a tremendous expense,” Emirates VP-base engineering Colin Disspain said.

“Here in Dubai we operate aircraft under some of the world’s toughest conditions, including soaring temperatures and a sandy environment. This requires Emirates to increase maintenance standards to this specific situation. For example, parts often need to be exchanged instead of just cleaned in order to achieve our high level of quality and precision,” Disspain said.

Echo Delta Alpha had flown 20 million km, the equivalent of almost 27 return trips to the moon. It has completed more than 3,000 takeoffs and landings, carrying over 1.2 million passengers. The check was completed with a rigorous test flight before being put back into regular service.

Emirates operates a fleet of 232 aircraft, including 55 A380s—the world’s biggest fleet of the type. To date, Emirates’ A380 fleet has carried 27.5 million revenue passengers, made over 68,800 trips and covered more than 405 million km.

Its Dubai-Los Angeles route is the world’s longest commercial A380 flight in operation, and its Dubai-Kuwait route is the world’s shortest.

By the end of this year, the number of destinations served by an Emirates A380 will increase to 33, with the addition of San Francisco service from Dec. 1 and Houston service from Dec. 3.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOline News)

Air China, Air New Zealand to form alliance

Air China 777-39L (38671/1032) B-2032 departs Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on February 12/2013 sporting the carriers "Star Alliance" livery.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Air China and Air Zealand announced they have signed a statement of intent that will pave the way for a strategic alliance on services between China and New Zealand.

The proposed alliance between the two national flag carriers and Star Alliance partners would see Air China operate a new direct Beijing-Auckland service in addition to Air New Zealand’s existing Shanghai-Auckland service. The alliance remains subject to regulatory approval.

An alliance between the carriers would bring better network connections in both China and New Zealand and increased frequency of flights.

Air China CEO Song Zhiyong said alliances and partnerships are an important way to expand its international network. “In the past three years, we have witnessed double-digit annual growth in the number of Chinese outbound tourists.

New Zealand is one of the most important markets for outbound travel from China and Air China is confident about the promising future of this market, particularly considering the airline's close ties with Air New Zealand, an innovative airline full of vitality and dynamism.”

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon said a deeper bilateral agreement between the two airlines would help facilitate both business and tourism links between the two countries.

“China is New Zealand’s second largest inbound visitor market and we expect interest in visiting New Zealand to continue to grow amongst Chinese travelers. However, China remains a challenging market for us to operate to. Working with a strong, well-respected home market carrier like Air China would give us a huge opportunity to convert this potential growth, while jointly offering the additional capacity to support it.”

The airlines will continue discussions and hope to reach an agreement early next year that can be filed for regulatory approval.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)