16 DECEMBER 2019


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Article from BTNews 16 DECEMBER 2019

COMMENT: The year of living dangerously

Anyone in the aviation industry understands it is a turbulent business but even the most hardened observer could be forgiven for being unnerved by the events of 2019, with bankruptcies leading the charge.

Thomas Cook, the Boeing B737 MAX and unusually bitter strikes were the prominent stories, although it wasn’t all bad news. Aircraft orders marched ahead and there were developments in engine efficiency and fuel burn.

Several airlines invested in new premium cabins and the science of flying forged ahead as companies investigated the world of ultra-long-haul, notably Qantas and its Project Sunrise.

On the financial front, airline consulting group IBA says the year has been a record-breaker in terms of airline bankruptcies with increased competitiveness, cost pressures, Brexit uncertainty and high fuel prices the most common causes.

The company noted nearly 20 carriers ceased operation in 2019, and other possible casualties could emerge over the next few months.

IBA said Thomas Cook’s bankruptcy had the greatest impact on passengers, while other “spectacular” collapses included Avianca Brasil and Jet Airways of India.

Also disappearing from the market were Slovenian national carrier Adria, Germania, WOW Air, France’s Aigle Azur, Cobalt Air and Primera Air, with Flybe, in IBA’s words, “saved from the verge of collapse by investors and Virgin Atlantic”.

BTN kept abreast of things with its weekly review of the news, observations from an array of distinguished guest commentators for the ON THE SOAPBOX column, regular coverage of cruising and motoring matters, plus a weekly look at the world, from Los Angeles to Singapore via southern Sweden, in the ON TOUR section.

Our month-by-month round-up that follows is a summary of some of the main events of 2019. Click on the date to go to that issue.

07 – TUI welcomes the first UK-registered B737-8 MAX, Monarch Engineering and VLM collapse.
14 – Flybe’s future comes under discussion while Heathrow achieves its 80m annual passenger target.
21 – British Airways upgrades its Premium Economy, Etihad makes biofuel history, Royal Brunei heads for Brisbane.
28 – Eyebrows are raised at BA’s claim to be 100 years old, the Airbus A220 has an up-and-down week and easyJet lands another heavyweight partner for its worldwide project.

04 – Air France continues its reorganisation and new airports at Istanbul and in Israel prepare for full operation.
11 – Bombardier unveils the CRJ550, Germania joins the casualty list and loss-making Norwegian changes tactics. There is shareholder unrest at Flybe and Virgin confirms its Tel Aviv launch. ON TOUR investigates the Qatar blockade.
18 – News is dominated by the flybmi collapse, the EC approves the Virgin Atlantic / Air France-KLM partnership and  Delta deploys the A220.
25 – Aftermath of the Flybe sale, plans for a second terminal are announced by Luton Airport and 2018 proves a record year for Heathrow.

04 – Istanbul New Airport opening is delayed again, IAG reports a profitable 2018 and BA places a major order for 18 Boeing B777-9 aircraft plus 24 options.
11 – The Ethiopian Airlines accident brings concerns over the B737 8 MAX into full focus while JetBlue drops its first hint about its transatlantic ambitions and Singapore Changi Airport unveils its £1bn multi-dimensional visitor destination, Jewel.
18 – The full implications of the Ethiopian Airlines accident, the second MAX fatality within five months, begin to sink in. A second weekly flight between Cape Town and St Helena is announced.
25 – Pressure mounts on the B737 MAX, WOW Air hopes for a rescue, with Jet Airways not far behind, and Virgin Atlantic puts São Paulo on its schedule. BA introduces the new-look Club World.

01 – WOW Air goes, there is controversy over the new Heathrow – Cornwall air route and its implications for Flybe, Norwegian takes off for Rio and El Al heads for Chicago.
08 – An unfortunate start for the “new” Flybe, Boeing under pressure over the MAX, Turkish Airlines transfers all its operations to Istanbul New Airport (IGA) from Atatürk and Virgin has a new Upper Class.
15 – Virgin Trains and its partner Stagecoach are excluded from bidding to continue to run trains on the West Coast main line beyond 2020, JetBlue reveals its transatlantic plans and the crisis at Jet Airways worsens.
22 – The MAX drama intensifies, Crossrail faces another delay and easyJet brings 215,000 flights to market.
29 – Heathrow brings in its new super-tech facilities and Gatwick boosts its care credentials. Loganair continues its expansion.

06 – Bombardier confirms it is pulling out of Belfast, Heathrow clears a High Court hurdle over expansion and WestJet fortifies its transatlantic presence. Emirates plans to add Premium Economy.
13 – Scotland’s government is taken to task for reneging on its APD commitment, Glasgow has an A380 party and Cathay Pacific plots a Business Class upgrade.
20 – Heathrow sets the timetable for the latest expansion consultation and BA names the latest destinations for its A350-1000.
27 – Airbus celebrates its 12,000th aircraft, Barcelona-based IAG member carrier Level says it will launch flights between Paris Orly and Las Vegas.

03 – A world shortage of airport slots looms and IATA takes on the climate-change challenge. Flybe’s CEO resigns and Virgin announces a return to Mumbai.
10 – COMMENT looks forward to a new prime minister and discusses the challenges awaiting. Bristol Airport wins permission to increase capacity and change is in the air for rules about carrying liquids on aircraft.
17 – BA faces up to first rumblings of a double strike threat, the new Connect Airways names its CEO, Eurostar grows the Amsterdam service and catering for less-abled passengers dominates the British-Irish Airports EXPO.
24 – More on the Heathrow expansion saga and a news round-up from the Paris Air Show with spin-off stories including IAG’s Boeing order and KLM’s Embraer deal, among others.

01 – Delta Air Lines plans to bring its new cabins to the UK with the launch of a reimagined Business Class seat and an international Premium Economy product, Delta Premium Select, while Air Canada is on the takeover trail and London City Airport looks to the future.
08 – A round-up of the great eco-debate as the industry renews its pledges on emissions. Connect Airways wins final approval for the Flybe acquisition. Luton progresses its light-rail project and opening day looms for the mighty Beijing Daxing Airport. BA’s first A350-1000 takes to the sky.
15 – Data breaches at British Airways and Marriott International attract record fines and IAG’s top man is put on the spot. Norwegian’s CEO steps down and IATA condemns plans by France for an APD-style “eco-tax” on flights.
22 – Gatwick forges ahead with its masterplan for the future, KLM champions sustainability and easyJet senses a profit ahead. Air China says it is spending another £5bn with Airbus.
29BTN considers the future under new transport secretary Grant Shapps while Heathrow expansion faces another delay and United steps up its transatlantic challenge. BA’s A350 arrives a day late on its delivery flight and APD is under attack again.

05 – The news this week is dominated by the threat of strikes, with both British Airways and Heathrow embroiled in separate disputes. More peaceably, Air France announces an important Airbus A220 order.
12 – BA under fire in a week it would probably rather forget with yet another tech failure, talk of unhappy staff and strikes plus a damning new Which? survey. Gatwick unveils its latest five-year plan.
19 – Implications are examined of the West Coast Main Line switch from Virgin Trains to First Trenitalia. Cathay Pacific loses its two top executives, Norwegian axes its Ireland – US network.
26 – Southend provides good news for Loganair and Wizz Air, the 2019 Aviation Festival is on the horizon and airline punctuality comes under fire.

02 – Strikes at Ryanair and BA make the headlines while Airbus lands another big order for 42 aircraft from Air Asia X and Iberia chases UK business. Uganda Airlines is back and El Al is still growing.
09 – Strikes continue to dominate, with Ryanair adding a new CEO to the mix and BA seemingly digging in. Fears grow for Norwegian but Singapore Air forges ahead on the non-stop long-haul front.
16 – Wow Air announces a comeback plan, a threatened drone attack on Heathrow falls flat and easyJet announces a passenger record. Virgin’s A350 enters service.
23 – Thomas Cook collapses, triggering a major repatriation programme, Operation Matterhorn, to rescue stranded passengers. Virgin Atlantic makes a bold bid for a bigger Heathrow presence, Norwegian wins a reprieve and the latest BA strike is called off.
30 – The inquest into the collapse of the Thomas Cook group continues while the company’s German airline Condor secures a bridging loan from the German government to keep flying. Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia also resumes. Separately, France’s second-biggest carrier goes under.

07 – The CAA completes Operation Matterhorn but Adria Airlines and XL Airways are both out of business. KLM chief Pieter Elbers celebrates his airline’s 100th birthday with BTN and Flybe plots a routes shake-up after its takeover by Connect Airways.
14 – Project Sunrise takes its next step as Qantas announces the first of three ultra-long-haul test flights to gather data on inflight passenger and crew health and wellbeing, BA joins the emissions debate with a carbon pledge and Air New Zealand names its new CEO.
21 – Virgin eyes the China market, and Flybe announces a new name, Virgin Connect, and a new tax-saving partner in Loganair. With plans to fly between the US and London in 2021, JetBlue signs an interline deal with Norwegian.
28 – Air New Zealand shocks the industry with plans to abandon London, Boeing continues to suffer in the MAX saga and now appears to have delivery problems as well and Airbus seems to be facing a similar dilemma.

04 – Eurostar CEO Mike Cooper reflects on the train company’s 25th anniversary, there is a special honour for the Concorde Fleet and Airbus lands yet another major order for its A320 family.
11 – IAG bids to take Air Europa into its portfolio, while easyJet and Jet2 snap up Thomas Cook’s airport slots. Air France-KLM announces big plans for the future.
18 – Qantas pulls off another Project Sunrise success while Wizz Air courts controversy by saying Business Class is a threat to the environment. KLM invests £2.5bn with Embraer.
25 – BA pilots look set to settle their differences with the airline, easyJet takes the initiative on emissions and Manchester forges an important new link with Shanghai. Plus a round-up from the Dubai Airshow.

02 – Guest writer Johan Lundgren of easyJet talks about climate change, RAF Northolt sets a puzzle and El Al is poised to join the ultra-long-haul league with non-stop service between Tel Aviv and Melbourne.
09 – Rolls-Royce addresses the Trent 1000 situation, South African Airways teeters on the brink with Hong Kong Airlines close behind while Norwegian gains a foothold at Heathrow. Berlin’s new Brandenburg Airport edges closer to a much-delayed opening date.

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Charlie Avro, London

Thank you the BTN team for an excellent 12 months read and all the best for 2020. And can I note a mistake in the email version. I suspect that this week’s issue runs to 14,000 words. I have yet to read it all!

Charlie Avro, London

Thank you the BTN team for an excellent 12 months read and all the best for 2020. And can I note a mistake in the email version. I suspect that this week’s issue runs to 14,000 words. I have yet to read it all!