Sunday, May 30, 2010

Orange County Baseball Charters

Two Major League baseball charters depart Orange County (SNA/KSNA)

Delta Airlines Flt 8882 737-832 (30377/584) N393DA was off the ground at 1759 bound for Kansas City Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC/KMKC) with the California Angels.

Alaska Airlines Flt 7613 737-890 (35197/2770) N517AS was off the ground at 1814 bound for Seattle (SEA/KSEA) taking the Seattle Mariners home.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Swiss Unveils Special Livered A340 for SFO Flights

(Photos by Adrian Arzinhiemer)
Swiss International Airlines A340-313X (c/n 150) HB-JMJ was rolled out the carriers paint shop in Zurich (Kloten) (ZRH/LSZH) sporting a special "Hippi" livery commemorating it's return to San Francisco (SFO/KSFO) with flights scheduled to commence next week.

Blue1 to add MD-95 (717-200) to Fleet

Blue1 officially confirmed an order for the Boeing MD-95 (717-200) today with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in mid August with an additional 8 being delivered during the following 6 months. The carrier plans to have a 14 MD-95 (717-200) strong fleet. The carrier has also indicated the 14 aircraft will sport various liveries though no indication of the significance was given.

The MD-90's will be the first to be retired from the fleet, more than likely by end of this year with the BAE Systems Avro 146-RJ85 to follow early next year.

(Independent Source)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Allegiant Air Announces New Long Beach Service Commencing July 1


Allegiant Air, LLC, today announced that beginning July 1, the company will offer nonstop jet service between Long Beach Airport (LGB) and Bellingham International Airport (BLI/KBLI), which is located just minutes away from the Canadian border and a short drive from Vancouver, B.C.

Marking its first service announcement from Long Beach and its fourth Southern California destination served from Bellingham International Airport, the low-cost airline is offering an extremely limited number of today only fares as low as $9.99*** one-way, to/from Long Beach.

Known for its great travel deals, the company will also offer fares as low as $49.99* one-way between the two cities when purchased by June 2. In addition, Allegiant partners with the best hotels in the Southern California area and is offering the fourth night hotel stay FREE** with the purchase of three nights.

"We're pleased to offer yet another affordable and convenient way for our customers to get away," Andrew C. Levy, Allegiant president, said. "We think the simple facility design and easy customer experience at Long Beach Airport is a perfect fit for the Allegiant customer. We look forward to serving the Long Beach community and expanding our service in the greater Bellingham and Southern British Columbia communities."

"We are pleased to welcome Allegiant to the Long Beach Airport," Long Beach airport director, Mario Rodriguez, said. "Passengers from the Northwest will now have nonstop access to Long Beach's many tourist attractions and business centers, as well as major Southern California attractions. This additional service is another indicator that Long Beach Airport is committed to providing excellent customer service."

The new flights will operate three times weekly between Bellingham International Airport (BLI) and Long Beach Airport (LGB) with service Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Flights will depart Bellingham at 2:30 p.m. arriving in Long Beach at 5:05 p.m. Flights leaving Long Beach will depart at 5:45 p.m. arriving in Bellingham at 8:30 p.m. (all flight times are local).

Allegiant offers nonstop service to six other vacation destinations from Bellingham: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Calif., Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz., San Diego and San Francisco-Oakland, Calif. Allegiant will utilize 150-seat, MD-80 series, jet aircraft on the route.

Southern California is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Stretching from San Diego to the northern most outskirts of Los Angeles County, Southern California is celebrated for its beautiful landscape, theme parks, world-famous beaches, unsurpassed shopping, diverse nightlife and renowned entertainment. With landmarks like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Santa Monica Pier and the Queen Mary to the vast amount of world famous theme parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, Southern California is full of entertainment.

The Bellingham and Southern British Columbia area offer an abundance of majestic mountains, monumental landmarks and breathtaking scenery. Vancouver is known for its vast shopping, dining and entertainment options. Host of the XXI Winter Olympic Games, Vancouver is also home to Whistler as well as other ski and snowboard friendly mountains such as Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, Mount Seymor and Blackcomb. Located midway between Vancouver and Seattle the Bellingham-Mt. Baker region is nestled between the deep Pacific Ocean and the towering Cascade Mountain Range. The area offers endless activities to experience such as whale watching, birding, excursions to the San Juan Islands, snow-capped glaciers, wine tasting and tulip fields.

(Allegiant Air Press Release)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Photo of the Day / Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747-443

Virgin Atlantic Airways 747-443 (32338/1274) G-VLIP "Hot Lips" now sports a special "Harry Potter" livery.
(Photo by James Mepsted)

Alaska Airlines Launches Gogo Internet

Alaska Airlines launched Aircell's Gogo inflight Internet service Tuesday on six 737-800s and plans to expand the service to its entire fleet by the end of 2010. The airline said it is partnering with Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card to offer passengers free Wi-Fi through July 31. Gogo will be installed on its fleet of 737-800s and -900s by the end of the summer, with its 737-400s and -700s equipped later in the year.

(ATWOnline News)

UPS expects strong 2nd quarter growth

United Parcel Service, the world's largest package delivery service, said Tuesday it expected strong growth in the second quarter in its Asia business amid an improving regional economy.

UPS's Asia volume grew more than 20 percent in the first quarter with the fastest growth from the region's small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The volume growth in Asia remained "very strong", said Derek Woodward, UPS Asia Pacific President. But he declined to give further details.

Atlanta-based UPS reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings last month and the company was optimistic about the market's outlook this year.

Woodward was in Shenzhen for the opening of UPS' Asia Pacific hub at the city's Baoan International Airport. The facility, with an investment of USD$180 million, replaces UPS's hub at Clark, in the Philippines.

"China is our No.1 international priority," Woodward said. "The new hub shall help to facilitate business in Asia."

Shenzhen, which is UPS's second hub in China after Shanghai, will focus on intra-Asia traffic, which is boosted by a bilateral trade agreement between China and ASEAN that came into effect this year.

The volcanic ash cloud hampering air traffic in Europe did not present any issues for its business, International President Daniel Brutto told reporters.

Brutto also said the Europe debt crisis and a recent fall in the euro had no major impact on UPS's business so far and the crisis was isolated in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland.

"I can't predict the future but at this stage we are still very confident in our growth in Asia to Europe," he said.

UPS plans to add two aircraft in Hong Kong and 11 in Shanghai from June 1 to tap growth in China. It currently operates 23 aircraft within the Asia Pacific region.


Frequent Flyers rate Southwest Airlines #1

Southwest Airlines ranked best and Tempe-based US Airways last for making seats available to frequent flyers, according to a study by IdeaWorks Co.

IdeaWorks examined 22 airlines websites worldwide to see if customers cashing in frequent flyer or other reward programs were able to gets seat on various flights. The study entailed more than 6,100 bookings requests made during February and March.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. ranked best with 99.3 percent of its flights open to frequent flyer users. US Airways Group Inc. was last at 10.7 percent.

SWA and US Air are the dominant carriers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and compete in markets such as Las Vegas, Southern California and Washington D.C./Baltimore.

Delta Air Lines was next to last with 12.9 percent of its flights checked out by IdeaWorks being available. IdeaWorks is a Wisconson-based consulting and customer service research firm.

Read more: Southwest No. 1, US Air last in frequent flyer study

(Phoenix Business Journal)

jetBlue announces new Boston-Phoenix nonstop service

JetBlue Airways is pleased to announce nonstop service from Boston (BOS/KBOS)to Phoenix (PHX/KPHX) to begin September 2, 2010, offering customers more comfort and value when jetting between the two cities. This new route reinforces JetBlue's position as the largest airline at Logan International Airport and will follow a summer of network growth in Boston that includes a 30% increase in daily departures.


Turkish Airlines pushes back LAX service launch

Turkish Airlines' plans to launch services to Los Angeles and Washington Dulles have been put back to December, but the airline is still intending to open the links which will more than double capacity on US routes.

The Star Alliance carrier only serves two US gateways - New York JFK and Chicago O'Hare - but has been looking for several years at others. ATI reported last December that Turkish was seeking additional long-haul aircraft to enable the carrier to launch flights to Los Angeles in March 2010 and to Washington Dulles in April 2010.

Turkish chief executive Temel Kotil says the carrier will finally be ready to launch flights from Istanbul to both cities in December. The launch, he says, will be made possible by the delivery of new Boeing 777s.

"Washington and Los Angeles will be daily. We'll start in December because we are waiting for the aircraft," Kotil told ATI during a Star Alliance event in Sao Paulo.

Kotil explains the carrier is due to receive the first four aircraft from its 12-aircraft order for 777-300ERs over last four months of this year and all four of these will be used on US routes.

In addition to launching one daily flight on both the Los Angeles and Washington routes he says Turkish will use the new 777s to add a second daily flight from December on its Istanbul-New York JFK route. Turkish currently serves New York once per day with 777-300ERs and Chicago once per day with a mix of Airbus A330s and A340s, according to scheduling specialist Innovata.

Turkish only faces competition on the New York-Istanbul route, which is also served non-stop by Delta Air Lines. Currently there are no carriers operating non-stop services on the Los Angeles or Washington to Istanbul routes.

Turkish, which operates four 777-300ERs that are leased from India's Jet Airways, placed orders for 12 777-300ERs last year.

Kotil says Turkish was interested in starting deliveries of its new 777s earlier but Boeing was not able to offer slots before September 2010. "They couldn't deliver earlier. I need the aircraft right now," he says. "I wish I could take them earlier."

He says Turkish expects to receive its first new 777 in September and roughly one additional aircraft will be delivered every month until all 12 are received. Turkish plans to wait until December to use any of these aircraft on scheduled routes because the aircraft can initially be more profitably deployed on Hajj charters. Hajj this year falls in November.
(Brendan Sobie - ATI News)

First PW1000G engine on target for late summer test

Pratt & Whitney said it has completed more than 100 hr. of testing on its full-scale PurePower PW1000G engine core. "The results of the PurePower core testing further confirm that the first PW1000G engine to test is on target for later this summer for the Bombardier CSeries [set to enter service in 2013], followed by the first engine to test for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet," it said. Senior VP-Engineering Paul Adams said, "We are extremely pleased with the core test results indicating that the overall engine performance is well aligned with expectations"

(ATWOnline News)

737NG Production to increase in 2012

Boeing yesterday announced that it will increase 737NG production from the current 31.5 per month to 34 per month in early 2012.

"The planned rate increase is aimed at satisfying continued strong demand," the manufacturer said. "In addition, the company continues to study further potential 737 rate increases, given continued customer demand."

Boeing indicated earlier this year that it was leaning toward raising production rates for both the 737 and 777 families (ATWOnline, March 18). Yesterday's announcement made no mention of 777 production rates.Rival Airbus in March announced an increase in the monthly A320 family production rate in December from the current 34 to 36 and last week revealed that is considering upping the monthly rate to 38 (ATWOnline, May 12).

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh said, "Even through the global economic downturn, our diverse 737 backlog has remained very strong. Increasing the 737 production rate is the right thing to do to meet the growth and fleet replacement needs of our customers."

Added VP-Marketing Randy Tinseth, "The global economy continues to recover this year and we believe that airlines will return to profitability in 2011. We believe that there will be an increased demand for airplanes, especially in the market served by the Next-Generation 737, in 2012 and beyond."

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Monday, May 17, 2010

John Travolta looses two dogs in airport mishap

A service vehicle at Maine's Bangor International Airport (BRG/KBGR) has struck and killed two dogs owned by John Travolta.

The city says the accident happened after an airplane carrying members of Travolta's family landed early last Thursday and the dogs were being walked. The city issued the statement after the Bangor Daily News newspaper confirmed the accident through an e-mail from the city manager to the City Council.

A Travolta spokesman hasn't returned a telephone message left Monday seeking comment.

The "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pulp Fiction" actor is an accomplished pilot who often flies to Bangor while en route to his home on Islesboro, off the Maine coast. It's unclear whether he was in the cockpit the night his dogs died.

Airport Director Rebecca Hupp says her deepest sympathies are with the Travolta family.

(The Associated Press)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Allegiant Air continues to Soar

Allegiant Air flew 473.98 million RPMs in April, up 12.3% year-over-year, on a 12.1% increase in capacity to 539.4 million ASMs. Load factor increased 0.2 point to 87.9%

(ATWOnline News)

Afriqiyah Airways Crash Investigators now Focus on pilots

New evidence suggests that the pilots of the Afriqiyah Airways A330-200 that crashed last week on approach to Tripoli International may have mistaken a major road that runs toward and then veers to the right of the airport for the runway. The aircraft crashed 900 m. short of the threshold of Runway 09 and 200 m. to the right, just beside the road. ATWOnline reported last week that Runway 09 does not have an ILS and the VOR navigational aid was suffering from interference (ATWOnline, May 14). The pilots also may have had their vision impaired by a combination of the rising sun and ground haze.

(Geoffrey Thomas - ATWOnline News)

Finnair Cargo MD-11(F) takes off

Finnair which retired it's last MD-11 passenger aircraft earlier this year, commenced Finnair Cargo operations on May 12-13, 2010 with McDonnell Douglas MD-11(F) (48512/529) OH-LGC operating its first service on the HEL-ICN-HEL--HKG-HEL route May 12-13, 2010.
(Skyliners Magazine)

Southwest Airlines employees show off their Spirit in Las Vegas

Southwest Airlines is one of the best conduits for Southern Nevada’s tourism industry by bringing millions of people to Las Vegas every year. This week Southwest went from conduit to customer when it brought about 10,000 people to town for a party. That’s about the number of people it takes to really get the juices flowing of convention-service businesses in town.

The event was Southwest’s Spirit Party, and the airline on May 12 made the Fremont Street Experience its unofficial headquarters. “It’s just a chance for us to have a little family reunion,” said Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, who you’ve probably seen in one of its TV commercials telling you to “Grab your bag … it’s on.”

In 2009, more than 7,000 Southwest employees grabbed their bags and came to Las Vegas for a Spirit Party. In the days leading up to this year’s party, Southwest was expecting a 20 percent to 25 percent increase in attendance over last year. “I think that’s enough to move the dial (on tourism spending),” Kelly said.

Southwest employees have to spend their own money to get here for the party and once they arrive, have to shell out for their lodging. But the company has plenty of food and entertainment to keep the party going. In fairness, not all of the 10,000 partygoers — more than a quarter of Southwest’s workforce — came from out of town. Las Vegas is Southwest’s biggest station, so many of the airline’s 2,621 locally based employees didn’t have to hop a plane to get to the party. “Yes, it’s always well attended by our Las Vegas folks, and Las Vegas continues to be our largest operation,” Kelly said. “It’s a point of pride for us.

We love being the hometown airline for you guys.” Another great thing about the Spirit Party, besides 10,000 people spending money in downtown Las Vegas, is that Kelly gets in a party mood and is willing to talk beyond the news releases about what the company is doing in Las Vegas.

Some highlights:

• The good news about the number of flights on Southwest’s Las Vegas schedule is that they’re increasing instead of declining. But the bad news is that the level is still below the maximum number it had in 2008. At the peak in 2008, Southwest had around 235 daily flights. Last August, there were about 228. As demand fell off, Southwest fell below 220. In the new schedule, which takes effect in the fall, there are 223. (Southwest counts its flights differently than McCarran statisticians, counting an operation that runs five or six times a week as a daily flight while McCarran breaks it down to five-sevenths or six-sevenths of a daily flight).

• Kelly considers the outlook for Las Vegas to be positive and the revenue environment to be healthy. But it’s all about supply and demand. Kelly said that if demand picks up, Southwest would add flights.

• Using history as a guide, Kelly thinks the proposed merger of United and Continental may provide some opportunities for Southwest — but not necessarily in Las Vegas. The legacy carriers have focused recently on international flying as opposed to domestic routes. As a result, Southwest has grown and the legacy carriers have shrunk their market share on domestic routes.

• Kelly said he wants Southwest to grow, but he’s not sure how that will happen. The airline has had two acquisitions, Morris Air at the end of 1993 and ATA Airlines toward the end of 2008, and it tried unsuccessfully to bid for Frontier Airlines in 2009. The Frontier bid was an effort to take control of the Denver market, where Southwest has expanded dramatically in two years. Southwest has grown significantly in St. Louis, where it is now that city’s busiest carrier.

• Southwest could grow by adding cities as it did in the past two years by flying into Minneapolis, Milwaukee, New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Boston’s Logan International. The airline will begin flying to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, Fla., later this month. Kelly is always tight-lipped about where Southwest would go next and the rumor mill is constantly churning out theories. The most recent rumors involve Wichita, Kan.

• Southwest and Canada’s WestJet Airlines abruptly ended their code-share deal last month, which would have likely increased Las Vegas flights if the airlines were to use McCarran as a transfer point. Kelly said Southwest is working on a code-share deal with Volaris Airlines, a Mexican carrier, but it’s unclear where passengers would transfer. Volaris doesn’t serve Las Vegas. Kelly said Southwest has the capacity to add a second code-share partner, and he said the airline is evaluating opportunities that could deliver Southwest customers to destinations such as Hawaii and the Caribbean.

• Southwest is in the midst of some technological advances that would result in a next-generation frequent-flier program. Kelly didn’t give any details of how the souped-up Rapid Rewards program would be different. Before the end of the year, Southwest also is expected to roll out details of its in-flight Wi-Fi system.

(Richard Velotta - Las Vegas Sun)

Photo of the Day / Mexicana Airbus A320-214 "One World" Livery

Mexicana Airbus A320-214 (3304) XA-MXK is captured at San Francisco International Airport (SFO/KSFO) recently sporting the carriers "OneWorld" livery.
(Photo by Mark Durbin)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Photo of the Day / TUI Airlines Belgium 767-38E(ER)

This gorgeous photo, captures TUI Airlines Belgium Boeing 767-38E(ER) (30840/829) OO-JAP as it arrives at London - Gatwick Airport (LGW/EGKK) sporting the carriers new livery. (Photo by James Mepsted)

New UPS 767-34AF(ER) at Long Beach

UPS 767-34AF(ER) (37859/989) N339UP is the latest new aircraft to join the carriers fleet and is captured arriving at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on Friday afternoon May 14.

The same aircraft at Boeings Paine Field (PAE/KPAE) on Wednesday May 5, a day prior to being delivered to the carrier.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

EasyJet founder resigns from board

EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou has resigned from the board of the UK budget carrier in a bid to resist the airline's fleet-expansion plans.

Haji-Ioannou, who has resigned with immediate effect, represents shareholder EasyGroup's interest of 26.2% in the airline.

He is stepping down to "gain greater freedom" to exercise EasyGroup's rights as a shareholder in the carrier to "seek a change in the company's strategy", says EasyJet.

Haji-Ioannou has previously clashed with the airline's management over its strategic direction.

Another EasyGroup representative on the board, Bob Rothenberg, has similarly resigned.

(David Kaminski-Morrow - Flightglobal News)

Boeing wins DoD contract for addtional F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18Gs

The US Department of Defense has agreed to buy 124 F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18Gs manufactured by Boeing over the next four years for an undisclosed sum, a source familiar with the deal tells

DoD notified Congress today that it will pursue a package deal called a multi-year procurement. The arrangement locks the government into a long-term contract, and the manufacturer provides a discounted price in exchange for the commitment.

Missouri Rep Todd Akin announced that DoD had approved the third multi-year procurement (MYP) for orders during Fiscal 2010-2014, but he did not provide numbers.

The source, however, confirms the package includes 66 F/A-18E/Fs and 58 EA-18Gs, raising the total fleet 515 F/A-18E/Fs and 114 EA-18Gs after the last deliveries occur in late 2015.

The cost for the four-year contract has not been disclosed. Boeing released a statement saying the package deal will cost 10% less buying the aircraft in annual lots.

"It is encouraging to see the Navy and DoD come to their senses on this issue, after I have spent two years arguing that a multi-year contract made sense on all fronts," Akin says.

Last year, DoD officials rejected Boeing's initial multi-year proposal, saying the three-year, 89-aircraft bid lowered the cost of procurement by less than 7%.

The Congressional Research Service extrapolated that even if Boeing's offer was extended to cover 150 aircraft over five years, it would still fall slightly short of DoD's 10% threshold for approving multi-year procurement (MYP) contracts.

The deal means that Boeing will continue producing the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G through at least calendar year 2015.

Extending the production line even further will depend partly on ongoing efforts to sell the aircraft abroad. Australia launched the export campaign for both aircraft types, and Boeing also is offering the fighter to India, Japan, Greece, Denmark, Kuwait and Canada.

But the programme's future also depends on the fate of the Lockheed Martin F-35B and F-35C for the Marine Corps and Navy, respectively. Both services intend to buy 680 F-35B/Cs to replace about 620 F/A-18C/Ds and about 120 AV-8B Harriers.

Meanwhile, the navy is also managing a projected fighter shortfall growing to at least 177 jets by FY2017.

(Stephen Trimble - Flight International News)

Woman grabs child on flight to Las Vegas

Phoenix police are investigating an incident on a Southwest Airlines flight where a woman allegedly grabbed a child who was kicking the back of her seat in March.

James Holmes of the Phoenix Police Department said a mother is pressing charges against a 42-year-old woman who allegedly assaulted her 3-year-old boy while they were on Southwest flight 582 heading to Las Vegas at the gate of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Mar. 21 at about 7 p.m.

No arrests have been made because police are still gathering names of witnesses from Southwest Airlines, but the mother described the incident to police:

Her three-year-old son either kicked or put his feet up on the back of the woman's seat when she turned around and grabbed him. The woman told the child, "You're not going to be kicking my seat all the way to Las Vegas," while she shook him and then slammed him back on the seat, the mother told police.

She and other passengers began to argue with the woman after the incident, and both parties were taken off the plane to discuss the situation.

Staff had assured her that the woman would not be allowed back on the flight, and she returned to her seats with her children, Holmes said. The woman, however, did board the same plane again, and chose to sit in the same seat over other empty seats.

During the flight, the woman harassed the family and threw garbage at them. The mother told police that the woman appeared to be intoxicated.

(Jolie McCullough - The Arizona Republic)

jetBlue goes "Pink" for Gay Pride Weekend in Long Beach

(Photo by Jeff Gritchen - Long Beach Press Telegram)

Fueled-up on free champagne and eager for a weekend of revelry, 110 passengers flew into Long Beach aboard a specially chartered JetBlue flight Friday honoring Gay Pride Weekend.

The traditionally quick and uneventful flight from San Francisco to Long Beach was transformed into a party replete with pink cocktails, pink cupcakes, flight attendants' uniforms in pink and 90 minutes of entertainment from comedian Pam Ann.

The idea of a JetPride flight comes as the New York-based carrier has grown gradually more involved in the city's second-largest annual event, which draws some 70,000 people to Long Beach annually, second in size only to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

JetBlue has been a Pride Weekend sponsor for five years, but this year offered round-trip tickets for $79 and numbered its Friday morning flight No. 1969 in honor of the famous 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, N.Y., which began the modern gay rights movement.

"It's just our way of showing a little bit of support for Pride Weekend and letting people know of our presence in two of the country's most gay-friendly communities, San Francisco and Long Beach," said Mark Rogers, a JetBlue marketing manager. "We're always looking for ways to continue outreach."

JetBlue has long operated daily trips between the cities, but noticed an uptick during Pride Weekend in recent years.

Long Beach Pride Co-President Sergio Macias estimates 76 percent of this weekend's revelers will visit from outside Long Beach, with about 13 percent coming from outside California.
An economic study estimates the event, now in its 27th year, generates about

$10 million of direct spending in Long Beach and more than $20 million for the regional economy.
(Kristopher Hanson - Long Beach Press Telegram)

Friday, May 14, 2010

C-17A production workers strike continues at Long Beach as other unions show support

Unionized truck drivers and trash haulers have agreed to honor picket lines at Boeing's C-17 plant, potentially strengthening the effect of a strike now entering its fifth day, union leaders said Friday.The announcement came as some 1,700 workers, joined by hundreds of allies, surrounded the plant for a raucous two-hour rally.

Workers began a strike early Tuesday after five weeks of negotiations failed to resolve differences on pension and medical benefits. "We'd love to go back to work, but workers are not going back until the company makes some movement on the remaining (health care and retirement) issues," said Stan Klemchuk, President of the United Aerospace Workers Local 148.

"The average age of (strikers) is 55, and this is the most important issue. We'd love to settle our dispute at the (bargaining) table, but we're prepared to stick this out. Members are fired up."
Local 148 representatives said UPS drivers and refuse haulers who handle tons of waste at the plant each week have joined the cause, though separate work contracts for those employees may eventually force them to cross picket lines.

Meanwhile, Boeing managers said they are not budging from their "best and final" offer, which 80 percent of workers rejected in a May 4 vote. Instead, in response to what Boeing said were numerous questions from employees, the company Friday began offering workers carefully-worded "advice" about breaking with strikers and returning to work. "The Company is not instructing or encouraging any employee to cross a picket line if he or she does not choose to do so," the company said in a memo to strikers. "Likewise ... the company is not soliciting, instructing, or encouraging any employee to resign from the union. This information is being provided solely to advise employees of their rights."

The rejected 46-month proposal included wage increases, but hiked medical and pension costs two months before the contract's expiration in 2014. Union members and their allies blasted the company's latest "advice" as a blatant attempt to divide the workforce and "bust up" the union.
"The vote was overwhelming," Klemchuk said. "We're all in this together." Union supporters joining Friday's rally included area residents, students, Teamsters members, UPS workers, trash haulers and strikers' family members. "I don't think my generation fully understands or appreciates the power workers can have when they stick together and fight against a powerful (force) like Boeing," said Maria Perez, a West Los Angeles College student who attended with classmates and professors. "I'm going to take this message and share it back at school and anywhere else I can. We plan to return with more supporters."

Back inside the plant, where production of the massive jet has been suspended indefinitely, about 3,000 non-union workers continue reporting to jobs in marketing, research, sales, engineering and related departments.Strikers, whose plant access cards have been deactivated, are scheduled to begin drawing reduced pay and medical benefits from a union fund, though many plan to file unemployment, saying the company's apparent lockout allows them to draw on federal jobless benefits.

(Krstopher Hanson - Long Beach Press Telegram)

Fun Promo Video For Frontier Airlines New Long Beach Service

Frontier Begins Service at Long Beach Airport

Frontier Airlines made its inaugural flight Friday into Long Beach, launching twice-daily trips to Denver and expanding to 15 the number of cities connecting directly to Daugherty Field. Frontier becomes the fifth major commercial carrier at Long Beach Airport, where passenger volumes have more than tripled since low-cost airline JetBlue made the city its West Coast hub in 2001.

Colorado-based Frontier, founded in 1994, plans to operate 99-seat Embraer 190 and 107-seat Airbus 318 jets on flights scheduled to depart Long Beach at 6:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. daily. Frontier also began service Friday to Fairbanks, Alaska and Grand Rapids, Mich., from its Denver base.

Frontier and another newcomer, Allegiant Air, which begins flights from Long Beach this summer, fill out the airport's remaining daily commuter slots, capped at 41 under a noise-ordinance program. The new flights should push annual passenger traffic here above 3 million, drawing in new revenue for the airport, city and area merchants and hotels. "Attracting a new carrier amidst this tumultuous time in the aviation industry speaks to our fiscal solvency and prime (location)," said Airport Director Mario Rodriguez, who is overseeing a $200-million airport modernization plan through 2013 to help with increasing passenger volumes.

Frontier joins airlines JetBlue, Horizon, Delta and US Air offering daily flights out of Long Beach. The bulk of those, 30, are operated by JetBlue, while Allegiant has signed on to take the remaining two slots, said Airport Spokeswoman Sharon Diggs-Jackson.

Frontier expects its two daily flights to cater to a mix of vacationers and business travelers seeking to avoid crowds at the region's larger, more congested airports. In the coming weeks, Frontier Airlines will further its push into the West Coast with service between Denver and Santa Barbara, said Daniel Shurz, the carrier's president of strategy and planning. He said the airline will offer indirect service from Long Beach to more than 70 destinations domestically and in Mexico and Costa Rica, many with a single layover in Denver.

(Kristopher Hanson / Long Beach Press Telegram)

Frontier Flt. 199 arrived from Denver (DEN/KDEN) touching down at 1004 am. A319-111 (c/n 2318) N935FR received a water canon salute as she taxied to the gate.

"A Whole Different Animal" at it's newest home.

The flight crew in the front office of the A319.

The cabin crew take a moment for a photo as they get ready to welcome passengers on-board for the return trip to Denver.

Flight 210 rotates from Rwy 30 at 1109 bound for Denver.
(Above Photos by Michael Carter)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Southwest Airlines Announces 2011 Service to South Carolina

Southwest announced Tuesday it "intends" to begin flying to two South Carolina airports next year. In making the announcement, however, the carrier did not specify routes or other details about what it plans to offer at Charleston International and Greenville-Spartanburg International.

In announcing the service, Southwest said in a release that its service to South Carolina would "not be dependent on pending legislation to provide air service subsidies." The Associated Press explains the announcement was made as South Carolina lawmakers had begun debating subsidies and state incentives to lure low-cost carriers to the state. AP says that effort gained steam after AirTran exited Charleston in December, leaving South Carolina without a large low-cost carrier. State lawmakers says Southwest's decision cools the subsidy talk for now, that the issue is not dead.

As for Southwest's new service, the plans were welcome news at both airports. The Post and Courier of Charleston writes "both airports [have previously] felt the sting of losing discount airlines. Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, more than four years later, still suffers from Independence Air's collapse in 2006. AirTran, upon leaving Charleston, told local officials it needed more business travelers to succeed [there]."

The new destinations also will help Southwest expand its national footprint. AP notes Southwest "flies to 68 cities in the U.S. but still has some holes in its route map. It doesn't land anywhere between Raleigh-Durham, N.C. and Jacksonville, Fla.," though that will change with the addition of the South Carolina cities.

Looking at competition, The Dallas Morning News notes Delta is the top carrier at both Charleston while Delta affiliate Atlantic Southeast is tops at Greenville/Spartanburg. But the Morning News adds "both airports are dominated by regional carriers rather than major carriers flying larger jets."

One question likely to pop up among industry analysts about the new service is Southwest's decision to add Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) instead of relatively nearby Charlotte, a major hub dominated by US Airways. While Southwest has historically preferred "secondary" airports like GSP, the carrier seemed to have buck that trend in recent years in favor of busier airports like Philadelphia, Denver, New York LaGuardia, Boston and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

(USA Today / Today in the Sky)

Afriqiyah Airways A330-202 goes down in Tripoli, Libya

The aircraft envolved in todays crash, is captured arriving at London-Gatwich International Airport (LGW/EGKK) on September 26, 2009. (Photo by James Mepsted)

Libya's Afriqiyah Airways has identified the Airbus A330-202 involved in an accident at Tripoli today as 5A-ONG (c/n 1024) delivered just eight months ago on September 8, 2009 to the Tripoli based airline. The carriers three A330s are equipped with General Electric CF5 engines.

A spokeswoman for the carrier is unable to give further details on the accident, but says that it occurred "within the airport". She cannot confirm immediate reports of survivors from among the 104 occupants.

Images from the scene show that the aircraft has disintegrated, with only the empennage recognisable.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

C-17A line workers go on strike in Long Beach

Boeing C-17 line workers began a strike just past midnight today (May 11) at Long Beach's largest private employer, grinding production to a halt on one of the world's leading cargo jets.

The walkout comes nearly a week after talks broke down on negotiations for a labor contract covering some 1,700 workers responsible for assembly of the jumbo-size airlifter.

"We're fed up," said Brian Sullivan, who has worked at the plant since 1985. "The medical issue is the main issue for us. The concessions are too much and the company expected us to take it lying down. We won't."

The strike is expected to ripple throughout plants and small manufacturers employing thousands of workers in more than 40 states, where C-17 engines and parts are designed and built.

The walkout came shortly after the union and management attempted eleventh-hour talks to reach a deal covering pension and medical benefits. On May 4, nearly 80 percent of striking workers rejected a 46-month labor agreement they felt undermined long-existing worker benefits for employees involved in production of one of Boeing's most popular aircraft.

Boeing expressed "deep disappointment" at the walkout, describing its offer as above industry standards. "The union has turned down an excellent offer that surpasses local and industry standards," said Boeing spokeswoman Cindy Anderson. "The company had hoped to avoid a strike, and instead, continue to focus on meeting the needs of its customers."

Workers in Long Beach have built more than 200 C-17 s for the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and a NATO-led air force involved in humanitarian missions. The Indian Air Force is also currently pursuing the purchase of 10 C-17 s for military and relief efforts.

Meanwhile, the company maintains its "best and final" offer is more than adequate and called upon a federal mediator to help arbitrate, but the gesture was rejected by the union in the wake of the eleventh-hour talks Monday.

The C-17 plant has not experienced a strike since its inception in the early 1990 s, though other Boeing plants have been targeted frequently in recent years.

A 40-day walkout by workers at Boeing sites in Seattle and Kansas cost the company billions in 2000, and a smaller strike in 2009 shaved hundreds of millions from Boeing's reported $1.31-billion annual profit, the company said at the time.

The strike comes at a time of great uncertainty surrounding the C-17 s future. Boeing has planned to end production in mid-2013, though foreign orders could extend the line well past mid-decade.

Along with the Indian Air Force, several other nations in the Middle East and Asia are interested in the $250 million-plus aircraft.

The C-17 has become a workhorse for some of the globe's largest militaries, hauling vehicles, troops and supplies to battle zones across the world.

In recent years, C-17 s have also been used extensively to ferry medical supplies, food, water and other relief to disaster zones including Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and most recently, quake-stricken Haiti.

(Kristopher Hanson - Long Beach Press Telegram)

Royal Brunei to lease 777-200's from Singapore Airlines

Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) has confirmed that it will lease six Boeing 777-200ER aircraft from Singapore Airlines to replace its 767-300ERs.

The two carriers signed the lease agreement today, says RBA, adding that the 777s will help it renew its fleet and expand its operations.

"In addition to a higher passenger and cargo capacity than the 767s, the 777s' improved product will enhance RBA's ability to grow its revenue base," says RBA.

The airline said earlier this month it is in talks with SIA to lease 777s, and was expecting to finalise a deal soon.

RBA's first 777 is expected to arrive on 26 May, and the airline will operate the first flight to London via Dubai during the third week of June.

The remaining five aircraft will arrive between June and September, adds the carrier.

Each aircraft will be configured with 30 business class and 255 economy class seats. The 777s will be equipped with RBA's in-flight entertainment system with individual screens and video and audio on demand, says RBA.

"The support that Royal Brunei Airlines received from Singapore Airlines brought this partnership beyond a pure lease. Under the lease terms, selected support programmes provided by Original Equipment Manufacturers to SIA are also provided to RBA to cover the aircraft engines, auxiliary power unit and other selected components," says RBA's CEO Robert Yang.

(Ghim-Lay Yeo / Air Transport Intelligence News-Flightglobal)

Air France looks at operating it's A380 between Paris-London

Air France is considering deploying Airbus A380 aircraft on the short route between Paris and London Heathrow.

The airline has three of the type, which are serving New York JFK and Johannesburg.

But a spokeswoman for the airline says that the carrier is looking at other options to exploit the capacity and, while the plan has not been firmed, it is not ruling out putting the 538-seat jet on the route.

While not giving full details of the reasoning behind the potential deployment, which could occur "in the next few weeks", she indicates that pilot training and a desire to maximise the use of the aircraft are among the considerations.

She adds that Paris-London is a busy route and other carriers have shown that they can justify large-capacity aircraft on relatively short, high-density sectors.

(David Kaminski-Morrow / Air Transport Intelligence-Flightglobal)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pentagon Considers new Air Force One Fleet

This is an article dated March 24, 2010 but I found it rather interesting and thought I would share it.......enjoy, Michael

The Pentagon is considering buying a new fleet of presidential planes, known as Air Force One when the U.S. president is aboard.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday told at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the Pentagon budget that it's time for an upgrade.

"There clearly is a need for a new presidential aircraft," Gates said. "We actually have some money in the budget in 2011 to begin looking at a new Air Force One. That money will clearly ramp up in the -- in the next few years as we move in that direction."

Air Force One, with its presidential seal and white and blue paint job, is one of the most recognizable symbols of the United States of America and is the first impression the president makes at every visit abroad. The presidential aircraft carry the tail codes 28000 and 29000. The Air Force designation for the plane is VC-25A.

Over the last 10 years, Air Force One has flown an average of nearly 200,000 miles per year.

It is literally a flying office for the commander in chief for his delegation with advanced secure communications equipment. Just like a normal jetliner, Air Force One has a crew to fly the plane and attendants who prepare and serve meals and clean the aircraft. These crew members are carefully screened military personnel, with exemplary service histories.

But the fleet of planes now used to transport President Obama -- two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft -- is aging. The first of the current aircraft were delivered 20 years ago during the administration of President George H. W. Bush.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., a member of the committee and a former aerospace executive, noted that there are fewer than 20 747-200s -- the commercial model Air Force One is based on -- still in service. Tiarht said the president's aircraft is nearing a point where the operation and support costs will exceed the value of the existing planes.

(Mike Emanuel -

Air France Flight 447 Black Box Signals may have been Detected

The French navy said yesterday that it believes one of its submarines last summer recorded signals emitted by the elusive Air France Flight 447 flight data and cockpit voice recorders and has narrowed down the area in the Atlantic Ocean where the devices may be found. The French BEA had searched unsuccessfully for the FDR and CVR from the A330-200 that crashed last May 31, killing 228 (ATWOnline, Dec. 18, 2009). But the navy said a recently completed detailed analysis of signals received by its submarines in the weeks after the crash, made possible by sophisticated Thales-produced software, has revealed a 40-sq.-mi. "zone" where it believes the FDR and CVR are located.

BEA said a search could begin as early as today. French officials cautioned that it still may be difficult to recover the devices, which could be at deep depths, but said the "significantly narrowed" search area offers new hope. The new area identified by the navy contrasts with the approximately 700-sq.-mi. area that was searched previously.

(ATWOnline News)

U.S. Department of Transportation has Tentatively Awarded Tokyo-Haneda routes to three U.S. carriers

US Dept. of Transportation on Friday tentatively proposed awarding two of four routes at Tokyo Haneda available under the new US-Japan open skies agreement to Delta Air Lines for services from Los Angeles and Detroit.

It also proposed granting one route to American Airlines for service from New York JFK to the downtown airport and one to Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu. It rejected applications from Continental Airlines, Continental Micronesia and United Airlines. United and Continental announced a merger agreement a week ago.

In selecting DL to receive half of the available daily routes (ATWOnline, Dec. 15, 2009), the department chose an airline that already maintains an enormous transpacific and inter-Asia hub at Tokyo Narita. DOT was swayed in large part by the fact that DL said it will use 747-400s on its LAX-Haneda service, which "would inject 63% more capacity into the US-Tokyo market than American's Los Angeles proposal with its 777s" and 50% more than United's proposed SFO-HND route, also to be served with 777s. It chose DL's proposal to operate from Detroit, citing among other things the carrier's "substantial hub presence and route network" at DTW and the "broad catchment area" of the Midwest region as well as DL's plan to use a 747-400 on the route.

In choosing AA to fly from JFK, DOT rejected CO’s application to operate a New York-originating service from its Newark hub. It determined that selecting AA "would provide enhanced alliance competition," explaining that "in the overall US-Asia market, the Star and SkyTeam alliances currently hold significant positions." UA and CO are both Star members and DL is in SkyTeam, "thus an award of Haneda rights to American here should enhance alliance competition by improving the competitive posture of American and oneworld in the US-Asia market," DOT said.

Hawaiian does not currently serve any Japanese destinations and in choosing that airline the department said this would achieve "the important objective of enhancing competition in the US-Tokyo market as a new entrant."

DOT said that if its tentative decision is finalized, selected carriers would be required to begin HND operations by Jan. 29, 2011.

(Perry Flint - ATWOneline News)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

MD-11F's Return to Service

The following McDonnell Douglas MD-11F's are being returned to service following storage at Victorville (VCV/KVCV).

MD-11F (48581/565) D-ALCR Lufthansa Cargo (ferried 05/06/2010 VCV-FRA) - ex N581LT

MD-11F (48790/634) B-16113 EVA Air Cargo (ferried 05/08/2010 VCV-LAX-TPE) - ex N9020Q
This lovely G-III (c/n 390) N124DT was captured resting in the afternoon sun at Boeing Field (BFI/KBFI) this past Tuesday May 4.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

H.E. Sutton Forwarding Company now operates a Boeing 727-224(F)

Boeing 727-224(F) (22252/1697) late of DHL is captured at Ontario International Airport (ONT/KONT) recently.
(Photo by Darryl Bustamante)

H.E. Sutton Forwarding Co. has acquired a Boeing 727 from DHL, and the company expects the high performance of its new plane to improve service.

“This new airplane will allow for quicker flights, with greater payloads, while reducing the need for fuel stops on many of our routes,” Tex Sutton President Bob Clark said. “The new plane is also sporting a custom paint scheme with the Tex Sutton logo on the tail—a first in our history.”

H.E. Sutton Forwarding Co.’s website reads: “The First Name in Equine Air Travel Since 1969.”

(Ed Derosa -Thoroughbred Times)

Boeing Scores order for 20 777's

The Boeing Co. added an order for 20 of its 777 aircraft to its backlog this week.

The order comes from an unidentified customer, according to Boeing’s orders and deliveries Web site updated Thursday. The order is worth between $4 billion and $5 billion at list prices, depending on the model of 777, which also wasn’t disclosed. But airlines rarely pay list prices.

Boeing also reduced its total for 777 aircraft by four, a cancellation announced last week by El Al Israel Airlines. The transactions bring Boeing’s net order tally to 112 through May 4. The company is out to a much stronger start in terms of orders, compared to 2009. Boeing ended last year with a total of just 142 net commercial jet orders, because of the downturn in air traffic and delays in the company’s new 787 Dreamliner program.

But Boeing leads rival Airbus in jet orders this year. Airbus reported Wednesday that it has a net tally of 67 orders through the end of April.

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney had hinted last month that the company had orders for the Everett-built 777 that hadn’t been announced. McNerney mentioned the orders to explain why the company announced it would boost 777 production next year. In the meantime, Boeing will temporarily slow production on the 777, beginning next month, a decision made last year.

“We feel comfortable … that the demand will support moving up the rate,” McNerney said, during the company’s quarterly conference call.

Boeing’s shares declined along with the rest of Wall Street Thursday, dropping $3.03 to close at $67.97.

(Michelle Dunlop - Everet Daily Herald)

NTSB Investigates another near miss envolving Southwest Airlines

Investigators from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are examining a near collision of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 and a news helicopter at Houston Hobby airport.

NTSB says at 12:25CDT on 28 April the 737 (N242WN) and the Bell helicopter (N6YJ), came within an estimated 125ft (38.1 meters) vertically and 100ft (30 meters) laterally from each other as both were departing the airport.

The Southwest aircraft, bound for Baltimore, was cleared to depart runway 12R. NTSB says at the same time the helicopter was cleared to depart from another part of the airport.

"The near collision occurred as the helicopter converged into the flight path of the 737 shortly after the jetliner lifted off from the runway," says NTSB. "Both crews took evasive manoeuvres to avoid colliding."

NTSB says this is the second runway safety incident it has investigated within the last two weeks after on 19 April a Southwest Boeing 737 and a small private aircraft came within 200ft (61 meters) of colliding over the airport in Burbank, California.

(Lori Ranson - Air Transport Intelligence News / Flightglobal)

Singapore Airlines continues to sell off it's 777-200ER fleet

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has finalised a deal with Russian carrier Transaero for the sale of four Boeing 777-200ERs and other carriers such as Royal Brunei Airlines and Portugal's EuroAtlantic Airways are also speaking to SIA about acquiring 777s.

"We have now finalised an agreement with Transaero covering the sale of four 777-200s, manufacturing serial numbers 28998, 28999, 28514 and 28523," says a SIA spokesman.

Flightglobal's ACAS database says these are all -200ERs and three were built in 1998 while 28523 was built in 1999.

These aircraft are all in a two-class configuration, the spokesman adds.

Transaero announced late last month it would be getting 14 ex-SIA 777s but the SIA spokesman says "at that point [last month] it was a letter-of-intent" only whereas now the deal has been finalised.

SIA's spokesman declines to comment on whether Royal Brunei and EuroAtlantic Airways will be getting ex-SIA 777s as well.

But a Royal Brunei spokeswoman says the carrier does plan to add 777s in June and is working to finalise a deal in the coming days.

"It is no secret that the party we are speaking to is SIA," says the spokeswoman. Royal Brunei's CEO, Robert Yang, is SIA's former VP for eastern USA and South America.

Royal Brunei's online booking engine shows that it plans to replace its Boeing 767s on the Bandar Seri Begawan-London Heathrow route starting 24 June but the service will continue to have a stop-over in Dubai.

Its non-stop Bandar Seri Begawan-Brisbane service will switch from 767s to 777s effective 25 June, it says.

National carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines, meanwhile, has added an ex-SIA 777-200ER and this aircraft is leased from Portugal's EuroAtlantic Airways.

"We have one [ex-SIA 777-200ER] in the fleet with another 777-200ER in the process," says the spokesman, adding that the second aircraft will also be an ex-SIA aircraft on lease from EuroAtlantic.

He says the carrier is also talking to EuroAtlantic about adding a third and fourth 777-200ER.

(Air Transport Intelligence News - Flight Global)

Turkish Airlines unhappy with Amsterdam crash findings

First Hawaiian A330 spotted at LAX

(Photo by Michael Breckshot)

The first Hawaiian Airlines A330-243 (c/n 1104) N580HA "Makali'i" is captured on the International Cargo ramp this morning at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX). I have no idea why she would be there, could she be having technical issues already?

First 787 Delivery still scheduled for late 2010

Wearing the livery of launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA), Boeing 787-881 (40691/2) N787EX rotates off Rwy 13R at Boeing Field (BFI/KBFI) on a flight test sortie.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Boeing is on track to deliver its first 787 Dreamliner to All Nippon Airways by the end of this year, the company's head of commercial planes said.

"Testing is going well. If there are no unexpected discoveries, we'll be on track," said James Albaugh chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Production of the carbon-composite plane was delayed five times in three years, and the first flight was postponed six times, due to a shortage of bolts, faulty design and a two-month strike at its factory.

Some market experts have said the delivery schedule for the 787, which made its first test flight in December after two years of delays, is too ambitious. Boeing has received more than 850 orders for the plane.

Boeing and rival Airbus received fewer orders in 2009 as carriers around the world were hit by falling travel demand in a sagging economy. But a recovering economy and brighter outlook for airlines point to a stronger 2010.

Boeing shares have rallied about 26 percent this year on expectations of a commercial rebound.

Commenting on the planned merger of United Airlines parent UAL and Continental Airlines, Albaugh said he expected the carriers to profit from the deal.

He sidestepped a question on whether the two airlines could cancel some outstanding aircraft orders as a result of the merger, saying only that he had sent the companies congratulatory notes via email.

Both Continental and United have order for Boeing planes, including 35 single-aisle 737s and 50 787s.

"I expect they will rationalize their fleets," Albaugh said, without being more specific.

Albaugh also said Boeing still plans to announce in June whether it will increase production of its 737 single-aisle plane from its current rate of 31 planes per month. The company has not yet said by how much it would raise the production rate.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

United Airlines will buy Continental Airlines for USD$3.2 billion

United Airlines parent UAL will buy Continental Airlines for USD$3.2 billion, forming the world's largest carrier in a merger that further shrinks the embattled US airline industry and could drive up air fares, sources said on Sunday.

The boards of directors of both companies unanimously approved the deal, which was expected to be announced by the carriers on Monday morning, sources familiar with the discussions said. UAL and Continental declined to comment and neither airline has confirmed the votes.

If given regulatory approval, the carrier would be called United Airlines and would be based in Chicago, with over USD$29 billion in annual revenue, a source said. The deal would generate up to USD$1.2 billion in revenue and cost benefits for the combined company.

"The combined firm would have more staying power than each of them individually," Robert Mann, airline consultant at RW Mann, said. "Part of it is the consolidation provides pricing power and the opportunity for pricing power for the entire industry."

"The margins on the combined business would be better," Mann said. "The share of revenue that's consumed by revenue will be lower. Margins will be better."

The airline industry is recovering from an economic downturn that drained travel demand and forced carriers to downsize.

Experts have said consolidation would lend much-needed stability to the industry, which has been dogged by low-fare competition, terrorism concerns, volatile fuel prices and overcapacity.


United and Continental have agreed to an exchange ratio of 1.05 UAL shares for each Continental share in an all-stock deal, the sources said. That value would be determined by the market, and could change by the time the deal closed.

Based on United's stock price of USD$21.83 on Friday afternoon, and Continental's 139.6 million outstanding shares as of April 21, United would pay USD$3.2 billion for Continental.

Based on current shares outstanding, a combined company would have 314.5 million shares, and UAL shareholders would own roughly 53 percent of the new company.

Under the terms for the all-stock merger, UAL chief executive Glenn Tilton would become non-executive chairman of the combined carrier while Continental CEO Jeff Smisek would become chief executive.

The carriers are planning a 16-member board with six directors from each airline, plus Tilton and Smisek, and two seats from unions. The airlines hope for US regulatory approval of the proposed merger by year's end.

The new company on paper now would have a combined work force of nearly 90,000 employees and a combined fleet of 693 planes.

United Airlines took in more than USD$16 billion in operating revenue for 2009. The carrier has hubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and Washington, DC. The carrier boasts a strong presence on Asia-Pacific routes, Europe and Latin America.

The carrier has 46,000 employees and a mainline fleet of 360 planes.

Continental, which saw USD$12.6 billion in annual revenue for 2009, has about 41,000 employees and hubs in Newark, New Jersey, Houston and Cleveland. Continental has a mainline fleet of 333 jets.

The unions representing pilots at UAL and Continental did not have immediate comment.

Although Captain John Prater, the president of the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents UAL and Continental pilots, said in February that a merger of the two carriers made more sense than other possible combinations because they have less route overlap.

UAL and Continental are both members of the global Star Alliance of airlines. UAL shares trade on Nasdaq. Continental shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange.


The leaders of both airlines have engaged in merger talks before, the most recent being in 2008, when Continental walked away at the last minute out of concern for UAL's then-fragile financial position.

Continental and UAL later agreed to link up in a strategic global alliance. The most recent round of talks were completed in about three weeks, a source familiar with discussions said.

Some industry experts believe that one airline merger could spur others and that several different combinations of major airlines are possible. The last major airline merger was in 2008 between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines to form what is currently the world's largest airline.

UAL and US Airways also were in merger talks this year, but US Airways pulled out last month. US Airways CEO Doug Parker, a vocal proponent of airline consolidation, has said that any mergers are good for the industry because they pull capacity out of the bloated system.

"I think it's going to force other carriers to raise the question (of consolidation)," said Hunter Keay, airline analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. He said a merger between US Airways and American Airlines parent AMR makes sense from a "network perspective."

"It certainly raises the question," Keay said. "I don't see it happening in the short-term."