20 MAY 2013


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DC9 (now Boeing 717) upgrade

QantasLink is to upgrade the interiors of five Boeing 717 rear-engined twin jet aircraft to include Business Class and in-flight entertainment for all passengers. 

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Electra departure

The last British-registered Lockheed Electra L188 (G-LOFC, aged 54 years) has departed from Coventry Airport to a new life flying for Buffalo Airlines in Canada.

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OAG Connections Analyser

Now owned by Electra, the major private equity investment firm, (See BTN 13 May) OAG, the aviation data specialist, has launched OAG Connections Analyser, an innovative tool that generates accurate flight connections information based on real-time data.

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Thomas Cook Airlines

Charter airlines might not count as business travel operators but business travellers certainly use them, if only for their own family holiday.

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Virgin goes Norwegian

Norwegian has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Virgin Atlantic allowing the hitherto low-cost airline to tap into Virgin Atlantic’s expertise on long haul operations, while Virgin Atlantic’s instructors will receive pilot training on board Norwegian’s brand new 787-8 Dreamliners.  Norwegian’s first Dreamliner is due for delivery at the end of June.

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Wideroe breaks away

SAS Group, in another cost cutting move, says it plans to sell 80% of its Wideroe regional airline to Norwegian interests.  The Bombardier Dash 8 operator has been on the market since last year.  The change of ownership will not change any commercial arrangements between the two airlines and could result at some point in the future of a total takeover.

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COMMENT: Mirabel Airport Montreal – The ultimate white elephant

Whilst the Mayor of London pontificates with his grandiose scheme for an international airport somewhere in the Thames Estuary (see also AND FINALLY)) he should take a look at a not dissimilar scheme that went disastrously wrong in Montreal (Canada).  Perhaps at Eton they do not take in modern history.  Certainly the Australians recognised the absurdity of the project, quickly scrapping a proposed new Sydney Airport, 40 miles from the largest city in that southern continent.

Mr Johnson should take a flight from Heathrow to Montreal Dorval, once planned to be the largest airport in the world.  Now named officially Montreal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport after the Canadian Prime Minister who promoted Mirabel – crazy.  (Will they rename Heathrow 'Boris International' following the same logic?).  What Mr Johnson will find at Mirabel is a totally underused air cargo operation and a massive semi-derelict industrial complex.

In the 1960s the Government of Canada decided that Montreal required a brand new international airport to relieve the existing Dorval just 12 miles from the city centre.  In 1968 Montreal won the 1976 Olympics.  The two projects came together and on 4 October 1975 Montreal–Mirabel International Airport was opened, 34 miles from town.  The cost at current terms was put at Canadian $2bn.  All long haul flights were transferred to the new airport.

The Olympics came and went.  Mirabel's distant location and lack of transport links made it unpopular with airlines and travellers.  Montreal's economic decline, relative to Toronto, kept passenger volumes from rising to the levels originally anticipated.  The international airlines were allowed to return to Dorval.

In 1997 Montreal Mirabel closed for scheduled airline traffic.

Today it is recognised as one of the world’s largest white elephants, rather like the New South China Mall in the city of Donnguan in the Pearl River Delta, the largest on earth but 99% empty.

Boris needs a rethink.

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787 for the UK

Thomson Airways, whose £5m promotion campaign for the Boeing 787 had to be embarrassingly withdrawn early in the New Year, is finally expected to receive its first Dreamliner at Manchester on Friday 31 May.  The 291-seat 787-8 will fly in direct from Everett, Seattle, with Managing Director Chris Browne on board. 

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Aegean Airlines to Manchester

Star Alliance member Aegean Airlines is to introduce a Saturday and Monday service between Manchester and Athens on 25 May.  It will compete with an existing easyJet operation that flies on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  With airlines, for the most part, selling tickets per single flight this means that Manchester will now be connected to the Greek capital with non-stop services every day except Tuesday.

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bmi regional route launches

Monday 13 May was an important day for rapidly expanding bmi regional, once Aberdeen-based but now with East Midlands Airport as the centre of its operations.  As its name implies it is truly regional and operates 18 Embraer jets with a one class set-up cabin.  All flights include complimentary food and drink on-board, free 20kg hold baggage allowance and 30-minute check-in.

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Delta at Kennedy

Kennedy Airport New York will later this week see the official opening of Delta Air Lines new main home in Terminal 4.  Sadly this means the demolishing of its former quarters at the futuristic old Pan Am Terminal 3.  For the future all international services will use the brand new US$1.4bn facility whilst domestic flights, and that includes Honolulu, are housed in Terminal 2.  A major feature will be an open air rooftop executive lounge, a first for the airport in the modern era.

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Financials for easyJet and Virgin

Last week was mixed in term of financial results for easyJet and Virgin Atlantic.  Both announced losses but for the Luton-based carrier they were positive in that they were less than the same period last year with a fine 12-month forecast.  Virgin, under new management, stated that things were bad but forecasted good times in 2015.

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King's Cross soft opening

The Great Northern Hotel, sited at the crossover between King’s Cross and St Pancras stations, has had a ‘soft’ opening, following a comprehensive £40m rebuilding programme.  Rooms are currently available from £160.

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Passport Office changes

A new name has been given to the agency which produces all UK passports – Her Majesty’s Passport Office.  Formerly the Identity and Passport Service, the new name is designed to make the service more easily recognisable to British citizens at home and abroad.  It marks a watershed moment in the agency’s departure from its association with the National Identity Service and ID cards.

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Alison Chambers of Emerald Media has been over to Hungary.

Over 4,000 face to face meetings, 1,100 aviation delegates, 115 airlines, 350 airports, 50 international exhibitors – last week’s annual Routes Europe gathering looked and felt more like a mini World Routes.  There was an eagerness to do business in the halls of the capacious SYMA sports centre which had been converted into a Excel look alike for the three-day networking event. The vodka bar, popular in Tallinn last year, had given way to a snazzy red cappuccino and expresso bar – centrepiece of host Budapest Airport’s stand and the place to head to in the meeting breaks.

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Flight International has been on the ‘Davies’ trail too

From a recent ‘Straight and Level'

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Airbus A350 update

Painting of the first A350 XWB ‘MSN001’ has been fully completed and shown to staff at the Airbus plant at Toulouse.

The aircraft painting was achieved in less than seven days and follows the recent completion of MSN001’s flight-test-instrumentation (FTI) verification.  Last month the aircraft underwent its engines' installation, and passed a subsequent intensive phase of ground vibration tests.  MSN001 will soon start the final tests before its maiden flight this summer.

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Barcelona Travelodge

Travelodge strengthens its presence in Spain by opening its biggest property in the country’s second largest city, Barcelona.  The new purpose-built 250-room hotel which is situated in the heart of the most innovative district in Barcelona called 22@ – also known as the city’s ‘Silicon Valley’ representing an investment of €30m.

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Davies boosts Gatwick

Another week of Airport Commission lobbying and news saw Sir Howard Davies' panel suggest that analysis by the CAA pointed to Gatwick as a second hub.  In a comprehensive 58-page document published last Thursday 16 May Davies concluded that it might be possible for one of the three global airline alliances at Heathrow to move to another airport without any large scale damage to their operations.

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easyJet fast track

A free fast track security service is to be introduced by easyJet under the airline’s plan to attract more business travellers.  The new service will be provided as an added benefit when buying the airline’s flexi fare
and will be initially provided at 27 key airports amounting to 54% of the airline’s network. 

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Gatwick trains to London

Southern’s summer 2013 timetable came into effect on Sunday 19 May and because of changes to platform availability at London Bridge, passengers are being advised to check train times carefully before travelling.

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IATA's Bisignani in book launch

Today (20 May) sees the launch of former IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani’s semi autobiographical book Shaking the Skies.  It is bound to be controversial.

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New York arrival for Langham Place

Langham Place, Fifth Avenue has joined the New York City luxury hotel landscape with Langham Hospitality taking over the management of The Setai Fifth Avenue.

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