11 OCTOBER 2010

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Aberdeen gets new services to Manchester

Flybe has announced that it will start services between Aberdeen and Manchester, beginning 6 December 2010. The airline will operate three return flights a day on weekdays, a single return on Saturdays and two returns on Sundays.

The airline will operate a Bombardier Q400 turboprop with 78 seats. Flybe now has seven destinations from Aberdeen and operates nearly 200 flights a week from this very important Scottish city. As well as the new Aberdeen services, Manchester will from 7 December 2010 start services to Nantes in France. www.flybe.com

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BAA sells Interest in Naples Airport

The BAA, owner of Heathrow airport is to sell its interest in Naples International Airport in Italy for €150 million. At present BAA owns 65% of GESAC SpA, the holding concession for the Italian airport until 2043.

BAA now wants to focus on Heathrow and the other UK airports it owns and acknowledges that Naples has been very important for the company but that is the right time for the airport to move forward under new owners.

Since 2006 BAA has sold Budapest Airport, its Australian airport interests, two tranches of the Airport Property Partnership (APP), World Duty Free, four US retail management contracts and London's Gatwick Airport. www.baa.com

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Crowne Plaza to open in Bangkok

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is to open a new Crowne Plaza hotel in Bangkok with the re-branding of the Pan Pacific Bangkok.  The Crowne Plaza Bangokok Lumpini Park will open on the 1 January 2011 and will be the first Crowne Plaza hotel in the Thai capital.  The hotel will be the fifth IHG hotel in the city. 

The hotel has 241 rooms and is close to the Siam Panagon Mall and not far from the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.  The hotel offers panoramic views of the city from the 21st to the 32nd floors and is the hotel component of Ramaland, a mix-use development complex.www.ihg.com

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Iberia starts services to Cordoba

Iberia will become the first European airline to fly non-stop to Cordoba, Argentina’s second city.  The Spanish national carrier expects to carry up to 70,000 passengers on the first year of the service.  With the expansion into Argentina, Iberia could increase the number of passengers carried to Argentina to over half a million a year.

With this new direct gateway from Europe, Cordoba should benefit greatly, it will facilitate new trade and business links as well as encouraging more tourism.  The new flight increases Iberia’s seats into Argentina by 16%. Iberia will fly from Madrid to Cordoba and back on Mondays, Thursday and Saturdays connecting with the Spanish national carrier’s domestic network and further connections into Europe. www.iberia.com

 

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Park Lane check-in for private jets

Ambeo Jets, the executive charter operator, has come up with an innovation that is obvious but has not been offered previously.  In conjunction with Excalibur Park Lane, the luxury car dealer, the Cambridge Airport-based operator has opened up a check-in facility and lounge in the very centre of London.

Clients can look at some of the supercars including the ultra fast Pagani at its only UK dealership. Ambeo operates a fleet of four Cessna Mustang twin jets which, they hasten to add, are available at all the London regional airports. www.flyambeo.com

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The Man in Seat 61

Seat 61 is a curious name for an award winning railway web site aimed at both regular and sometimes train users.  AERBT is not famed for promoting what is in effect a rival for your time but whilst we report on major rail news we don't pretend to be experts and are more than happy to point readers in the right direction when it comes to travel on the iron way. 

Seat 61 is the name that Mark Smith gives to his fine website informing on international long distance rail.  He claims that in the First Class Eurostar carriage it is the best seat both from a comfort and view point of view.  A book is available called "The Man in Seat 61" and TV series is in the project stage

www.seat61.com

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World Low Cost Airlines Awards 2010

Winners of the fourth annual World Low Cost Airline Awards (the Budgies 2010) were presented during the WLCA Congress.  Voted by a panel of airline industry experts who recognised their positive contributions and accomplishments to the low cost airline industry, the roll call is as follows:-

Best Low Cost Airline - Ryanair

CEO of the Year - Alex Cruz (Vueling)

Best Airport - Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen

Best Ancilliary Revenue Innovation - Car Trawler

Technology Foresight - Datalex

Best Sales and Distribution Innovation - Navitaire

www.terrapinn.com/2010/budgies

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COMMENT - Mergers and Acquisitions

I know that mergers and acquisitions are all part and parcel of the airline business but I am wondering who might be next. With Continental and United finalising their merger and the Southwest take-over of Air Tran, not forgetting British Airways and Iberia or even TAM and Lan Chile.

Every niche of the industry is dynamic and is subject to change, sometimes very quickly.  Legacy and Low Cost carriers are fighting to survive, yes it appears we are coming out of a tough time.  It is good that in the main passenger numbers are up, revenues and margins however small appear to be up too.

We might not be back to the good times but I am optimistic about the future.  The new byeword might be merge to survive.  For me, it was sad to see Northwest disappear in the Delta Air Lines take-over.  But times move on, no doubt in the next few years a number of other classic carriers might disappear into history but that is the way of the airline industry.  Then again airlines are created everyday by entrepreneurs. The next new airline might become a really big success story and become the biggest airline in the world.  You never know.

Terry Spruce, Guest Editor

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Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines to merge?

Libya’s two state carriers, Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines are expected to be merged next month, following government approval.

Whether the Afriqiyah brand is retained for long haul routes remains to be seen.  Last year the two airlines were grouped together under the Libyan African Aviation Holding Company (LAAHC), an organisation set up to develop the country’s air transport.  At the present time both carriers have Airbus aircraft on order. www.afriqiyah.aero www.libyanairlines.aero

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British Airways 747 returns to Heathrow

A British Airways Boeing 747 flying to New York JFK with 296 passengers and 16 members of crew returned to Heathrow after a light in the cockpit indicated that one of the aircraft’s doors was not closed correctly.

The flight returned after eleven minutes in the air and landed safety and taxied back to the stand. The airline is undertaking a full investigation into what happened. All the passengers were put on another flight and continued their journeys to New York later. www.ba.com

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Ethiopian Airlines to join Star Alliance

Star Alliance's Chief Executive Board has unanimously approved the application of Ethiopian Airlines to join the alliance.  Ethiopian Airlines will be the third African member of the alliance after South African Airways and Egyptair.  The airline will add five new countries, Chad, Congo, Djibouti, Mali and Niger to the Star Alliance network. 

The integration teams of Ethiopian Airlines and the mentoring teams of Lufthansa and the Star Alliance will begin work of integrating processes of the airline; the aim is to complete the membership process within 12 months. www.staralliance.com www.ethiopianairlines.com

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Kempinski opens first hotel in Thailand

Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok has been opened by Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, her Royal Highness and Reto Wittwer, President and CEO Kempinski performed a ribbon cutting ceremony.  The ceremony was attended by 2,000 invited guests. 

This is the first Kempinski hotel in Thailand, the hotel is situated next to the Sa Pathum Palace in the centre of Bangkok and has 303 rooms and suites. All of the rooms and suites have a view to gardens and the swimming pool, 21 of them have direct access to the pool. There are 98 serviced apartments for long-stay guests.  The hotel houses some 1,500 works of art, of these 200 are original paintings and sculptures by Thai artists. www.kempinski.com

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Qatar Airways adds frequency to Bangkok

Qatar Airways has added a third daily flight to Bangkok in Thailand starting on the 1 November 2010.  Four flights a week will continue to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.  Passengers originating in Thailand or Vietnam can purchase tickets to fly between Bangkok and Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City on Qatar Airways.  So far this year, Qatar Airways has introduced seven new services into its network; the airline is planning to start services to four cities in Europe over the next few months, Nice in France, Budapest in Hungary, Bucharest in Romania and Brussels in Belgium. www.qatarairways.com.qa

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Trenitalia orders 50 High Speed Trains

Trenitalia, Italian Railways has ordered 50 new V300 ZEFIRO high speed trains, the V300 is a model of the Bombardier Zefiro high speed train family.  The new trains will be developed in partnership with AnsaldoBreda, a subsidiary of the Finmeccanica group of Italy and will be known as the ETR 1000. 

The total cost of the contract will be €1.54bn (US$2.1bn).  The high speed train will be able to carry up to 600 passengers at speeds of 360 km/h.  Bombardier Transportation has now orders for a total of 210 ZEFIRO high speed trains.

www.trenitalia.com www.bombardier.com

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ON TOUR World Low Cost Airline Congress

Heathrow’s sparkling new Soiftel Hotel at Terminal 5 was the venue for the recent 2010 World Low Cost Airline Congress.  The layout was ideal for exhibitors who were able to network with attendees as they spilled out of the conference sessions to the adjacent refreshments.   However, there were notably fewer CEO attendees this year and the new location was not so popular, observers noted. 

The theme this year was about LCC expansion into new markets, alliances and consolidations and the growing shift away from a ‘one size fits all’ LCC.  According to Alex Cruz, whose airline Vueling is one of the game changers in leading the new-generation guard, fundamentalism in short haul aviation is over. 
 
Airlines are no longer definable by their models, observed newcomer Feel Air CEO Kai Holmberg who told delegates he was still waiting for the right financial climate to launch long-haul low-fare services from Stockholm Oslo to Bangkok and New York with an initial two leased Airbus A330s. He said he was encouraged by the success of AirAsiaX which, now into its third year of operations, embracing 13 routes, indicated here that it would be adding a new European route soon.  Feel Air’s philosophy will be to “cherry-pick popular and underserved routes, dynamically combine them to maximize the operation and then run them on floating schedules.“ By doing this, Holmberg believes it can gain immediate scale by utilizing the fleet 16.7 hours a day, and be able to offer air fares 50% lower than on the market today.

But for a new entrant times are tough. Airlines have been battered by the ash crisis, rising fuel prices/ disparity between the Euro and US$, rising airport costs and charges as well as the increasing number of legacy carriers marching towards them on pricing. 

Consolidation in the industry has heightened.  During LCC conference week Continental and United agreed their merger, Iberia and British Airways obtained the green light, and Ethiad, Virgin Blue and V Australia announced a unique collaboration on joint pricing and scheduling of services between Australia and Abu Dhabi, effective 2011. The news that most interested LCC delegates though was LCC No 1 Southwest’s planned acquisition of low cost rival Orlando-based Air Tran. 

This is only the third airline acquisition in 30 years by Southwest (after Muse Air and Morris Air).  The combined airline, representing an investment worth $1.4 billion, will create an airline which is about 25% larger than the current Southwest.  It will have a 700-strong aircraft fleet – of two aircraft types, immediately breaking the traditional LCC model, delegates noted. AirTran operates Boeing 717s, while Southwest is a dedicated B737 operator.  AirTran will give Southwest access to Atlanta, New York, La Guardia, Washington Reagan, the Caribbean and Mexico. It serves 71 airports against Southwest’s 69. The acquisition will add about 40 new routes to the network, but only a 1% overlap in the two  networks, according to Southwest SVP Planning Peter McGlade.

Delegates were reminded that Southwest has so far resisted charging passengers for their checked baggage and this at a time when making money from ancilliary revenues is all important to the airlines, accounting for an average 20% of their income.  CEO Adel Ali noted that Air Arabia does especially well selling its passengers insurance; Bertholt Martin Flick, President/CEO of Air Baltic, the 15-year old traditional airline, says his airline is doing well with the packaging of flights and hotels.  Because of its close roots to Russia the carrier must codeshare and participate in FFPs, he said, noting he was summoned to parliament over the decision to charge for food on board (economy cabin).  

LCCs have become prominent players in the market  and large airports have to accept that they account for a key part of the their traffic, said John Strickland, Managing Director of JLS Consulting.   EasyJet has 44 aircraft based at Gatwick and now Ryanair has also starting flying there, its LCC sector traffic is over 60%.   EasyJet is also the largest operator at Milan Malpensa following Alitalia’s withdrawal.

Some airports are building dedicating homes for them to encourage more growth.  Ole Wieth Christensen, Head of Route Development highlighted how Copenhagen Airport is close to opening its new LCC terminal, called CPH Swift, in an endeavour to bolster passenger numbers from 3 million to 6 million a year.  CPH Shift will have six new gates and cover over 6,700 sqm, connected via the existing Pier D through a 2,400 sq m walkway.  Turnaround times will be 30 minutes.

Crawford Rix, formerly with bmi Baby and speaking in his new role heading Tiger Airways Australia, was bullish about his airline’s chances against the might of JetStar, Qantas and other Australian carriers.   Tiger is a well known low fare brand and this is really helping us in Australia, he said, challenging that it is the only true LCC in Australia.  Peter Harbison from the Centre for Asia Pacific challenged that the market is growing at only about 5%, yet there is 12-13% more capacity coming  in.  Tiger itself is adding a third operational base at Melbourne’s Avalon Airport from 10 November.  

Alex Cruz acknowledged that Vueling had been ready and waiting’ for what he called “the Irish arrival” in September at Barcelona.  It’s too early to comment on their impact, he says, but Vueling’s own traffic has increased following the recent launch of its ground breaking Vueling to Vueling Connections programme at the airport, where it has a 27% market share.  Launched in July this year, this has so far resulted in an additional 3% more passengers flying A to C with Vueling.   Connections has only been possible thanks to highly co-operative ground handling companies and a stunning new passenger terminal, designed with the interlining passenger in mind, enabling Vueling passengers to make connections within 55 minutes of their onward departure.
 
Fly Dubai’s CEO Ghaith al Ghaith highlighted the importance of maintaining strong utilization to remain productive.  The airline, now in its second year of operations is averaging over 15 and half hours flying a day.  The GCC is getting more liberalized and there are a number of secondary airports  we can serve once opened that will fuel growth.  He noted that Fly Dubai has had no problems recruiting pilots.  “The UAE is a popular place to live.  The Boeing 737-800 is a relatively new aircraft in the region and we are one of the biggest operators with 50 more joining the fleet in the next three years.  In our last pilot recruitment we had over 7,000 applications,” he added.

Another strong growth market for the LCCs in India.  SpiceJet’ CCO Sam Sridharan said he believes the LCC sector  will capture three quarters of the price-driven domestic market in the next five years, as budget carriers expand aggressively while their full-service counterparts take a more cautious approach, focused on capacity, minimising losses and improving profitability.  SpiceJet launched its first international services this week with daily B737-800 flights from Delhi-Kathmandu in Nepal.  On October 9 it adds daily flights from Chennai to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Thanks to Alison Chambers from Emerald Media www.emeraldmedia.co.uk

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'All Black' for ANZ

Air New Zealand has finally succumbed to the temptation of painting its aircraft in the traditional national rugby colour of 'All Black'.  In fact the brand new Airbus A320 will not arrive until next January, the airline unveiling the new colour scheme last week. 

The unique livery is complete with a silver fern motif and Koru on its tail.  Air New Zealand's sponsorship of the New Zealand Rugby Football union, including the All Blacks, enters its 17th year in 2011.  Only a single aircraft will be painted in the special black livery. www.airnz.co.nz

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Air Astana is Official Carrier for the 7th Asian Winter Games

Air Astana, the national carrier of the Republic of Kazakhstan has been named as the official carrier the forthcoming Seventh Asian Winter Games being held in Almaty and Astana between the 30 January and 6 February 2011. 

The event expects to host 2,500 athletes from 32 countries and some 10,000 visitors during the games.  Air Astana will be increasing frequencies on some international routes and on the Almaty to Astana domestic services to meet the expected demand in air travel during the games.  Aircraft committed to serving the Asian Winter Games will feature the official logo on the fuselage. www.airastana.com

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Cathay opens 'The Cabin' at Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific Airways announced the opening of their newest lounge ‘The Cabin’ at Hong Kong International Airport.  The new lounge is located near to Gate 23 in the central concourse.

‘The Cabin’ is the fourth Cathay Pacific departure lounge at the airport. The Cabin has five zones – The Reception, The IT Zone, The Deli, The Health Bar and The Relaxation Zone. ‘The IT Zone’ has high-speed Wi-Fi internet, PCs, iMacs and a video conference suite. Guests will be able to use Wi-Fi enabled iPads that have been pre-programmed with the latest applications.

‘The Deli’ passengers can enjoy Asian and Western dishes. Passengers can order hot sandwiches, fresh anti-pasta and salads.  ‘The Health Bar’ passengers can enjoy alcoholic, soft drinks, healthy fruit juices and hot or cold Chinese herbal teas.  ‘The Relaxing Zone’ is where passengers can sit in the quiet.

‘The Cabin’ is a premium lounge for First and Business Class passengers, Silver and above Marco Polo club members, Sapphire and above oneworld members. The lounge is open from 5.30am until the last departure. www.cathaypacific.com

 

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Eurostar announced new High Speed Trains

Eurostar International has announced an investment of £700 million in the train fleet which include an order for ten new Eurostar e320 High Speed Trains and refurbishment of the existing fleet.  The interiors will be designed by Pinifarina of Italy.  The new Eurostar e320 high speed train will be capable of speeds of up to 200 mph (320 kph) and carry up to 900 passengers and their luggage.  Another important design is that the new trains are ‘interoperable’, meaning they can operate across the European high speed rail network and will be able to provide direct rail services from London and a wider range of European cities in Europe. In the future, Eurostar trains might travel to cities such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Geneva. These are journeys of over four hours from London by high speed rail. www.eurostar.com

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MNG Jet purchases Global 5000 jet

MNG Jet, part of the MNG Group of Turkey has ordered a Bombardier Global 5000 business jet valued at approximately US$45m at 2010 list prices.  MNG Jet was founded in 2008 and the new Global 5000 will join a Challenger 601 aircraft in their fleet.

The company performs maintenance for a range of executive jets in Turkey and is expanding its business to include aircraft management, operations and spare parts distribution. The Global 5000 is now able to fly from Istanbul to New York and Istanbul to Seoul non-stop. www.bombardier.com www.mngjet.com

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Ryanair reveals Estonian services

Ryanair has announced the seven destinations from Talinn, the capital of Estonia.  Starting in December 2010 the airline will fly from Talinn to Dublin, Dusseldorf, Milan – Bergamo, Oslo and Stockholm. In January, Ryanair begin Talinn to Edinburgh and London – Luton flights.  The airline expects to carry 300,000 passengers per annum from Estonia. www.ryanair.com

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US National Business Aviation Association meets in Atlanta

At the forthcoming 63rd annual meeting of the US National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) in Atlanta, Georgia, Embraer will debut its all new Legacy 650, based on the Legacy 600.  The aircraft, based on the Legacy 600 platform, was announced at NBAA in 2009.  It will also show the ultra-large Lineage 1000 in another NBAA first.  Bombardier confirmed last week it will announce a “new Global aircraft family” on the eve of the show – Sunday 17 October.  Potential powerplants for the so-called “Super Global” are believed to include the Rolls-Royce BR725 and a GE Tech X-based engine.  After the launch of ABJ Explorer BAE Systems and Design Q will be unveiling the next concept on Tuesday 19 October at a press briefing.  Gulfstream meanwhile will be showcasing its all new ultra-large cabin Gulfstream 650 (Serial number 6004) available for private viewings by appointment to order holders and potential customers at a nearby hangar.  It will also host a press briefing on the Sunday morning.  DeKalb Peachtree Airport, close to the Georgia World Congress Centre exhibition venue, will display over 90 business jets and turboprops during the four day show (18-21 October). www.nbaa.aero

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HAPPY TALK - Cabin Crew

Just a couple of cabin crew funnies this week

"Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land... it's a bit cold outside"

and

"We are please to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry... Unfortunately none of them are on this flight...!"

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