22 FEBRUARY 2010

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BA two nil at half time

BRITISH AIRWAYS has claimed a second victory in its High Court battle with Unite, noting “modest changes” made to onboard conditions do not breech staff contracts.  However a very dark cloud hangs over the airline at the present time with the results due of a cabin crew ballot which will effectively determine the airline’s future in the short term.  A strike could happen as early as 1 March although promises have been made not to target the very busy Easter period.  At a meeting of the Association of European Airlines in Brussels last Friday (19 March) BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh revealed plans to offer at least a partial service should Unite persist with industrial action. www.ba.com

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Competition Commission disputes ruling

BAA LTD, who voluntarily sold Gatwick Airport last year in advance of being forced to do so, is under pressure from the Competition Commission.  BAA still owns six UK airports, including Heathrow.  The Competition Commission said last week that it would appeal against a tribunal ruling that BAA does not need to sell Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports.  In the meantime all BAA airports are struggling, Aberdeen down by 13.6% in January.  Overall the figure for the month was 7.2m down 3.1%. www.competition-commission.org.uk

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El Al returns to Eilat

EL AL ISRAEL AIRLINES has won authorisation from the Israel Ministry of Transportation to operate up to three daily flights from Tel Aviv (TLV) to Eilat (ETH).  Eilat Airport is a genuine downtown operation and the decision will provide a tremendous boost to increasing tourism for Israel's Red Sea resort.  Whilst El Al has operated from Ben Gurion to Eilat in the past at present  only Arkia and Israir offer services from Israel’s international gateway.  Flight time is 30 minutes.   They also fly from the small Sve Dov airport north of Tel Aviv’s main resort area.  The 1900m Eilat runway is sufficient to handle the Boeing 757 and similar size aircraft.  El Al plans to start operating these flights from the Spring and plan to include a seemless change for passengers from international fights with immigration and luggage collection both taking place at Eilat. www.elal.co.il

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Iberia record loss?

IBERIA is likely to make a record loss in 2009 according to reports coming out of Spain, adding fuel to those who see the combined airline with BA as too unwieldy.  Iberia's operating loss is estimated at €335m according to analysts' forecasts.  In 2008 the airline reported a net profit of €32m.  The financial collapse will be attributed by Iberia to the tough global operating environment and high oil prices.  Conversely increased competition on the South Atlantic with airlines offering a better product both at the front end and in the tourist class cabin plus the introduction of more European high speed trains will have had its effect.  The decision to downgrade the economy service to budget airline standards whilst still charging, in some case premium prices, would have driven traffic away.  www.iberia.com

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Milan expands for Alitalia

ALITALIA, or better described as the New Alitalia, was launched in January 2009, a merger of the bankrupt existing airline and Air One.  It was backed by a group of Italian entrepreneurs along with a major bank.  One year on it has carried 19.6m passengers at a load factor of 65.4%.  Last week the airline unveiled its three-year development plan for services at Milan's Linate and Malpensa airports.  It calls for the consolidation of Alitalia’s premium service from Linate (city) Airport, a new Miami route from Malpensa airport and the launch of a new business model for Air One flights, a cross between a lost cost and traditional airline.  Now called Smart Carrier Air One, the division will offer 14 destinations from Malpensa to Italy and the Mediterranean basin.  The destinations served by Alitalia from Milan will increase from 39 in 2009 to 47 in 2012 with the number of passengers expected to rise from 6.9m to 9m. www.alitalia.com

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Qatar still expanding

QATAR AIRWAYS has confirmed the launch dates of four recently-announced routes for 2010 as part of the airline’s expansion strategy.  The statement comes prior to the already publicised introduction of a daily non-stop service between Doha and Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore) on 22 February, the airline’s 11th Indian destination.  Beginning 30 March Qatar adds Copenhagen to its network with four flights a week non-stop from Doha.  After Stockholm, the Danish capital becomes Qatar’s second Scandinavian destination, the only Gulf carrier serving the region.  A week later, 5 April, Ankara comes ‘on-line’ four times per week, supporting its existing scheduled services to Istanbul.  And from 26 April, Qatar Airways expands its operations in the Land of the Rising Sun with daily flights to the Japanese capital, Tokyo.  The flights will be operated from Doha via Osaka, representing a significant increase in capacity for the Japanese market.  Seoul, which is currently served via Osaka, will become a daily non-stop service from Doha, beginning 28 March.  Barcelona begins 7 June. www.qatarairways.com

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To Russia by air

CATHAY PACIFIC and KOREAN AIR are both adding services to Russia from the start of the summer season 30 March.  Subject to regulatory approval, Cathay Pacific plans to operate a three times per week service from Hong Kong to Moscow with Airbus A340-300 aircraft in a two-class configuration.  The new service is planned to begin this summer.  With Korean Air it is a return of a once popular route from Inchon, essentially for the period of the “White Nights” when it hardly gets dark in the maritime city founded by Peter the Great.  Korean will operate three times per week using the Airbus A330 with state-of-the-art Audio Video On Demand (AVOD) system available for passengers in all three classes. www.cathaypacific.com  www.koreanair.com

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HAPPY TALK: With a British election due

Even early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important.

Since there were no telephones, TVs or radios, they sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars.  They were told to 'go sip some ale' and listen to people's conversations and political concerns.  Many assistants were dispatched at different times.  'You go sip here' and 'You go sip there.'  The two words 'go sip' were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we have the term 'gossip.'

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COMMENT: Google needs to get its act together

Have you ever been caught out by fraud, or near fraud?  Have you been taken in by web sites that say one thing and actually mean something else, not to one’s advantage?

I think it is true to say that we all (or at least most of us) have.

The rogues have infested the world of travel too.

Now it would seem obtaining an entry visa (where required) would be a simple task. 

As the world of the internet expands and expands even the Embassies and High Commissions in London are getting into the act.  One can recall huge queues in London’s Strand area outside a certain representation office.  And stories of long waiting periods in other places out in the cold and wet. 

All that has mostly gone, overtaken by either simple electronic registration, or at least a bright and reasonably hospitable waiting room.

But where there is business there is fraud, or at least sham ways of taking money off people.

The latest con is regarding visa applications. 

Using Google, tap in the name of a country for which you wish to obtain a visa.  You will find an inventory of offers. 

Take the Unites States for example.  An ESTA visa is free.  When AERBT started to look into this matter there were a plethora of entries the ones at the top no more than simple advertisements disguised as Google entries.

This is the official Google response to an AERBT enquiry regarding misleading paid for entries. 

“We have strict policies on what ads we allow on our sites. Our policies make clear that we do not allow ads for unacceptable business practices which includes the selling of free items.  If an ad breaks our terms and conditions we will remove it and prevent it from reappearing.”

It is true that Google has cleaned up its act since our query.  But it is still allowing misleading advertisements at the top of a search.

Before paying anything for a visa check very carefully on the Embassy web site.  It is amazing what you can find.  A Russian visa for a British subject actually costs £25.85 including VAT.  On top of that a £40 fee goes to the outside agency that now handles all applications for Russia.  Mother Russia never sees that money.  And if you go through a handling agent yet another charge is made.

If any readers seeking a visa comes across application sites that break Google’s rules, or even the spirit of the rules, let Google know.  And AERBT too.  press-uk@google.com

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

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Birmingham and Gatwick car wash

BIRMINGHAM and GATWICK users might like to know that Meteor “meet and greet” has on offer a free car wash (your editor  used Heathrow last week – sadly the deal was not available at that airport and he paid to have a nice clean car on return).  The wash can be upgraded to an interior clean for just £10 extra.  The system is very simple.  Assuming you have made the parking booking you just drive up to the terminal, spot the Meteor man (who one would have already called on the way to the airport) and hand over car and keys.  He will help you with any luggage.  Upon returning it is best to call once you have cleared immigration and a friendly driver will be waiting with your car outside the terminal building. www.meteormeetandgreet.com

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Coventry Airport update

COVENTRY CITY AIRPORT may have a new owner “within weeks”.  Following the saga with Swiss/American company ADP (see last week’s AERBT), Sir Peter Rigby, a local businessman and a Trustee of the RAF Museum (Hendon and Cosford) has stepped in and is in discussion with the City Council and the liquidator.  His ambitions for Coventry are rather different from the previous would-be operators, less ambitious but more practical.  His idea is to expand business and general aviation, professional pilot training, cargo operations and aerial work services, as well as being the site for Air Atlantique's forthcoming "working museum", which is planned to open in the Spring. www.coventryairport.co.uk

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Haiti back on the airline map

HAITI'S international airport has officially re-opened for limited scheduled flights with American Airlines making a return to Port-au-Prince last Friday (19 February) and Air Canada and Air France to follow shortly.  The airport was turned over almost entirely to disaster relief and military flights after the 12 January earthquake, which destroyed hundreds of buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed 212,000 people according to official figures.  At the peak of the disaster the airport had a capacity of 120 landings of military and relief aircraft daily.  Those flights have dwindled to an average of about 70 daily in recent days.  The quake caused serious damage to the airport's terminal.  The American military have repaired airport lighting and the part of the terminal that the airlines will use.  The airfield is being run from a portable control tower brought to Haiti by the US Federal Aviation Administration. www.azworldairports.com/Haiti

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Lima arrives back on the London schedule today

AIR EUROPA has introduced a three times per week service from London via Madrid to Lima (Peru) today (Monday 22 February).  This follows the launch last March of a twice daily service between Gatwick and the Spanish capital.  Flight time Madrid – Lima is around 12 hours with a two class Airbus A330.  With the introduction of the route it becomes the only direct flight from London to the Peruvian capital.  Established in 1986 Air Europa is Spain’s second largest airline and operates out of Madrid to 37 destinations in 16 countries. www.aireuropa.com

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Oxford to Newcastle

VARSITY EXPRESS, with its new twice daily Monday to Friday service between Oxford Airport and Edinburgh due to launch next Monday (1 March), is also to call at Newcastle.  From 5 April the southbound morning departure from Edinburgh (10:00) will have a 15-minute stopover at Newcastle as will the afternoon (14:30) flight out of Oxford.  The airline says that bookings are going well for the operation and that a second Jetstream 31 is being negotiated. www.flyvarsity.com

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Royal carrier

AIR PARTNER, which holds a Royal Warrant, has disclosed what it calls the top ten cities for private air charter and predicts that new entrants will be joining the league this year as destinations such as Sardinia in Italy gear up to cater for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) market.  There are no surprises among the top five: London, Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva and Zurich.  Next come Edinburgh, Amsterdam, then, increasingly, Madrid, Dublin and Stockholm plus Moscow.  The trend of 2009 continues whereby executives flying on business are chartering jets closer to the travel time says the Gatwick-based company.  During the Christmas and New Year period with the threat of strike action by British Airways, Eurostar breaking down and weeks of unprecedented snowfall throughout much of the UK, Air Partner was inundated arranging the despatch of private aircraft  for stranded executives. www.airpartner.com

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SIR NORMAN PAYNE

SIR NORMAN PAYNE has died at the age of 88.  He will be best remembered as one of the founders of the British Airports Authority and as Chairman led its London Stock Market listing in July 1987.  The deal with Maggie Thatcher’s government was very clever as it allowed BAA Plc to pay for Stansted’s development whilst raising £1.3bn privatisation revenue to the Exchequer.  BAA was able to dispose of Prestwick and finished up owning the three important Scottish Airports – Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Sir Norman trained as an engineer and as a partner in the firm of Sir Frederick Snow was much involved with the development of Gatwick in the 1950s.  He retired completely in 1991.

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Arik adds to Nigeria

ARIK, the Nigerian airline, has taken delivery of a brand new Airbus A330-300.  It will replace later in the Spring a Boeing 737 which is currently flying the five times per week Abuja – Heathrow route.  The configuration is 24 Business Class seats (2+2+2) and 269 Economy seats (2+4+2) each with seat back in-flight entertainment (IFE).  Arik made its first scheduled passenger flight in October 2006 and now flies to 20 domestic and 13 international destinations in nine countries.  It also serves London  from Lagos with a daily Airbus A340 operation, and also JFK New York with a flight time of around 12 hours, the only carrier on the route. www.arikair.com

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Buenos Aires gets easier

ARGENTINA-bound passengers from London will be pleased to learn that Aerolineas Argentinas revised its departure time out of Madrid to Buenos Aires.  What was eight hours is now 1hr 35min connecting time in Madrid.  Air Europa is the partner carrier at Madrid to London, Paris, Rome and flights within Spain.  Buenos Aires itself has two airports Ezeiza – the international operation and about one hour from the centre of the city, and Aeroparque – near the main bus station which offers flights to both regional and domestic destinations.  Buenos Aires is one of the very few large world capitals not connected non-stop to London for airline rather than technical reasons. www.aerolineas.com.ar

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EasyJet tops the 500 mark

EASYJET has reached a landmark figure of 500 routes, following the launch of a new service from its base at Milan Malpensa Airport to Porto (Portugal).  Founded by Stelios Haji-Ioannou (still the major shareholder) in 1995 with two wet-leased Boeing 737-200 aircraft it initially operated from Luton to Edinburgh and Glasgow.  It is now established with 19 bases across 28 countries, and a fleet of 182 aircraft, predominately Airbus A320 series.  The airline says it plans a 10% growth this year with a target of 50m passengers.  easyJet’s latest route, a once a day 30 minute hop between Liverpool and the Isle of Man, has caused established airline Flybe (4 times daily Q400) to jump around somewhat. www.easjet.com

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Highland Airways update

HIGHLAND AIRWAYS, who operate the vital airlink between Cardiff and Anglesey, as well as routes to and from Scotland’s Western Islands, continues to fly in spite of well publicised financial difficulties (see AERBT 8 February).  The Inverness Airport commuter carrier now says it is “cautiously optimistic” regarding the future and is taking scheduled service bookings until the end of March.  It has signed an Exclusivity Agreement with a third party interested in the entire share capital of the company.  Besides the PSO (public service obligations) routes it also undertakes aerial work, newspaper delivery flights, corporate staff shuttles and air charter. www.highlandairways.co.uk

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Lufthansa strike

LUFTHANSA is likely be virtually grounded as you read this report with the airline's pilots on strike from midnight.  The action is due to end Friday morning but there is bound to be a knock-on effect with both aircraft and crews out of position.  At least two-thirds of services have been cancelled.  The disruption, over pay and job security, will also affect German Wings and the cargo division.  However regional services will not be involved nor Lufthansa Italia.  Passengers can check the internet for the skeleton timetable of about 600 flights the airline still wants to service from today until late Thursday. www.lufthansa.com

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Premier Inn opens in the Middle East

PREMIER INN, the UK's largest domestic hotel chain, has announced the expansion of its offering in the Middle East with the opening of its third hotel in the region.  The introduction of the Premier Inn Dubai International Airport follows two successful openings in Dubai over the last 18 months, as well as the first Premier Inn hotel in Bangalore India which began business towards the end of 2009.  Situated immediately opposite Dubai International Airport Terminals 1 and 3 and with a free shuttle bus circulating every 30 minutes, Premier Inn Dubai International Airport boasts 281 en-suite rooms, a restaurant, bar and Costa Coffee Shop as well as an al fresco refreshment area with pool table.  The hotel also has a swimming pool and whirlpool bath. www.premierinn.com

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Shanghai gets another Marriott

SHANGHAI’S new 501-room Changfeng Park Marriott has opened its doors to guests, well in advance of World Expo 2010 in the city due to begin on 1 May.  A vibrant unveiling party was attended by more than 500 government officials, business partners, key customers and media.  The ceremony included a display of high-profile Ducati motorcycle models.  Located in the picturesque Changfeng Park area and overlooking the Suzhou River the 32-storey hotel is only a15-minute drive from Hongqiao Airport and 50 minutes from Pudong International Airport. www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/shacp-shanghai-marriott-hotel-changfeng-park

 

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ON TOUR: Testing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Through the good offices of Boeing we are able to reproduce the following article from the distinguished American publication Aviation Week & Space Technology.  It is written by Guy Norris, once of Flight International. 

Boeing is approaching one of the riskiest early stages of the 787 flight-test programme that, so far, is either meeting or exceeding expectations-including earlier-than-ever autoland tests, the company says.

"If you go look back at the history of flight testing, people have found things in a lot of different areas, and flutter is one that really stands out on any programme," says Scott Fancher, 787 Vice President and General Manager.  "So we will be doing flutter testing here over the next six weeks-and once we get past flutter testing, it is a risk-inflection point."

However, beyond this, "there are other areas" of potential surprise, he says.  Tests such as rejected takeoff and other high-energy trials will be key focus points.

"Autoland is always exacting, but the good news is we've already done it.  ZA001 and 002 have done multiple autolands, and that's the earliest we've ever done it," says Fancher.  Initial tests included both inertial navigation system (INS) and GPS-aided landings, with ZA002 recently conducting crosswind autolands.

Overall software and systems performance has also been better than expected. "When we first started flying, I was expecting a lot of software problems.  Now it turns out when we started ground testing the real aircraft, we saw very few problems-it looks like this investment is paying off," says Fancher.  Based on a function of test points per flight hour, "we're right on the optimum curve for efficiency."

To Fancher, this indicates the aircraft is "very stable from a systems and software perspective."  Flight crews say, "What's dominating their efficiency is getting to clear airspace – it's not the aircraft," says Fancher.

While acknowledging that the imminent doubling of the test fleet with the addition of ZA003 and 004 will also double the potential for problems, Fancher says "the good news is that they're all the same configuration functionally in terms of software.  We've been exercising [the initial two] aircraft aggressively from a systems standpoint, so the risk of finding things is coming to the point where it starts to come down.  Clearly, as you get more time on multiple aircraft, we'll be finding those random things; but as far as the basic stability is concerned, we're satisfied."

Two systems-architecture features of the 787 coming into play in the early flight-test effort include the built-in test and "self-healing" systems, says Fancher.  "We've been pleased with the ability of the aircraft to isolate when they fail; and the other aspect is the self-healing systems where failures are transparent to the pilot.  The aircraft is simply reconfiguring itself because of its double or triple redundancy, and never notifying the flight crew because they don't need to know.  The maintenance guys download it and decide if it's something that needs fixing now or later."

Against this background, Fancher concedes there are systems issues.  "Is it perfect?  No.  There are always things you anticipate that you will have to fine-tune."  The pressurization system has required "fine-tuning in the air and on the ground," after 787 Chief Test Pilot Mike Carriker commented that the system generated distinct "popping" sounds in the structure with pressure changes.  The all-electric, liquid-cooled environmental control system is very different, says Fancher.  "But even with these differences, these sorts of issues are still in the realm of those we'd expect."

Paradoxically, some of the most complex areas – such as the software – intensive common core system [CCS] at the heart of the 787's avionics and systems architecture – have proved robust and stable.  "The CCS has been rock solid for us," he adds.

Meanwhile, Boeing is preparing ZA003 and 004 for flight.  ZA003 contains a partially complete development version of the new-look interior, and is dedicated to the "passenger experience" segment of the development and certification programme.  The use of a full-up development interior in an aircraft this early in the test programme is "unprecedented," says 787 Interiors Director Tom Galantowicz.

"It was a bold decision, because the cost and disruption across the flight test programme are significant," he notes.  "It is important to us because it gives us the best opportunity to make sure the airlines get a satisfying product.  [This is] how we can be assured [of success], particularly with all this new technology and architecture."

In addition to partial cabin sections forward and aft containing 135 seats, the interior includes multiple lavatories and two crew-rest areas in the crown section.  The aircraft's mid-cabin also houses instrumentation racks, flight test equipment and work stations.

At the Everett assembly line, "production is ramping up and we're making progress – although as we'd expect, we are running into challenges and we're solving them," says Fancher.  Significant advancements in Boeing's steep learning curve with the 787 production system are visible on two of the four aircraft currently in Building 40-26.  The 15th aircraft on the line, in the second assembly position, is the first 787 to have arrived from Boeing's Charleston, S.C., facility with a pre-painted centre fuselage.  The empennage is now the only remaining major structural sub-assembly still to be pre-painted before delivery to Everett.  Painting protects the composite structure from damaging ultraviolet light.

The 16th aircraft, now in the first assembly position, is the first to arrive with the side-of-body wing-root modification already installed.  The work (performed at Charleston) is gradually being completed on other 787s at Aviation Technical Services, an adjacent maintenance facility on Paine Field, or in temporary hangars on the Boeing flight line.

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