17 MAY 2010


© 2022 Business Travel News Ltd.

Air Astana to add Embraers

AIR ASTANA, the flag carrier of the Republic of Kazakhstan, has celebrated its eighth anniversary announcing plans to expand its Central Asia hub at Almaty, the country’s largest city.  New services will be launched to Urumchi in western China; Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan and Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, during the second half of 2010.  Regional services already operate from Almaty to Baku, capital of Azerbaijan; Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan; and Novosibirsk in southern Russia.  Additional new routes to other cities in southern Russia, including Omsk and Yekatenburg, are also under consideration.  A fleet of Embraer E-190 airliners have been selected to specifically operate on Air Astana’s expanding Central Asia network, with the first of three aircraft scheduled for delivery in early 2011.  Airbus A320 family aircraft will operate these services in the interim.  The airline has a twice weekly non-stop service between Heathrow and Almaty. www.airastana.com

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BA trial collapses

BRITISH AIRWAYS probably gave a huge sigh of relief at the highest level when a price-fixing trial collapsed last week.  Prosecuting lawyers said they would not be offering any evidence.  BA did not need another time consuming (and probably negative) public grilling with a strike looming and the Iberia merger to push through.  The case was dropped when the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) admitted it had failed to disclose key documents to the defence.  Virgin Atlantic, the whistle blower in the case and as such immune from prosecution, may well have been relieved too after it was admitted that the airline had increased its fuel surcharge before speaking to anyone from British Airways.  How all this affects class actions brought in the United States remains to be seen. British Airways in Court AERBT 10 May 2010

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Coventry Airport comes back to life

AIR ATLANTIQUE CLASSIC FLIGHT celebrated the arrival of a former RAF Nimrod to its collection of, mostly flying, aircraft at Coventry Airport last week, by announcing the introduction of AIRBASE, a living heritage of British Aviation.  The event also marked the rebirth of the airport under its new owners Patriot Aviation Group.  Air Atlantique Chairman Mike Collett was keen to emphasise that AIRBASE is not a museum.  “What we have at Coventry is a living, working environment in which visitors both can gain a sense of flying in a bygone era, and at the same time look to the future.  We want to encourage young people to take up aviation.  It is an exciting and rewarding career.”  The new centre opens on 29 May and will also offer daily flights in one of the Air Atlantique de Havilland Dragon Rapides, a biplane and the backbone of UK domestic aviation in the 1930s. www.classicflight.com

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Farnborough Airshow news

FARNBOROUGH last week held a pre-show briefing on the actual site.  Highlight was the announcement that both the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A400M military transport would be making their debuts, a chance for the trade and public to see two of the most important current aerospace projects.  The show is completely sold out with 1,000 exhibitors, 166 chalets and 22 international pavilions.  When other shows are reporting a downturn in business the Farnborough event, from 19 to 25 July, has gone from strength to strength.  Visitors will find new roadways both within the site and adjoining, a new travel terminal and major entrance at gate B (taxis will go to gate A) and a courtesy bus service from Farnborough railway station.  In the meantime Go-Ahead London is busy promoting its bus services from Victoria Coach Station, various high profile hotels and Heathrow (Central and T5). www.londongeneral.co.uk/farnborough www.farnborough.com 

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Iberia gambles on Spanish success

IBERIA is banking on the Spanish national soccer team at least making it to the quarter final of the forthcoming World Cup.  The airline normally flies five times per week to Johannesburg but is now gearing up for an increase of seats for June and July of 170%.  The services themselves will be doubled to ten per week and Iberia is swopping aircraft, introducing a 342-seat Airbus A340/600.  Under code sharing with local carriers Iberia passengers can fly on from Johannesburg to three additional South African destinations: Cape Town, Durban, and Port Elizabeth. www.iberia.com

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Regional airports get a boost

FLYBE has launched its winter schedule 2010/2011 and opened bookings.  Travellers, on what is claimed to be the UK’s largest domestic airline, are offered a choice of up to 3,214 flights a week on 143 key routes.  These include 15 new city pairs plus ten seasonal European ski destinations.  Edinburgh – Manston; Exeter to Bergerac, Faro, Hannover, Norwich and Rennes; Isle of Man – Bristol; Jersey to Cardiff, Newcastle and Norwich; Gatwick – Nantes; Manchester – Bournemouth; Newcastle – Hannover; Southampton to Brest and La Rochelle.  Loganair now operates under the Flybe brand. www.flybe.com

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Toronto to New York

PORTER AIRLINES astonishing success with its turboprop operations out of Toronto’s downtown city centre airport, now renamed Billy Bishop, continues.  The airline has stepped up its Newark New York schedule to nine roundtrips, weekdaily, six on a Saturday and eight on Sunday.  Launched in December 2006 the carrier now operates 20 Bombardier Q400s to 14 destinations in Canada and the United States.  All Porter passengers have access to the airline's lounges at Toronto and Ottawa featuring complimentary hot cold beverages, snacks, wi-fi access and computer workstations. www.flyporter.com

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HAPPY TALK: Airborne phones

Now it is possible to phone on an aircraft, but not on the North Atlantic

Admittedly it was in Business Class but my lady neighbour was using her mobile.

"Excuse me, this airline bans their use in flight," I carefully suggested.

"In any event we're over the ocean- You won't get a signal out here."

"That's okay," she said. "I'm just calling my daughter. She's sitting up the back!"

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COMMENT: That Was the Week that Was

The more senior of readers may recall the highly successful BBC TV satire show of the early 1960s That Was the Week that Was.  Fronted by David Frost and Millicent Martin it only ran for two seasons in 1962 and 1963 and was often referred to as TW3.  The programme went out live, in black and white, and achieved miracles in terms of content when communications technology comprised of just the telephone and telex.

It beggars belief just how the TW3 team would have dealt with last week’s events in British politics.  Instant decisions would have had to be made, and some they would have got wrong.  In current society it would have meant a field day for the lawyers, the BBC Director General probably having a heart attack.  The original show was pulled because the people in charge were concerned of bias with a forthcoming election due!

This legal angle brings us to one important event of the last seven days, the judgment of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) not to pursue a case against what we might call the “The Virgin Four”, former and present British Airways senior staff charged with marketing collusion.  Whatever the technical reasons, the no-go decision stopped a court case that would have been expensive, time consuming, and probably very embarrassing.  AERBT’s view is that it should never have been started in the first place. 

In all industries people talk to each other.  Fuel is supplied to all airlines at much the same price, and a special one-off hike is likely to be the same for everyone.  The increase should therefore be similar.  Or even the same.  After all BA and Virgin Atlantic charge much the same basic fare (surprise surprise) and it is up to the customer to make the choice.

The UK now has a new government in place, the party with the largest number of Members of Parliament and vote share, propped up by a challenger who lost out in terms of numbers and people marking an X for its candidates.  Strange thing politics. 

We have a fresh Secretary of State for Transport (see below) replacing one who in his short term in office quickly established himself as a forward looking pragmatist, a railway man at heart, who was quickly able to pick up the nuances of the business travel and aviation scene.  We wish Lord Adonis well in opposition.

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are opposed to Heathrow’s critical third runway, and intend to stop the project.  Neither have any alternative plan.  High speed rail is fine for domestic use only.  The idea of any regional airport establishing itself as a hub is a non-starter.  How many times has British Airways tried to run a New York service from Manchester and failed?  King Canute could not stop the waves, nor can Paul Kehoe, the Managing Director of Birmingham Airport, attract any air routes of real consequence. 

Will David Cameron go down in the future as the Prime Minster who destroyed London as the world’s centre for international air travel?  Britain once led in engineering, shipping, trains, cars and aerospace.  We now are in front in terms of financial service industries, but for how long?  At least we own the world’s most popular trading language, English.

We can only wish the new Secretary of State for Transport well.  It will take him some weeks to get his feet under the table.  The Conservative Party was always the party of big business, but we do have to question whether politics (not for the first time) has got in the way of common sense.  If Heathrow is a no-go let us hear of the alternative.  Not for the first time has a properly conducted study had it conclusions completely overturned by short term political dogma.

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

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Airbus A380 on London to Paris route

AIRBUS A380 enthusiasts, and normal passengers, are in for a special treat this summer when Air France puts the world’s largest commercial aircraft on its London to Paris route on summer weekends from Saturday 12 June.  The A380 has been assigned to flight numbers AF1980 (departing Paris Charles de Gaulle 10:05) and AF1981 (departing Heathrow 12:50) during all summer weekends from Saturday to Monday, plus all Fridays in July.  Whilst it will significantly raise capacity during a peak period for the airline it is also a very cost effective way of introducing the aircraft to a much larger number of both flight deck and cabin crew.  Air France currently operates three of the double-deckers on the Paris – New York and Paris – Johannesburg routes and has a further nine on order. www.airfrance.com

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Body scanners for long term trial

MANCHESTER AIRPORT’S TERMINAL 2 will become the first in Europe to replace hand searching with body scanners as part of the security process after airport bosses secured a unique agreement from the European Commission.  The move follows a successful trial of a body scanner in Terminal 2 that began in October 2009 and which became a compulsory part of secondary security screening in February 2010.  The scanners will now be deployed as part of a 12-month trial, replacing the second walk through metal detector.  The airport is aiming to demonstrate to customers that they need not remove their coats, jackets and shoes, thus improving their journey through the security process.  The airport has been trialling a new SMART lane layout and this will complement the use of the scanners and hopefully improve the flow rate. www.manchesterairport.co.uk

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Delta adds at Heathrow

DELTA AIR LINES will add an extra daily flight between Heathrow and New York-JFK.  From 20 September the airline will have three daily flights on the route all year using Boeing 767-400ER aircraft. The service is scheduled to fit between existing flight times giving departures at 10:30, 12:30 (new) and 17:05.  In the other direction the airline will offer three overnight flights at 18:45, 21:00 and 23:05.  With all the services the aircraft are 2+2+2 in the new flatbed Delta Elite, and 2+3+2 in Economy, the airline having dropped the “coach class” title.  Delta is part of SkyTeam and uses T4 at Heathrow and T2 at Kennedy. www.delta.com

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Greece travel problems

GREECE-bound travellers should be aware that a general strike has been called for Thursday (20 May).  This will cause a shutdown of airports and airlines and other parts of the transport infrastructure.  With the strike called by both the public and private sector unions the country is likely to come to a complete halt with street protests a strong possibility.  On the previous day (19 May) Greece must repay some €9bn in expiring debt, using international rescue loans. www.gnto.gr

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Libyan air crash

AFRIQIYAH AIRWAYS suffered its first fatal crash in its nine-year history when a relatively new Airbus A 330-200 crashed just short of the runway at Tripoli International Airport (Libya) last week.  There were 103 fatalities, the only survivor a nine-year-old boy.  The eight-month old aircraft had flown 1,600 flight hours since delivery from Airbus in September 2009.  The aircraft is the same type as the Air France plane that disappeared in the South Atlantic 12 months ago. (Please note that AERBT has instigated a policy of not illustrating tragedies of this type) www.airbus.com www.afriqiyah.aero

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TAM joins Star Alliance

TAM AIRLINES, now the leading Brazilian carrier, has officially joined the Star Alliance network, putting the United/Lufthansa led group firmly back into South America.  TAM Airlines flies to more than 40 points in Brazil and most major points across South America.  Over the past years, the airline has expanded its intercontinental network to cover a variety of destinations in the USA and Europe, many of these being Star Alliance hubs.  All in all, the Star Alliance network now counts 27 member carriers, offering more than 21,050 daily flights to 1,167 destinations in 181 countries.  TAM Airlines’ joining completes a process which originally began in 2006 with the first informal negotiations. www.tam.com.br

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UK gets new transport minister

PHILIP HAMMOND (55) has made been made Secretary of State for Transport in the Cabinet of the new British Prime Minister David Cameron.  The Member of Parliament for Runnymede and Weybridge (on the Heathrow periphery, and which includes Brooklands, the spiritual home of both the British motor racing and aircraft industries) has built up a reputation as an articulate and effective Commons performer since being elected MP in 1997.  A former trade and industry spokesman his last position was as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.  Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, previously the Shadow Minister, and described as “not a friend of air travel” has now the junior position as Minister of State.  Norman Baker, MP for Lewes, comes in as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, formerly Shadow Secretary of State for Transport. www.dft.gov.uk/press/ministers

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As AERBT is published at one minute past midnight, British Summer Time, Monday 17 May 2010, the United Kingdom, and many parts of Europe are yet again under the shadow of volcanic activity in Iceland.

Ministers agreed on Saturday that five-day ash prediction charts would be made available on the Met Office website and these would be updated every six hours.  The Department for Transport said in a statement: "Within this timeframe, different parts of UK airspace – including airspace in the south east – are likely to be closed at different times."

Meanwhile, Italy has fined Ryanair 3m (£2.5m) for failing to help some passengers after cancelling their flights during the crisis.

National Rail has said that it would postpone engineering work if necessary to allow more trains to be run.

Readers are advised to carefully follow airline websites and monitor any flights they are booked on.  Airlines are operating a NO FEE policy to re-book cancelled services, but some sites are easier to use than others. www.metoffice.gov.uk

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Airport car park changes

WHICH? CAR has conducted a survey of UK airport parking charges revealing big differences at major terminals across the country.  The survey looked at car park prices at 15 of the UK's busiest airports, as well as charges for a range of other car parking options including park-and-ride facilities, local hotel parking, and valet services.  The magazine discovered that Heathrow's business car park was the most expensive option at £88.70 for seven days.  Belfast International, Liverpool and Bristol airports came in at £23, £27.99 and £29 respectively for the same period.  London City actively discourages travellers from leaving their car at the airport with a charge of £41 for 24 hours.  “Use the DLR”, they say.  At Blackpool parking is free.  Which? Car also compared valet services.  Happy Days ‘meet and greet’ collected the car from Heathrow T5 and returned it four days later with dirty wheel arches, a dirty driver's footwell plus an additional 22 miles on the clock.  AERBT uses Meteor which gives excellent service and offers good value. www.which.co.uk

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British Airways strike days

BRITISH AIRWAYS expects to carry more than 70% of its customers, or over 60,000 passengers a day, during 20 days of strike action due to start on Tuesday (18 May) and to run until Saturday (22 May).  Then there will be further walkouts on 24-28 May, 30 May-3 June and 5-9 June.  However a last minute High Court action today (17 May) may stop the strike and the union says that it is monitoring the ash cloud problem which might affect its actions.   Transport Secretary Philip Hammond says he will hold talks today with both sides and ACAS, the arbitration organisation, is getting involved as well.  At the end of the day only 57% of the cabin staff voted to walk out.  In the meantime other airlines, notably bmi and Flybe, have been quick to add flights and heavily promote their services.  BA said all services at Gatwick and London City would operate as normal. www.unitetheunion.com www.ba.com

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Eurostar to sponsor London 2012

EUROSTAR has become a tier three sponsor of London 2012, the 30th domestic sponsor.  The high speed rail actually runs through the Stratford Olympic Park but does not stop.  Stratford International, the station for the Olympic Stadium, lacks customs and immigration facilities.  Passengers inbound from the Continent will either have to disembark at Ebbsfleet and transfer to the high speed Javelin service from Kent, or stay on to St Pancras and take the seven-minute ride back to the Olympic site.  The cross-Channel rail operator has also acquired rights in France and Belgium and has become a partner of the National Olympic Committees. www.eurostar.com

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Holiday Inn dropped at Amsterdam Airport

AMSTERDAM AIRPORT’S Holiday Inn hotel has new owners, Park Plaza, according to reports coming from Holland.  Situated just one stop on the Metro from the airport the 342-room hotel has had a less than distinguished history.  Built in 2006, it initially remained unopened before being unveiled under the IHG brand.  Last year it was declared bankrupt and kept open by the bank lender who also undertook a refurbishment.  Park Plaza has three other hotels in the Amsterdam area. www.parkplaza.com

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Losses for Lufthansa and easyJet (who have problems)

LUFTHANSA has posted a whopping €330m loss for the first quarter, up from €44m for the same period last year.  The airline has blamed the figure on escalating fuel prices and the cost of the consolidating Austrian Airlines and bmi into the Group.  Industrial action by pilots in February did not help, nor a particularly harsh European winter.  The next quarter is highly unlikely to be better with major disruptions to services from Iceland’s volcanic ash.  Also announcing a loss was easyJet with a figure of £78.7m (down from £116.5m), the airline suffering from both external and internal problems.  The volcano problems seriously disrupted schedules.  Former Chairman and major shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou resigned from the board on Friday (14 May) declaring that departing Chief Executive, Andy Harrison was “over-rated” and had increased nothing but “the size of his bonus” since joining the airline in late 2005.  Harrison is to stay in the travel industry as CEO of Whitbread, the hotel and restaurant company. www.lufthansa.com www.easyjet.com

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Tokyo US slots given

US AVIATION AUTHORITIES have tentatively awarded Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines and American Airlines four hotly contested daily slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, spurning efforts by United and Continental Airlines to gain greater access to Japan.  The Department of Transportation has allocated one slot to Hawaiian for a Honolulu-based service; two to Delta for services from Los Angeles and Detroit; and a single slot to American for a New York – Haneda route following a new open skies agreement between the countries.  Since the opening of the unpopular (40 miles from the capital) Narita all the airlines have fought for Haneda to be opened again for long haul flights.  This was part of the platform of the new Japanese government and will be implemented later this year.  What may have counted against United and Continental was their tie-up with ANA.  The airlines can appeal but time is short. www.dot.gov

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ON TOUR: The exclusive flyers meet at Geneva

“Optimism” was the key word at EBACE, Europe’s premier business aviation show, as industry players gathered to celebrate its tenth anniversary in Geneva.  EBACE is always a popular show, drawing in high level visitors from Russia, the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa, plus this year, an increased number of visitors from Asia.   “It’s a customer-rich environment,” highlighted Gulfstream Senior VP Marketing Larry Flynn. 

In a year where business aviation has not been immune from the economic freefall, the industry has come out fighting.  In his opening remarks EBAA President and CEO Brian Humphries reflected on what has been a remarkable decade of achievements with immeasurable progress made with policy holders.  Peter Bunce, President of the US General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), said that “EBACE is so much more than products and marketing.  It is about education and communicating with politicians.”

While the first 100 years of aviation were all about safety, the next 100 will be about the environment, EBACE delegates heard.  Maximising technology, progressing with air traffic management modernisation, the embracing of SESAR (the Single European Sky) and satellite positioning for data links are going to be so important in the future.  Other key issues are security, safety and how to successfully achieve carbon neutrality. 

Show highlights

Embraer celebrated gaining European EASA approval of its Phenom 300 light jet, the culmination of a flight test programme that covered more than 1,200 hours’ test flying.  Oxford Airport based FlairJet, the first commercial operator of the Phenom 100 in Europe confirmed it will be the first European Phenom 300 operator too, from August.  Embraer, which brought its seven-strong family of business jets to EBACE, said it plans to deliver 120 more Phenoms, including 300 series, this year.  In the downturn it seems that the entry level jets from Cessna and Embraer have fared well as supporting figures highlighted by Eurocontrol traffic statistics showed.  (A total 400 – 300 Mustangs and 100 Phenom 100s have been delivered to date). 

HondaJet also confirmed that its ‘large’ entry level jet is set to make its first flight in November this year.  Edwin Brenninkmeyer CEO of Oriens Advisors, an aviation consultancy focused on the complete ELJ value chain noted:  “There is a lot of opportunity for ELJs in Europe, but it’s crucial that manufacturers and operators continue to educate customers into understanding the value of these aircraft as serious business tools.”

Nearly supersonic – Gulfstream’s 650

Gulfstream announced its brand new long range Gulfstream 650 recorded a top operating speed of mach 0.925 the weekend before the show opened, overtaking the record for fastest business jet from the Cessna Citation X.  At a press conference which kicked off with a video of the smaller G150 making its debut landing at London City Airport, CEO Joe Lombardo highlighted that the OEM did not cut back on any of its R and D spending during the crisis.  “We ended the year with more orders than cancellations,” he said, highlighting that for three years in a row international deliveries have out-performed those from the US market.  Over 60% of orders have been from the rest of the world.  Key growth markets he highlighted, echoing the view of the whole industry, are Brazil, China, India and Russia.

With a 30-strong fleet of Bombardier jets, leading European operator VistaJet announced that despite a very challenging year its revenues actually increased during 2009 by 20%, mirroring the same growth of 2008.  During the year it flew more than 7,250 movements and over 16,500 passengers.  It attributes its success to a consistency of high quality service throughout its operating bases in Europe, Middle East and Hong Kong.  

Drawing considerable interest out on the static was the Airbus ACJ (G-NOAH) which recently entered service with Farnborough, UK-based Acropolis Aviation.  The Yves Pickardt of Alberto Pinto International Interior Design features a 19-seat VIP cabin, a real kitchen and a luxury bathroom with substantial shower.  Interiors were a strong theme this year  – which will continue next week at Reed Exhibitions’ Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.  Eurocopter showed off its special edition EC145 developed in collaboration with Mercedes Benz and inspired by the car manufacturer’s new ‘R’ range.  In yet another re-invention of the BAe 146/Avro RJ line BAE Systems Regional Aircraft announced a new Explorer version with Design Q featuring an outside deck linked to a freight door, while 328 Support Services in Germany said it had its first contract to design a VIP Dornier 328 turboprop.

Aerospace Interiors made its show debut all the way from Auckland (New Zealand) to showcase their bespoke interior conversions VIP and head of state jets.  Through a newly announced partnership with Dubai-based Greenline Interiors, the company is out to target clients in the northern hemisphere.

Partnerships were the trend at EBACE as established and reputable names joined forces for sound commercial benefit.  ExecuJet and RUAG in Switzerland announced a strategic alliance to support joint customers with MRO activity.  Qatar-based Rizon Jet announced an alliance with new UK-based VIP charter company Oryx Jet where the two will work together to attract new FBO/MRO and charter business, respectively, at their new Biggin Hill base. (See AERBT On Tour 3 May). 

And as the Russian market starts to gather momentum again JetAlliance of Austria announced it is to acquire 49% of Aeroflot Russian Airlines’ business aviation arm, Aeroflot Plus.  The organisation is planning to announce full details at a press conference at the end of this month.  Jetalliance, Cessna sales representative in 18 countries, including Russia, will run the business as Jetalliance East, becoming the first non-Russian company to fly Western-built aircraft on a Russian AOC.  It plans to base a new Cessna Citation CJ3 and Cessna Sovereign at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

Middle East embraces EBACE

"The Middle Eastern market is beginning to think of EBACE as one of their shows,” commented Humphries.  Al Bateen Executive Airport from Abu Dhabi, the region’s first dedicated private jet airport, on schedule to open in September, had a strong presence. Farnborough Airport, UK-based Gama, a long established charter and management group, took the opportunity to promote its recently awarded UAE Air Operators’ Certificate and status as the only business aviation group in the world to simultaneously hold operating licences in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Bermuda.

Addressing a session on Aviation and the Environment Where Now? Brian Humphries stressed that the forthcoming EU Emissions trading scheme is both a concern and ‘a bit of a mess,’ with 98% of effort going into 2% of the problem.  Business jets account for 7% of traffic, but just 0.04% of emissions, he said, noting the biggest challenge is developing an environment blueprint for the industry that is cost-effective and technically achievable.  Biofuels are not so viable as proponents believe, suggested Paul Bogers, Aviation Technology Manager from Shell, claiming the raw cost of the foodstock is greater than the cost of the end product (kerosene).  “Press releases are cheap, but biofuels are expensive,” he concluded.

Alison Chambers, Jane Stanbury
Emerald Media   www.emeraldmedia.co.uk



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