Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Widerøe pins future of social routes on electric plane breakthrough


Full article on forbes.com

Widerøe is banking on the launch of an all-electric, sub 50-seat aircraft by the end of the next decade in order to maintain its deep footprint in the domestic Norwegian market.

“I really believe that we will have a major technology shift in this turboprop segment, and I think, in fact, there could be a possibility for flying all-electric … in the timeframe around 2030,” Stein Nilsen, Widerøe chief executive, told me last week during the ferry flight of the airline’s new Embraer E190 E2 from Aberdeen to Bergen.

Nilsen was responding to a question about Widerøe's 25 Bombardier Dash 8 Q100s and Q200s – small turboprops with 39 seats that the airline mostly deploys on Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes within Norway...

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Gulf Air tries to reclaim its crown


Full article on economist.com

With their geographical advantage for connecting flights between far-flung places, there is plenty to keep the airlines of the Gulf countries busy. Yet Bahrain’s skies are nearly empty compared with its neighbours. About 9m passengers used its airport last year, far fewer than the 88m for Dubai, 37m for Qatar and 26m for Abu Dhabi. The difference is striking given that Gulf Air, Bahrain’s flag carrier, was for decades the most prestigious airline in the Middle East. In its heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s, none of its three neighbours even had national airlines...

Friday, 6 April 2018

Estonia's Nordica plans new EU bases as export model takes off


Full article on forbes.com

Estonian airline Nordica is talking to about ten potential customers for its contract flying services and could open up to three new bases in the coming winter season, chief executive Jaan Tamm has told me.

The Baltic flag-carrier supplements its scheduled network out of Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, with various kinds of ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance) contracts for foreign customers. Nearly two-thirds of the flights conducted by Regional Jet, its operating subsidiary, are flown under these export arrangements...

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Interview: Bakhouche Alleche, Air Algerie CEO


Full article in PDF format

Algeria’s Transport Ministry denied rumours that Air Algérie is heading for bankruptcy in January, insisting that the flag-carrier enjoys the full support of the government despite its “difficult financial situation”.

The intervention followed a series of walkouts by employees, who are angry at new chief executive Bakhouche Alleche for freezing planned wage increases. Those pay-hikes had reportedly been agreed by Mohamed Bouderbala, Air Algérie’s previous boss, but were axed as part of a newly launched turnaround plan.

Speaking to African Aerospace shortly before the strikes, the airline’s top management insisted that boosting on-time-performance (OTP) should be a higher priority than lifting an already burdensome wage bill...

Friday, 23 March 2018

Why posting a 'very large loss' is a good sign for Qatar Airways


Full article on forbes.com

Never one to mince his words, Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, has been more than candid about the “very large loss” that he expects his company to announce for the 2017-18 financial year. Qatar’s flag-carrier agreed in January to start putting detailed financial statements in the public domain – a move designed to ease concerns about unfair state support and minimize the likelihood of America curbing its access to the U.S. market.

The expected loss will mark a dramatic reversal of recent claims of profitability. For 2016-17, Qatar Airways had announced net profits of 1.97 billion Qatari riyals ($541m) in filings audited by Ernst & Young’s local branch in Qatar. The previous year’s audited report put its takings at 1.62 billion riyals, while an informal figure of $103 million was given by Al Baker for 2014-15.

As I wrote previously in relation to Etihad Airways – another state-owned Gulf carrier with delusions of profitability – such claims are misleading and should not have been repeated by media outlets without strong disclaimers...

Ukraine convinces Ryanair to return


Full article on economist.com

Almost one year ago to the day, Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, announced plans to begin serving Ukraine, its largest country. Ukraine had been a glaring white spot in the airline’s route network, deliberately avoided because of the anti-competitive advantages afforded to Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), the flag-carrier. A new infrastructure minister, Volodymyr Omelyan, brokered the deal between Ryanair and Boryspil Airport, the capital’s main gateway and home base of UIA. But it collapsed within months. Now, Ryanair, the government and the airport are trying again...

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Come fly with Xi


Full article on economist.com

In ancient times, traders on the Silk Road connecting China with Europe rarely ventured into the northern Caucasus region that is now home to Georgia. Diverting from established routes through Armenia and Anatolia to the south served little purpose unless conflict made the trackways impassable. Today, advances in transport and logistics mean that geography is less of a hurdle for traders. But friendly relations are just as important. Having signed free trade agreements with China and the European Union, Georgia is keen to pitch itself as a trade-and-transport hub for President Xi Jinping of China’s One Belt One Road initiative...

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Ukraine's aviation fiasco


Full article in PDF format

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 opened a dark chapter in the history of Ukraine’s civil aviation sector, lighting a fuse that would see Donetsk International Airport razed to the ground and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot out of the sky. Though hostilities rumble on in the eastern Donbas region, life has gradually returned to normal for most Ukrainians. The number of passengers carried by local airlines grew 22 per cent in 2016 to reach 5.7 million – just shy of pre-conflict levels – thanks in large part to flag-carrier Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), which has stepped up its role as a transit carrier linking Asia with Europe. Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, UIA’s home base, accommodated more than ten million passengers last year and expects 20 million by 2023.

However, market dominance by UIA – which provides 67 per cent of capacity at Boryspil, and a whopping 89 per cent of domestic seats nationwide – is antagonising Ukraine’s pro-western government, whose lawmakers are desperate to inject foreign competition and disempower the post-Soviet oligarchs...

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

How to ensure Ryanair foots the bill for flight delays


Full article on economist.com

There is little doubt that Ryanair takes umbrage at EU261, the piece of European law that guarantees passengers compensation in the event of most flight delays and cancellations. Michael O’Leary, the airline’s boss, insists that he complies with the “ridiculous” piece of legislation. But many say otherwise. Last year, when a pilot rostering mishap grounded thousands of Ryanair flights, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) accused it of “persistently misleading” customers about their rights. Which?, a British consumer group, agreed that Ryanair fell “woefully short” of its obligations. Media reports exposing poor treatment of passengers abound. Yet, in the past five months, your correspondent has received two EU261 pay-outs from Ryanair. Claims that the company swindles its customers are exaggerated...

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Interview: Stefan Pichler, Royal Jordanian Airlines CEO


Full article in PDF format

When Royal Jordanian Airlines ran a series of advertisements mocking Donald Trump, the US President, and making light of his laptop ban for Middle Eastern flights, many of the people sharing its messages on social media had never even heard of the airline – let alone flown with it.

Despite flying its country’s flag for more than half a century, Royal Jordanian still lacks the scale and brand recognition of its Gulf competitors. It has also become a financial burden on the government of Jordan, its 26% shareholder, posting net losses in four of the six years since the Arab Spring.

New chief executive Stefan Pichler admits that regional instability has held the airline back. Neighbouring Syria used to be a major source of connecting traffic before civil war closed its skies, while routes to Iraq, Libya and Yemen were also abandoned when violence flared in their borders. Surrounded by conflict, Jordan’s own tourism sector has nosedived as Westerners steer clear of what they perceive to be a dangerous neighbourhood...