29 MARCH 2010

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Airline strike

LUFTHANSA passengers, and potential passengers, should be aware that the airline’s pilots plan to go on strike again next month after failing to resolve a dispute over pay and job security that already caused a walkout in February.  They will strike from 13 April to 16 April, the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) union said.  The move comes amid mounting labour unrest over management attempts to push through cost-cuts.  With more than two weeks left until the strike is due to start, Lufthansa hopes it can still be avoided.  Last time a judge intervened with a cooling off period and the four-day strike became one day, the idea being that the problems would be resolved.  "We are ready for talks and hope very much that VC will return to the negotiating table," a spokeswoman for Lufthansa said.  The current British Airways strike started on Saturday 27 March and will continue until midnight on Tuesday. www.lufthansa.com

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China and premium economy

AIR CHINA is to launch Premium Economy on its domestic routes, a clear demonstration of how the country is moving ahead on the commercial front and also the lengths of some of the internal services.  It is the first Chinese carrier to offer such a service.  Initially it will be available on the Beijing – Shanghai and Beijing – Guangzhou routes.  Over the coming years, Air China plans to purchase 23 Airbus A330-300 aircraft with 20 Premium Economy seats, effectively the first three rows, and 291 Economy.  Air China now has 10m members in its frequent flyers programme. www.airchina.com.cn

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Emissions control success for airline

FINNAIR intends to reduce its emissions by 24% in the period 2009 and 2017.  These were first measured in 1999, which means that if Finnair meet the targets the airline would have achieved an astonishing reduction of 41%.  These figures are discussed in Finnair's Corporate Responsibility Report which has been published and is based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines.  Supporting the airline’s achievements is an article by Professor Emeritus Seppo Laine of the Helsinki University of Technology on aviation energy consumption and emissions.  "According to the latest research, the climate-warming effect of air transport is significantly smaller than expected.  Various emission components may have cooling effects, so the overall effect is obtained by multiplying the effect of carbon dioxide emissions by the figure 0.48," writes Laine.  In addition to Finnair's corporate responsibility key figures, the report also features a column by analyst Damian Ryan of The Climate Group, who discusses the options for reducing air transport emissions as well as emissions trading plus the effects of tourism, one of the world's biggest industries. www.finnair.com

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Iberia to introduce new short haul operation?

IBERIA, British Airways' erstwhile partner, is moving ahead with plans to introduce a brand new short and medium haul airline as early as November.  Still subject to discussion and approval, it will take over Iberia routes that cannot currently be operated in a profitable way due to Iberia's cost structure.  It will offer the same service, but it will be more efficient (ie costs will be cut) and feed Iberia's long haul network.  Ten aircraft are confirmed for the operation, with a gradual transfer of short haul operations subject to a labour agreement, but no name has been announced.  With the new airline, which will be a critical tool to transform the short and medium haul sector, Iberia expects to gain a higher share of the short and medium haul market.  Chairman and CEO, Antonio Vázquez, has said: instead of complaining about the airline industry situation and future, it would be better to look for a solution to the problems.  In another move the Iberia board was supposed last week to approve the BA deal, but it was surprisingly postponed. www.iberia.com

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Oman Air in European push

OMAN AIR, based at Muscat, and the last of the old Gulf Air conglomerate to step out on its own, has become part of a strong Sultanate of Oman marketing push into Europe this summer.  Last autumn the airline introduced services to Frankfurt (4 flights per week), Munich (3) and Paris (4), complementing the Heathrow flights which commenced in November 2007.  Branded “Now is the Time”, the campaign aims to encourage visitors to Oman, by offering high quality, week-long accommodation and return flight packages to the Sultanate over the summer months.  The collective promotional drive links Oman Air and The Ministry of Tourism with the IHG Group, Shangri–La, Radisson Blu, Grand Hyatt, Chedi, Al Nadha Resort and Spa and Park Inn.  Last year the airline introduced flat bed Business Class seats, said to be the widest available, on its newly delivered Airbus A330 aircraft.  See Gulf Air above. www.omanair.aero

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Royal Jordanian expands east

ROYAL JORDANIAN, a member of oneworld, has acquired a pair of Airbus A330s to serve the growing number of flights to Far East destinations and the London route.  RJ President/CEO Hussein Dabbas (a guest of the Aviation Club in London on 28 April) said that the introduction of the two Airbus A330s is to cover a shortfall due to delivery delays of the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners, not now due to start until 2013.  Flights will be resumed to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of June this year, in light of the signs of recovery and increase in tourism and commercial activity to Malaysia.  The three weekly services to Kuala Lumpur will be operated via Bangkok.  The new aircraft will also be flown four times a week to Hong Kong via Bangkok, three times a week to Colombo and daily to London. www.rj.com

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Washington Reagan National Airport for JetBlue?

WASHINGTON REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT, which sits on the Potomac River,  essentially a city centre airport and with its own railway station, could soon see the arrival of Jet Blue Airways.  It is uniquely named after two Presidents.  JetBlue’s possible good fortune is due to its bigger rivals Delta and United horse trading to shake up East Coast airport access rights.  It is likely that JetBlue will gain five round-trips between Reagan and La Guardia, the New York airport closest to Manhattan. www.jetblue.com

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COMMENT: Heathrow and the third runway problem

It stares us in our faces.  The solution to the Heathrow third runway problem, or T6.

Northolt.

Or to give it the official title, RAF Northolt.

Read on.  It is not the solution you expect. 

Our remedy may surprise you after Friday's High Court judgement.  It was certainly not a victory for the anti-Heathow protesters as the BBC attempted to indicate.  Transport Minister Lord Adonis came out fighting, stressing that the judgement did not rule out a new runway, but called for a review "of all the relevant policy issues, including the impact of climate change policy."

Back in 1946 Northolt was Europe’s busiest commercial airport.  With the emergence of Heathrow the then British European Airways (BEA) moved out in 1954.  It became the RAF’s air transport (communications) gateway for London.

Today its serves two purposes.  Firstly as the landlord for various military administrative organisations, secondly as an operational airport, eight in the morning until eight in the evening with very limited weekend use, run in air traffic terms by the Royal Air Force, and used by the Royal Squadron, RAF communications flights, plus other military wings including overseas visitors.  An executive jet base is hosted by London City Airport.

Three big problems.  It is a very expensive operation to run, however it is disguised; the locals do not like it as it is in the middle of a built-up area; thirdly there is a legal limit of 7,000 civil movements.  In 2009 there were 5,905 civil and 6,980 military movements according to a Parliamentary written reply.  RAF Northolt is not approved under the PETS scheme nor does it have the facilities to process animals.

For the most part the Royal Air Force operates elderly jets that do not meet modern noise regulations.  The military is not above the law and these aircraft should be replaced.

Our solution for the Heathrow third runway problem is to close Northolt!  Leave the non-flying activities where they are, and move the nearly 15,000 movements to Heathrow’s third runway.  

Of course the Air Marshals would shout.  They might even involve Prince Philip.

But think of the benefits.

The Royal Air Force gain a 24/7 operation, the executive jets better connectivity with long haul flights, and the tens of thousands living around the airport will be delighted with its closure.  The land can be sold for housing.  Whether the money goes to the RAF or the Exchequer the government can sort out.  Or perhaps towards the new Heathrow facility.

The Conservative Party, embarrassed by its anti-third runway policy, could support the move without admitting a mistake!  For whatever reasons the party has forgotten that the nation depends on Heathrow for commerce and is the reason for this country’s unique position as the hub for the world (and for jobs too).  Do we want to lose this position to Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris (or even Dubai)?

Currently Heathrow is limited to 480,000 moments on two runways.  A Government policy decision in 2009 limits the three runways to 605,000 movements in 2020 and 702,000 in 2030.

As a trade-off BAA could be generous and offer the RAF and its client operators a generous 20,000 movements at current rates plus inflation.  That would still leave over 100,000 movements for commercial operations in 2020.  Executive operations (10%) and airline services mix happily at London City.  In any event the RAF could move some movements to Brize Norton and for the real VIPs surely they would prefer a purpose-built facility at Heathrow. 

AERBT believes Northolt should be closed and the old (noisy) jets need to be banned.

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

See also AERBT 11 January

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Baggage losses down

SITA, the aviation IT specialist owned by the carriers themselves, has reported a drop of 23.8% in the number of air passengers' bags mishandled last year, resulting in savings of US$460m by the world's airlines.  This is the second consecutive year that the industry has brought down significantly the number of bags mishandled worldwide.  Last year there were 25m bags mishandled, out of 2.2bn passengers, a figure that is more than 40% (or 17.4m bags) down on the 2007 numbers.  SITA, operates WorldTracer, the industry-standard, fully-automated system for tracing mishandled passenger baggage used by more than 440 airlines and ground-handling companies worldwide.  The statistics show that half the bags go missing during aircraft transfers, 16% fail to load, and 13% are due to ticketing and security issues.  Whilst the arrival airport normally gets the blame this is attributed to only 3% of errors. www.sita.aero

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Continental plans for 787 introduction

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES plans to take delivery of four Boeing 787s in the third quarter of 2011 and two more in the fourth quarter, becoming the first airline, other than lead carrier ANA, to be positive with its introduction dates.  In a US Securities and Exchange filing last week it confirmed 11 of the Dash 8s (long haul) and 14 Dash 9s (a larger version with further extended range).  The aircraft will arrive fitted with the new BusinessFirst interior and are likely to be initially used on the highly competitive Newark to Heathrow route, probably ahead of the introduction by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic of the same aircraft. www.continental.com 

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Gulf Air is 60 years old

GULF AIR has celebrated 60 years of operation making it by far the oldest airline in the region.  CEO Samer Majali was in a positive mood at an event to commemorate the airline’s achievements over the years.  He noted that despite the economic downturn that affected almost all business sectors, particularly air travel, Gulf Air carried around 5.7m, a slight growth.  The Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPK) also showed a better performance by registering a 2.1% increase.  The overall flight punctuality has also reached 82.5% during the year registering an increase of 12.5% over 2008.  Technical Dispatch Reliability has reached 98.1%, well above the industry norms.  Gulf Air’s first aircraft was a de Havilland Dove.  To celebrate its 50th anniversary Air Atlantique flew a Dove in Gulf colours to Bahrain.  The same aircraft is embarking on a UK airport pleasure flight tour details of which can be found on the Air Atlantique website. www.gulfair.com

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Marriott set for European expansion

MARRIOTT plans to double its portfolio in Europe by 2015.  Amy McPherson, President and Managing Director of Marriott International Europe, made the announcement at the International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin.  Marriott has been in Europe for 35 years and is now represented by 174 hotels.  Seven of Marriott’s 18 brands are in Europe: Ritz-Carlton, Bvlgari, JW Marriott, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard by Marriott and Marriott Executive Apartments. In addition, the first European Residence Inn, an extended-stay brand, will open in Munich in 2012.  The development pipeline includes nearly 30 projects including the Renaissance Moscow Monarch Center Hotel (2010), the Courtyard by Marriott Budapest (2010) and the JW Marriott Hotel Ankara (2010). www.marriott.com

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Open Skies 2010

EUROPEAN AIRLINES could soon be able to take majority control of US carriers and also bid for American government contracts following a deal struck on last Thursday (25 March).  However any real change will hinge on approval by the US Congress, a far from certain prospect.  The new agreement confirms that the 2007 ‘Open Skies’ agreement will remain in place indefinitely.  It also increases US-EU co-operation in aviation security, safety, competition, and ease of travel and provides greater protections for American carriers from local restrictions on night flights at European airports.  Essentially airlines can fly between any EU city and any US city.  The fly in the ointment is that United States limits foreign ownership of US airlines to 25%, which is due to change if Congress approves the measures.  United Airlines has backed the move and Continental says it is in favour of liberalisation. http://europa.eu

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Southend gets the go-ahead

SOUTHEND AIRPORT’S expansion plans have been approved by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  This involves a 300m extension of the runway to the south west and is alongside the railway station (direct to London’s Liverpool Street) and control tower which are already under construction and the proposed new terminal and hotel.  The railway station should open in summer 2010, the control tower spring 2011 and the runway works – which involve a new ILS – fourth quarter 2011.  Alastair Welch, Managing Director of Southend Airport, said: “This development will make a significant contribution to increasing the attractiveness and prosperity of the south Essex area for businesses, which experts believe will have a positive effect on house and commercial property prices.  Southend will also now be able to showcase what it does best in time for the 2012 Olympics.” www.flysouthend2012.com

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ON TOUR: Business Aviation

RAF Northolt is London’s oldest airport with Croydon and Hendon gone and Gatwick somewhat moved and upgraded.  Its use for the second BA - Meet-Up, the official title for the business aviation networking conference, set the mind thinking  (Read COMMENT above). 

Non-military movements at Northolt are restricted to just 7,000 per year.  That target was pretty much reached this year, according to Darren Grover, Chief Operating Officer at London City Airport, which provides ground handling services for all the arriving and departing executive jets. 

The airport’s education centre proved a hospitable venue for some 120 business aviation delegates for two and a half days of presentations and inter-active discussions. 

ExecuJet’s Andrew Hoy highlighted the big growth market for buyers of business jets was China, but infrastructure and investment in maintenance facilities was desperately needed in preparation because aircraft “need love on the ground too”! in an aside regarding the important role that FBO and MRO organisations play to support business aviation.  

“It is encouraging,” he said, “that 150 of the 400 airports in the country are now open to non-scheduled traffic.  ExecuJet is now out-selling more pre-owned jets than new by ten to one,” he noted, “and interest is especially strong from Asia.  India too is an emerging market, alongside the USA.  Once the biggest market for business jets, North America was hit hardest by the recession, so I daringly put North America and Canada into that category too, now the market is starting to lift.”

Ronald Goodliffe from the Cayman aircraft registry noted there had been a marked increase in aircraft registration applications from the Middle East, balanced by a significant drop in requests from the Americas.

Hot topics of discussion were education, training and standardisation for FBO services, including a call for cabin service representatives who fly on private jet aircraft as ‘cabin servers’ to be safety trained.  Currently there are no regulations (on either sides of the pond) for aircraft under 19-seats to have a qualified cabin attendant.  That role is provided by the First Officer.  But do clients who charter know that?  It does seem that the quickly forgotten Varsity Express flew with a stewardess, whilst probably competent, was not part of the legal crew.

Corporate jet training is very different from commercial airline training, opined Susan Friedenburg, a firm advocate of specific industry training.  She runs Corporate Flight Attendant training courses in the US and works with FlightSafety to provide the safety training.   

Graham Stephenson, who has enjoyed 51 years in aviation, 23 of them in the business aviation fraternity, most recently as Head of FBOs at ExecuJet, announced an innovative online training course available from June through London Metropolitan University that can be used by FBO staff anywhere in the world. 

 “People joining the FBO world from the hotel and hospitality industry are going to be daunted in the first few months with all the industry jargon, special language and procedures and this course, who also addresses air law, flight planning, principles of flight, mass and balance, and aircraft performance, will help enormously,” he said. 

During BA Meet-Up Stephenson was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his dedication and devotion to business aviation.

BA Meet-Up, created by Cdr Bud Slabbaert, is to become an annual fixture for industry professionals.  Next year’s event will focus on training, education and information provision.  A change of name might help and save confusion!

www.ba-meetup.com

Alison Chambers 

alison@emeraldmedia.co.uk   www.emeraldmedia.co.uk

 

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787 update via LAN

LAN, the Chilean member of oneworld, has agreed with Boeing to adjust the delivery of the first ten of its 37 aircraft order for the 787 from 2014 to next year.  According to LAN this means that it will be the first airline in the western hemisphere to receive the aircraft.  Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways is the 787’s launch customer with delivery scheduled for later this year.  Four 787s are now flying, all Rolls-Royce powered.  Whisper has it that the aircraft will make its international public inaugural appearance at the Farnborough Air Show in July, together with the all-new Boeing 747-8 freighter. www.lan.com  www.boeing.com/commercial

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Boeing pushes ahead with the all new 747

BOEING has announced that it is accelerating the production rates of both the 777 and 747 programmes, a real confidence boost, particularly for the 40-year-old Jumbo, revitalized as the 747-8.  Whilst orders for the cargo variant of the rejuvenated aircraft remain with 76 confirmed, for a long time Lufthansa was the only customer ordering the passenger version.  It has now been joined by Korean Air, a long time 747 stalwart.  The first cargo 747-8 has flown, followed by two others, and all three are being used in the certification programme before being delivered to customer airlines.  Cargolux of Luxembourg is expected to take delivery of the initial aircraft before the end of the year. www.boeing.com/commercial

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easyJet gets new chief

EASYJET has appointed Carolyn McCall as its new Chief Executive, succeeding Andy Harrison, who is standing down on 30 June.  She joins from Guardian Media Group where she has held a number of roles over two decades, including Group Chief Executive since 2006.  She claims to be a customer of the airline.  McCall has held directorships of Tesco (March 2005 to April 2008) and Lloyds Banking Group (October 2008 to December 2009) and was appointed to the board of New Look (January 2010).  Presumably media savvy from her long years at the left leaning newspaper it will be interesting how she deals with easyJet’s fractious press relations.  In the background hovers Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of the carrier, whose family controls 37% of the airline. www.easyJet.com

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Highland Airways in administration

HIGHLAND AIRWAYS, which can trace its history back to 1991, has gone into administration and ceased flying.  Whilst passengers on its Inverness to Stornoway, Western Isles, route will be able to use an alternative Loganair/Flybe service, those now used to flying between Cardiff and RAF Valley in Anglesey will be faced with a difficult 200-mile plus car journey until a new operator can be found for the PSO (public service obligations) operation.  The Inverness-based airline operated a fleet of 11 aircraft used for scheduled services and charters, the largest a 29 passenger Jetstream 41.  See AERBT – 22 February 2010 www.highlandairways.co.uk

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Moscow from the East

HONG KONG AIRLINES, the independent carrier, will launch scheduled services between Hong Kong and Moscow in June, competing directly with Cathay Pacific who introduced its own three times weekly flights on 28 March.  The inauguration of this new long haul route is a major milestone in the airline's aggressive expansion plan.  The four times a week service will be operated by a brand new two-class Airbus A330-200.  Hong Kong Airlines was established in 2001 followed by sister company Hong Kong Express in 2004. www.hongkongairlines.com

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Oslo gains Doubletree

OLSO is to be the site of the first Doubletree by Hilton in Scandinavia.  Opening shortly the hotel is ideally located in the heart of the city centre on the historic Stortingsgata, next to the city's famed Christiania Teater.  Situated in a listed building the conversion from office building to upscale hotel is being completed in accordance with local heritage guidelines.  The property is within walking distance of the city's business and financial districts and surrounded by historic buildings including the Royal Palace, National Theatre, Town Hall and Parliament.  The first phase is of 59 rooms with another 44 added by the end of the year. http://doubletree1.hilton.com

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Turkish expansion

ANADOLUJET, the budget division of Turkish Airlines and launched in 2008, is expanding west.  It plans to introduce flights to Stockholm on 1 June, followed by Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Vienna, Tehran, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and London.  Currently the Ankara-based carrier flies to 20 points nationally and regionally, operating both Boeing 737-700 and 800 series aircraft. www.anadolujet.com

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HAPPY TALK: Michael O

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary has been sharply criticised by a Dublin High Court judge for what he described as lying in a letter to Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, according to the Irish Times.  Mr Justice Peter Kelly said Mr O'Leary was lucky not to be found in contempt of court for what he described as "a serious state of affairs". 

The judge made his comments in an interim ruling in an ongoing case by Ryanair against the Commission for Aviation Regulation over airport charges which the airline considers far too high.  Mr Justice Kelly said he found it quite extraordinary that Mr O'Leary misrepresented him in a letter to a Minister.  He said Mr O'Leary's attempt to justify this in the witness box was "pathetic".  The judge noted Mr O Leary had apologised fully in the witness box and because of that he would not hold him in contempt. 

O’Leary denied as “absolutely untrue” suggestions by Cian Ferriter, for the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) , that Ryanair has a pattern of misleading solicitors, the court, the DAA and the public, “an utter disregard” for the truth or that he showed the same lack of respect for the court as to all others who come in the way of Ryanair campaigns.

 

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