31 MAY 2010


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Air Southwest up for sale

PLYMOUTH could be in danger of losing its link to London and other parts of the UK following the decision of Sutton Harbour Holdings plc to offer for sale Air Southwest, created in 2003 after British Airways ditched its former Brymon subsidiary.  Plymouth had already lost its Heathrow services, dumped by BA in a slots benefit move.  At the time Sutton Harbour also acquired Plymouth City Airport, part of which is now being redeveloped for housing.  The airline has dropped its twice daily service to London City.  Any potential purchaser would require some kind of guarantee that the airport would remain open. www.airsouthwest.com

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Branson speaks out

VIRGIN ATLANTIC has introduced a three times per week service between Heathrow and the Ghana capital Accra, operating an Airbus A340-300, with the standard Virgin layout of Upper Class (34), Premium Economy (35) and Economy (171) seats.  It is the Crawley-based airline’s fifth African route and flies in direct competition with British Airways and their previous near monopoly.  Sir Richard Branson used the inaugural to again attack BA with regard to its tie-up with American Airlines which he calls “anti-competitive”, but also hinted that Virgin was not standing still, floating the idea of a link-up with another airline or even a sale.  Virgin Atlantic is 49% owned by Singapore Airlines. www.virgin-atlantic.com

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Carlisle Airport loses planning application as Southend progresses

CARLISLE AIRPORT is not to be developed as a scheduled operation and freight storage and distribution centre.  The airport owner, transport group Stobart, has had its planning approval rejected by the Court of Appeal after an application by local farmer Gordon Brown.  Judges found that the submission was unlawful, noting that the City Council should have conducted a full environmental impact assessment before approving the plan by Stobart Air.  There is no right of appeal although Stobart says it is still in discussion with the Council, who have supported the scheme.  Stobart is also the owner of Southend Airport where a major development is under way. www.stobartgroup.com

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Chinese agreement

CHINA AND TAIWAN have signed an agreement to further increase fights between the two countries.  At the present time nine mainland carriers operate 135 weekly services covering 27 destinations.  Airlines will be permitted to add 100 weekly cross-straits flights.  Two new destinations are also included in the accord, Shanghai’s old Hongqiao Airport and Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province.  Currently, direct flights between Shanghai and Taipei must be operated to/from the new Pudong International. www.caa.gov.tw www.caac.gov.cn/English

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Iraq flights dropped in dispute, and also gained

BAGHDAD is in the news flight-wise, with Iraqi Airways dropping its services to the UK and Sweden after a row with Kuwait over war reparations.  Last month an aircraft owned by the carrier was impounded at Gatwick on the basis of a court order obtained by a lawyer for state-owned Kuwait Airways.  Kuwait has a significant war repatriation claim against planes seized by the Saddam regime.  Iraq is now threatening to wind up the airline which could leave Kuwait with no financial compensation.  On a positive front, following the successful introduction of flights to Erbil from Frankfurt in April, Lufthansa will on 30 September introduce a four times per week service from Munich to Bagdad, the service operator flights flown by a PrivaAir Boeing 737. www.kuwait-airways.com www.lufthansa.com

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London to get no more runways

BAA AIRPORTS LTD has withdrawn its planning permission applications for a third runway at Heathrow and a second runway at Stansted.  In what could be seen as a sop to the new UK government these have been withdrawn before being forced to by Westminster.  It is now up to the coalition to come up with a proper airports’ policy, the idea of a Thames estuary international airline hub also being ruled out.  BAA will now be able to concentrate on the redevelopment of Heathrow Terminal 2, and hopefully seriously consider a dedicated high speed rail link to Stansted.  In an interview with the London Evening Standard new Transport Minister Philip Hammond confirmed that the bonus culture was very much still with us saying that he wants to end the "Heathrow hassle".  "It means that we pay the operator more when he makes the queues shorter," he said.  What he did not say was where the money was coming from, presumably once again from the traveller. www.baa.com

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Ryanair and Barcelona

BARCELONA EL PRAT AIRPORT is to gain some 20 Ryanair routes in the balance of 2010 following yet another about face by the airline.  The Dublin-based carrier was vociferous with its attacks on the airport when it opened a base at Girona, some 60 miles to the north west, in 2003, where it is now the major carrier.  In the meantime El Prat has been redeveloped with a new terminal.  Whether the authorities relent on their requirements for air bridges will be seen when the airline introduces its services in September, a quick turnaround a major factor in the Ryanair success story.  On Tuesday (1 June) the carrier will announce its April 2009-March 2010 figures which will not include the estimated 1.2m drop in numbers due to April’s ash problems.  SEE ALSO HAPPY TALK. www.ryanair.com

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HAPPY TALK: Do not believe what you read

Ryanair’s April Traffic Grows 17%

That was the figure splashed across the press release.

Journalists and city followers of Michael O’Leary have long been accustomed to scrutinising the small print for the truth and in this case have come up trumps.  The Ryanair April figures include 1.2m passengers the airline did not fly due to the ash problems (and whose fares and “reasonable expenses” were returned).  Ryanair actually carried a very respectable 5m passengers at an unknown load factor but not the 6.2m or the 67.4m suggested for the full year.

However at the average fare of €30 quoted by Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara this translates to €360m in April alone, plus ancillary costs.  On Tuesday (1 June) Ryanair announces their full year profits until the end of March, which are expected to be in the €275 range.  Quite what Michael will forecast for 2010/2011 is anyone’s guess.

But read the small print.

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COMMENT: Air France to solve Heathrow Problem?

Air France will introduce the Airbus A380 on a single rotation from Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow Saturday week at weekends for a limited period. 

The reason is twofold.  The airline wants to up capacity during a busy season, but also, and in fact more important in many ways, it has a requirement to train as many flight deck and cabin crew as possible.  The one hour sector is ideal and very cost effective. 

What Air France has done is highlight a possible way forward for both the 2012 Olympics and Heathrow’s capacity problem noted in COMMENT last week, and also below, "London to get no more runways".

By August 2012, at a conservative guess, there will be over 50 Airbus A380 aircraft in airline service, with a typical capacity of around 500 passengers.  In comparison the Boeing 747 offers perhaps 375 on average with something over 500 currently in operation.

There is plenty of time for planners to reschedule their actual aircraft operations for that summer season (or just July, August and the start of September) to put the big aircraft on the London route, where it is not the normal case.  Paris is obvious, but why not Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, and even Edinburgh?  Dublin, with 1.8m passengers last year was Heathrow’s busiest regional international route.

This brings us to the capacity problem at Heathrow itself.

The average passenger per aircraft is presently 198 according to Airports Council International (ACI) statistics.  This figure has not grown appreciably in recent times, mainly due to British Airways downsizing from Boeing 757 to Airbus A320 on its European routes.  Load factor for 2009 was 72.5% and movements of all kind 466,000.

Last year 69m passengers moved through Heathrow.  This figure will drop for 2010 due to the volcanic ash problems and BA trade union difficulties.  The numbers were down on the previous year, but the losses were not as bad as rivals Frankfurt and Charles de Gaulle.

If you add ten passengers per flight to the 198, that would give a 5% increase in numbers without any effort by the airport or airlines.  Put on A380s (and perhaps the new Boeing 747-8) on some short and medium haul routes and the figures jump.  The 777 and forthcoming 787/A350 XWB are even more efficient.  Number crunchers can have a field day in coming up with figures and combinations of routes and aircraft. 

Conversely ANA could not get their high capacity 747 (515 passengers) to make economic sense between Tokyo and Osaka but as Heathrow is to remain a two-runway airport, for political reasons, every opportunity for it to stay ahead of its continental rivals must be looked at. 

The real airline problem is frequency v capacity, with frequency winning every time.  But frequency also equals movements and movements have reached their legal limit.  It is an absorbing quandary.  Is that the next battle for BAA?

In any event well done Air France.  The results of the London A380 will be carefully analysed.

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

In response to AERBT's COMMENT the following has been received from John Morris, Head of Government and Industry Affairs, Birmingham Airport.  AERBT does not agree with its contents and, whilst clearly there is a possibility for a small number of focussed international routes to be developed in the future at the airport, it is the business sectors that make money for airlines (and subsidise the back-end).  For most the originating traffic is around the 50% mark from either end.  Sadly, as far as we can see, the number of incoming business users to Birmingham is severely limited.  MG

“The continued obsession with Heathrow harks back to the twentieth-century.  It is understandable from those whose careers peaked in the last century, and who, like the dinosaurs, cannot adapt to change.  Yet I cannot understand why AERBT's usually-incisive analysis seems to have fallen for this, and why the Editor favours the Heathrow mantra over a progressive approach.

There are many of us who understand the mood of the UK population, as well as the political realities.  We want to see aviation prosper, but we also recognise that there needs to be a new way of doing things.

We need to adapt and shape the political landscape rather than try to bulldoze it.  We need to embrace new ideas rather than push ones that have their roots in the early twentieth-century.
AERBT's comment over route development at Birmingham was ill-judged and does not take account of the new political reality.  If you and other airports fail to recognise this, it can only be to Birmingham’s advantage!”

John Morris

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Aircraft search suspended

FRENCH AUTHORITIES have suspended looking for the black box flight recorders from an Air France Airbus A330 which mysteriously crashed in mid-Atlantic in June last year.  It had always been thought that once the initial period was over the chances of finding the units were remote, designed as they are only to emit homing signals for around 30 days.  The national air investigation body, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA), said it would not issue a progress report for the time being, indicating that there was a difference of opinion with the French navy who do not have the lead role in the search.  Speculation about the cause of the crash has focused on possible icing of the aircraft's speed sensors, which appeared to give inconsistent readings seconds before the plane vanished. www.bea.aero

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Bristol Airport expansion

BRISTOL AIRPORT has won clearance to almost double the number of annual passengers it handles.  The expansion plans are to be focused around the existing site and not involve an additional runway or terminal, allowing the airport to expand passenger numbers from six to ten million by 2019-20.  Whilst it will lose its Continental Airlines' services to New York’s Newark airport at the end of the summer season the new approval will allow the airport’s marketing team to spread its wings in trying to attract new carriers, particularly long haul, and with regard to expansion by existing tenants.  The development summary does not include provision for any major road improvements, the former Lulsgate Airport sitting adjacent to the A38 single carriageway and not linked to the M5.  Local road upgrading will help with access. www.bristolairport.co.uk

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Catering initiative from the Dutch

KLM ROYAL DUTCH AIRLINES has introduced a pilot project offering Economy Class à la carte catering on board.  Passengers will be able to choose from four dishes on flights from Amsterdam to Bangkok, Cape Town, Denpasar, Dubai, Singapore and Taipei.  Customers' choice will include a healthy Japanese meal; an Indonesian rice table; a Bella Italia repast, Italian dishes, and what it calls a “sustainable dining” organic chicken, vegetables and cheese.  The meals can be ordered and paid for when checking in online between 30 and 24 hours prior to departure.  They will cost €15 per dish.  The pilot scheme will run until the end of August this year. www.klm.com

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Continental (or is it United) to New Zealand

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES has chosen an entirely new route, Houston to Auckland, to introduce the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in November 2011.  It will become the 26th destination in Continental's Pacific network and the 63rd international route out of Houston and at 7,000 miles also the longest.  The aircraft will be kitted out with 36 flat-bed BusinessFirst seats and 192 in Economy.  The Houston – Auckland route will benefit from connecting traffic at both ends.  Continental's Houston hub will draw passengers from throughout North America and should prove an attractive connecting point between Europe and New Zealand.  Due to the crossing of the international date line the westbound flight will arrive two days after leaving, and in the other direction six hours in the day earlier. www.continental.com

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Light jets Europe

OXFORD AIRPORT will host the 4th annual Light Jets Europe, 23-24 September 2010, following the success of last year’s event at the same venue.  All the major players in this segment of the air transport industry are expected to be represented as well as the regulatory authorities, legal, funding, insurance, finance experts and operators and owners.  To hand will be maintenance, support and airworthiness professionals, flight planning and pilot training interests, brokers and re-sale experts.  The big questions for the gathering is has the efficiency and noise reduction qualities of the new class of jets proved sufficiently attractive to lure new customers and are entry level business jets providing the savings to operators and owners that were forecast several years ago? www.miuevents.com/vlj-e-10

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Manston gets two, not one

MANCHESTER as a new destination was the surprise announcement last week when Flybe introduced its Manston to Edinburgh daily service. The airline is to launch daily services to the North West (except Saturday) from 6 September using Bombardier Q400 aircraft, the first ever scheduled route between Kent and Lancaster.  Flight time to Manchester is 1 hr 5 mins and Edinburgh 1 hr 30 mins.  Manston has had no full scheduled services since the demise of EUjet in 2005.  The airport is to the east of Canterbury and borders on the towns of Broadstairs, Margate and Ramsgate.  The port of Dover is just 15 miles away. www.flybe.com

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Volcano problem dormant

ASH appears to be no longer a problem affecting aircraft movements across the North Atlantic and Western Europe.  The Eyjafjallajakull volcano that caused air traffic chaos after erupting last month has gone dormant but it is too early to declare the eruption over, an official said on Monday.  Icelandic meteorological office geographer Sigthrudur Armannsdottir said the volcano, about 120 km southeast of the capital Reykjavik, was now showing only minimal signs of life.  "There is no ash coming up and no lava," she said.  "The volcano is dormant at the moment, but we are not ready to declare the eruption over."  Records show that the last similar occurrence was in 1821-1823. http://en.vedur.is

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The Aviation Club of the United Kingdom will have as its guest of honour Paul Griffith, CEO Dubai Airports, Tuesday week (9 June).  Paul is well known to many members as previously Managing Director of Gatwick and before that a long standing senior member of the Virgin Travel Group.  Dubai International (and the future Dubai World) epitomise trade freedom in airline operations.  Perhaps he has some words of advice for the new owners of Gatwick, and for that matter BAA. www.aviationclub.org.uk

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Argentine airline in catering breakthrough

AEROLINEAS ARGENTINAS has introduced a new concept of disposable meal cartons on all its domestic flights.  The innovative meal box will be served to all Economy Class passengers on routes within Argentina and complement the first stage of a change that commenced with the introduction of the Snack Bag (a hermetically sealed bag that can be recycled).  Its outside is printed with characteristic landscapes of Argentina, typically the ocean, the mountains, the jungle and the countryside.  Coca Cola and Arcor, an Argentinean confectionery company, through a co-branding agreement, will provide their logos and products for both the box and the bag. www.aerolineas.com.ar

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British Airways v Unite (continued)

BRITISH AIRWAYS is still in dispute with the Unite union as AERBT closed up on Sunday evening and is in very urgent need of a return of pubic confidence.  Following six hours of ACAS sponsored talks on Friday the meeting broke up without agreement and clearly with misunderstandings as to the next step.  With the strike now with us until midnight Friday BA says it will get 70% of flights away, but for the airline the biggest problem must remain the travelling public’s perception of what is available.  Another walkout is planned for the following week. www.unitetheunion.com www.ba.com

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Cathay adds at Tokyo

CATHAY PACIFIC is to return to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport after a break of over 30 years.  Following the opening of the airport's fourth runway this coming October, and a change of Japanese government policy, the airline is to introduce a twice daily service to Hong Kong.  This will be in addition to operations at Narita International Airport which will continue.  In total the airline currently offers 91 passenger flights and 11 freighter services per week between Hong Kong and five major gateways in Japan: Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo. www.cathaypacific.com

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Europe to Cordoba

IBERIA is to introduce non-stop flights between Madrid and Cordoba (Argentina version) on 1 October operated by two-class A340 aircraft.  Cordoba is Argentina’s second largest city, in the central region of the country.  It has a population of around 10m.  Flights will be three times per week.  The Spanish airline currently holds a 26% market share of passenger traffic between Europe and Argentina, and with the new Cordoba flight expects this to increase to some 30%.  In February the airline added three weekly return flights to Buenos Aires, for a total of 17 flights per week. www.iberia.com

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London City to more French destinations

CITYJET is to introduce two destinations in France from London City Airport next month.  Starting from 24 June the Dublin-based Air France-owned airline will operate to Deauville, the French holiday resort and horse racing centre on the English Channel, four times per week, until 27 September.  Brand new is Brive-Souillac Airport, half way between Bordeaux and Clemont Ferrand on the E9 Paris to Toulouse motorway.  It is expected to quickly establish itself as the best situated airport for visitors to the Dordogne, Lot and Correze regions.  The CityJet/Air France service is the first scheduled operation to be announced for the airport. www.cityjet.com

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Manx and the Welsh flyer

MANX2 has taken over the PSO (public service obligations) service between Cardiff to Anglesey following the bankruptcy of the former operator Highland Airways.  Manx2 is not an actual airline and could probably be best described as a ticketing agency or marketing arrangement with the German company FLM Aviation and Czech carrier VanAir, both of whom have an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC), enabling them to carry fare paying passengers on scheduled services.  This was the way that easyJet started, Air Foyle the legal operator back in 1997.  EU legislation allows for the current situation.  Based on the Isle of Man, Manx2 has a fleet of three Dornier 228s, three LET 410s and a single BAe Jetstream.  Hubbing from the island it serves a variety of destinations including Belfast City, Blackpool and East Midlands. www.manx2.com

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ON TOUR: Aircraft Interiors Show Hamburg

Alison Chambers has visited the World’s most important aircraft cabin services exhibition.  This is what you may experience in the future.



Recession has hit the aviation industry hard these past 12 months, but the aircraft interiors industry seems to be more resilient than most judging by the large exhibitor stands, new innovations and general camaraderie at the 11th annual Aircraft Interiors Expo at the Messe in Hamburg this month.


Serious networking and seeing who’s pioneering what’s new in IFE, communications and cabin/seat design makes this Reed Exhibitions’ Show a must attend for companies courting the world’s airlines.  Some 852 representatives from 200 airlines were in attendance among the 7,316 visitors during the three-day event.  Tim Clark, President of Emirates, noted Aircraft Interiors Expo is “growing in stature” as a result of manufacturers now engaging further with interiors’ suppliers to address issues of weight, strength and durability.  “People like me come here to learn, to counsel and impart some of the things we know as airline operators we are going to need.”

With BE it is exclusive


BE Aerospace was pre-booking appointments exclusively with airline decision makers to showcase their new concepts of First Class seats.


And on the day that Lufthansa formally accepted its first Airbus A380 at Hamburg Airport, showing off an eight-seat, First Class environment, with oak veneer surfaces, sheet brass and tailored sound proofing, the conversation in the halls turned to addressing future travellers’ needs.  At the opening press conference there was discussion on Lufthansa’s decision to opt for 2m long lie flat ‘at an angle’ beds – all 98 of them in Business Class, versus Air New Zealand’s recent move to install lie flat beds in Premium Economy – a class itself that some long haul airlines are still pondering the merits of – against the current climate. 


But getting the product right in the Economy cabin is the big challenge, insisted Clark.  “It generates 70% of the income and will continue to do so,” he said.  “Flying ultra long range missions where you expect people to fly in Economy cabins for up to 16 hours, you have to meet the basic requirements.”



Innovation is the name of the game


If innovation is the name of the game then great credit must go to Hamburg-based Dasell Cabin Interiors scooping one of this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards for its revolutionary aircraft lavatory concept.  It can be used as a standard sized 37in toilet.  However, by pulling on two handles on the outside wall of the lavatory, the cubicle can be extended to 52in for use as a changing room or a toilet for disabled people.


Carter Stewart, Aviation Services Director at Prospect Consulting and Design, highlighted that manufacturers need to consider a number of geo-political emerging patterns when designing their aircraft cabins.  “An ageing population requires improved cabin pressure systems, along with a supersized population which is now taller and wider – hence the need for increased space."  The population is living longer and increasingly solo travellers are flying – long haul – in their 80s, he commented.  There is a big challenge for the airline alliances too as they promote their airline’s Business and First Class products, because in some cases the offering from a sister alliance member can be somewhat different.


In-flight communications 


In Hamburg, IFE and communications businesses constituted one of the main exhibitor groups.  ARINC, for example, which was sharing a stand with Inmarsat is advancing with its plans to get its Onboard Internet into service this year.  During the show Qatar Airways announced a deal with Thales to equip up to 60 Boeing 787s with its broadband connectivity services. 


Looking after the needs of the younger generation of air travellers – the so called ‘digital natives’ who have a need for constant connectivity, we are not far off the day where passengers bring their own entertainment to aircraft.  Those carriers that provide capacity for usage will win out, a panel discussion noted.  “Manufacturers need to be bold in anticipating this requirement,” added Airbus Head of Interiors Bob Lange.


A new trend for the industry is CTT Systems’ Cair system being fitted for the first time in the First Class cabin of Lufthansa’s new A380s.  Cair is a dual-purpose system which increases cabin humidity to 20-25% relative humidity.  Already popular with new business jet deliveries, Cair is designed to improve sleep, reduce jetlag and tiredness and alleviate dehydration of the eyes, skin and linings of the mouth and nose.  “We are confident this is the beginning of a new era in premium-class cabins.  Dryness in aircraft cabins and the negative effects it causes to the human body is a known fact among airlines and frequent travellers,” highlighted Torbjörn Johansson, CTT’s President. 


A much talked about newcomer this year was Optimares who turned heads with ‘Allison’, a 4.3m high ‘woman’ modelling an enlarged example of the company’s Premium Economy seat.  People are the “big” focus for the company’s product development which includes an emphasis on space, mood lighting, and on their Business Class seats, a privacy barrier built into the head rest. 


The retrofit market


For the retrofit market and in recognition that not all airlines can run to expensive new IFE systems, Manchester, UK-based Airline Services Ltd (ASL) had a busy stand demonstrating its 175 AeroScreen, a 17.5 inch HD-ready monitor, designed and developed in-house.  A relative newcomer to the IFE sector, ASL’s light-weight AeroScreen offers improved reliability, reduced weight and lower energy consumption, whilst delivering a screen image of remarkable clarity and brightness.  It also boasts a far wider viewing angle, (in excess of 160° horizontal and 130° vertical).  The screen is currently showcasing on board a bmi Boeing 757.


One innovation that drew considerable interest came from the team of Envisage Design, Holovis and Autodesk, three companies who have pooled their expertise to virtually create a 3D aircraft interior allowing developers to digitally design, visualise and simulate their idea so reducing the need to create physical prototypes, which, in turn, translates into cost savings.  Visitors viewed a futuristic airline seat by Envisage so demonstrating the ingenuity of the concept. www.aircraftinteriorsexpo.com See also AERBT 24 May “Disabled access improvement for airlines”. 

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




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