Friday, 21 December 2012

Turkish delights


Full article on economist.com

Though clearly not welcome news for Boeing, the decision by former customer Pegasus, Turkey's fast-expanding low-cost carrier, to select the Airbus A320neo for its fleet renewal—spurning the Boeing 737 MAX—will be neither surprising nor unduly alarming. True, Airbus has notched up 1,654 firm orders for the neo against 969 for the MAX. But Airbus had a nine-month head-start with its next-generation narrow-body aircraft. Looking at total orders across all types, Boeing is on track to outsell Airbus this year: the first time it has done so since 2006.

What is more interesting is the size of Pegasus's commitment—100 aircraft, comprising firm orders for 58 A320neos and 17 larger A321neos, plus 25 options. The airline's chairman, Ali Sabanci, describes it as "the biggest order in the history of Turkish civil aviation", which is no mean feat given the spending spree Turkey's flag-carrier has also embarked on...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Virgin and Delta: A heap of unanswered questions


Full article on economist.com

It may be coming late to the consolidation party, but Virgin Atlantic is confident that its new partnership with Delta Air Lines will deliver the same benefits that rival carriers have drawn from their "metal neutral" alliances. Quantifying the value of such alliances—where two or more airlines share revenue, and collaborate through cost-cutting and marketing initiatives—is tricky, but in the case of British Airways (BA) and American Airlines, which joined forces in 2010, it is clear that their combined 57% share of capacity between London Heathrow and America amounts to a giant slice of the transatlantic pie...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Interview: Thomas Wazinski, Gambia Bird CEO


Gambia Bird pins hopes on Nigerian progress

Gambia Bird is close to completing the first phase of its route roll-out, chief executive Thomas Wazinski tells Flightglobal, though the delay in launching Lagos flights has resulted in lower-than-expected average load factors on intra-African routes. While the fleet is unlikely to expand beyond two Airbus A319s in the near-term, he says neighbouring states have already approached the airline about possible alliances.

West Africa's newest flag carrier launched services on 22 October, initially connecting the Gambian capital Banjul with Dakar, Freetown, Conakry, Accra and Monrovia. Intercontinental services to London Gatwick and Barcelona followed shortly after, but flights to Lagos have been postponed for unspecified political reasons.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Air Arabia spreading wings


Full article in JPG format

When Air Arabia was founded in 2003, the low-cost carrier (LCC) model pioneered by European airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet was practically unheard of in the Middle East.

But in less than a decade, the Sharjah-based carrier has grown to serve more than 80 destinations with a fleet of 26 Airbus A320s. Though handicapped by heavily regulated skies, Air Arabia's dual focus on under-served eastern European markets and labour corridors with the Indian subcontinent is bearing fruit...

Friday, 30 November 2012

How Fastjet is refining the LCC model for Africa


Fastjet, the new pan-African low-cost carrier (LCC) which launched operations in Tanzania this week, has a stated goal of "democratising" air travel on the continent by introducing affordable, reliable and safe no-frills flights. Rather than taking market share from existing regional carriers like Precision Air and Air Uganda, its business model has the grander aspiration of catalysing a regional LCC boom and enticing Africans away from road travel.

In pursuit of this goal, Fastjet has no qualms about adopting core LCC principles in its business model - charging passengers for non-essential, ancillary services such as baggage and on-board refreshments. But at the same time, it has identified areas where the European LCC model is not well suited to the African marketplace, necessitating some refinement. In the words of chief commercial officer Richard Bodin: "We have to adapt and mould the model to fit the environment, culture, market [and] distribution channels."

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Interview: Nico Bezuidenhout, Mango CEO


Mango spies east African expansion within 12 months

Mango, the low-cost subsidiary of South African Airways (SAA), expects to launch its first regional services within 12 months, chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout tells Flightglobal. The domestic carrier has secured rights for Mauritius and is close to gaining access to Zanzibar, Tanzania.

It had been planning to increase its six-strong Boeing 737-800 fleet by two aircraft over the next year, but that figure will likely rise in the wake of rival 1time's demise.

Bezuidenhout says the launch of pan-African low-cost carrier FastJet has placed a "competitive necessity" on Mango to "more aggressively pursue regional expansion".

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Saudia privatisation


Full article in PDF format

When Saudi Arabia's Supreme Economic Council approved the plan to privatise flag carrier Saudia in 2006, no-one was expecting an overnight transformation of the 61-year-old flag carrier.

It had already taken six years to bring the roadmap before government, with His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz having inaugurated the first privatisation studies in 2000. The actual process of dividing Saudia into six private businesses – catering, cargo, ground handling, maintenance, training and the core airline unit – was destined to take many more years.

But notwithstanding several missed deadlines, steady progress has been made by the carrier. Its cargo, catering and ground handling units have all been part-privatised, while the maintenance and training units are due to join their ranks by the second quarter of 2013...

Kuwaiting time


Full article in PDF format

Kuwait's decision to suspend the privatisation process for its national carrier came as little surprise last year, with muted interest among bidders and more pressing concerns in the emirate's fractured parliamentary system.

But the subsequent grounding of three Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) aircraft in July – following an emergency landing by one of its Airbus A300s in Medina – underscores how time could be running out for the airline's ageing fleet.

Kuwait's most recent attempt to resurrect the privatisation bill came unstuck in June, when draft legislation provisionally approved by the Cabinet was swept aside with the rest of parliament. The Constitutional Court's move to invalidate February's election – which had seen significant gains by opposition Islamist parties – forces the emirate to once again go through the motions for new legislation...

Swimming with the big fish


Full article in JPG format:
page 28/29 & page 30

When RAK Airways re-launched in 2010 – having been grounded after just two years of operations – many in the aviation industry were sceptical of its pledge to carve a niche between the full-service and low-cost carrier sectors.

The saturated Gulf aviation market had already seen years of double-digit growth, with Dubai's Emirates Airlines and Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways transforming the United Arab Emirates (UAE) into the world's pre-eminent intercontinental hub. On the lower end of the market, Sharjah-based Air Arabia and FlyDubai were fast hoovering up point-to-point traffic across the region.

But in the northernmost emirate of Ras Al Khaimah – where annual air passenger numbers of 328,000 pale in comparison to Dubai's 51 million – RAK Airways chief executive John Brayford is proving the naysayers wrong, charting an expansion strategy that complements rather than competes with his dominant neighbours to the south...

Air Baltic sets out on recovery road


Full article in PDF format

Rumours that the EU may instruct Latvia's Air Baltic to pay back up to €80 million ($104 million) in state aid are understandably of concern to chief executive Martin Gauss - not least given his memories of heading up Hungary's Malev, which went to the wall over €280 million of EU debt.

But Gauss has form for turning around European carriers - having sold DBA, formerly Deutsche BA, to Air Berlin in 2006 - and his 'ReShape' plan at Air Baltic is already beginning to show signs of progress.

The former Boeing 737 pilot took up his position in Riga in November 2011. His appointment followed a bitter dispute between the Latvian government and previous chief executive Bertolt Flick, whose offshore investment vehicle subsequently sold its 47.2% stake in Air Baltic back to the state...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Interview: Christine Ourmières, CityJet CEO


No job cuts at CityJet despite Transform 2015 exclusion

Air France subsidiary CityJet has moved to reassure Paris-based employees that exclusion from its parent company's Transform 2015 restructuring plan will not result in layoffs.

CityJet's French employees have been lobbying for inclusion in Transform 2015 because the plan - which encompasses fellow subsidiaries Regional and Britair - guarantees that there will be no forced redundancies in 2012 or 2013.

Insisting Transform 2015 is "not the best fit" for CityJet, chief executive Christine Ourmières says the subsidiary's own restructuring programme has protected jobs.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Interview: Klemen Bostjancic, Adria Airways CEO


Adria Airways shelves fleet renewal amid funding delay

Adria Airways has abandoned plans to overhaul its fleet as negotiations continue over a delayed €9 million ($11.8 million) loan that chief executive Klemen Bostjancic says will be necessary for the airline to continue flying this winter.

The revolving credit facility was due to arrive in late September and would have been the first instalment of a €50 million cash injection pledged by Slovenia's government in August 2011 in response to a two-and-a-half-year turnaround plan.

Local media reports on 16 October 2012 quoted Bostjancic as saying that the flag carrier would be grounded unless the outstanding loan from Nova Ljubljanska Banka and UniCredit Banka materialises.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Interview: Martin Gauss, Air Baltic CEO


ReShape results will spur Air Baltic investors: Gauss

Demonstrable success under the 'ReShape' restructuring plan will be the driving force behind Air Baltic's search for a strategic partner, chief executive Martin Gauss tells Flightglobal, with management looking to make the case for investment through quantifiable results.

Insisting that talks with prospective Gulf and Chinese partners remain at the early stages and may not require due-diligence for "a while", Gauss candidly adds: "I don't expect a quick win on this one, but you never know."

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Interview: John Brayford, RAK Airways CEO


RAK Airways sees CFM-powered A320s in short supply

RAK Airways will issue a request for proposal (RFP) for CFM-powered Airbus A320s this week, chief executive John Brayford tells Flightglobal, with previous searches having identified just one aircraft "in any way suitable" for its upcoming fleet expansion.

The Ras al Khaimah-based carrier operates two CFM-powered A320s and has announced plans to lease a third aircraft in early March 2013, followed by a fourth unit in late summer.

According to Brayford, however, preliminary studies for the third unit indicated that "there are very few relatively new CFM-powered A320s on the market". He says scarce availability has prompted the airline to bring forward its search for the fourth unit.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Loose connections at Heathrow


Full article in JPG format

News that Patrick McLoughlin, the UK's new transport secretary, has postponed his decision over Heathrow's third runway until after the next General Election, in 2015, has prompted a collective groan across the aviation industry and the wider business community.

"How many more reviews do we actually need," asked Laurie Price, former aviation adviser to the select transport committee between 1997 and 2005, in his opening remarks at a conference in London last week.

Previous attempts to reach a consensus on airport expansion have included the 1971 Roskill Commission and the 2003 Future of Air Transport White Paper. These, however, have often appeared to kick decision-making into the long-grass, sparing successive governments the headache of long-term infrastructure projects that risk angering the electorate, while delivering scant benefit to their political backers...

Kuwait Airways privatisation up in the air


Full article in JPG format:
page 18/19 & page 20

In July, an Airbus A300 operated by Kuwait Airways made an emergency landing in Medina, Saudi Arabia, after what appears to have been a potentially catastrophic double engine failure. Camera-phone footage of the incident shows passengers clinging onto their armrests and nervously reciting the Shahada, as the only functioning engine sputters in the background.

Far from an isolated incident, this latest in a string of security scares renewed concerns about whether the airline’s ageing jets should remain in the skies while Kuwait’s parliament drags its feet over sorely-needed restructuring – originally promised in a 2008 privatisation bill...

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Fast track into Africa


Full article in JPG format

FastJet, the new pan-African low-cost carrier backed by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, and one of the highest profile new entrants to the market this year, is at the show to explain its routes philosophy. The carrier will launch operations in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in early November and plans to expand its fleet size up to 15 Airbus A319s within the first year of operations.

Chief executive Ed Winter says east African governments have been sympathetic to its arguments against taxation. "We've shown them that a reduction in the tax - and the stimulation of demand and the overall size of the market - will cause a rapid increase in the net revenues for government," he explains. "But it needs a bit of a leap of faith for governments to actually reduce taxes...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Doing business Down Under


Full article in JPG format:
page 40/41 & page 42

Emirates Airline, the flag carrier of Dubai, this summer announced that a code share partnership with Australia’s Qantas is likely to be signed within months.

The move follows the decision by Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier, to increase its equity stake in Virgin Australia to 10 per cent. It also comes as Qatar Airways voices renewed interest in Australia. Taken together, the hubbub spells a new phase in the long-running tussle between the Gulf carriers and their western counterparts for supremacy over inter-continental traffic flows...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Interview: Alex Cruz, Vueling CEO


Cruz says AENA fee hike will not derail Barcelona growth

Vueling will achieve net growth at its Barcelona El Prat hub throughout 2012, chief executive Alex Cruz tells Flightglobal, with the availability of spare capacity following Spanair's demise comfortably outweighing the impact of higher fees at the airport.

The low-cost carrier is lobbying AENA over the doubling of charges at El Prat and Madrid Barajas airports in "continuous" top-level private meetings, he says.

But Cruz does not anticipate any revisions to the higher fee structure - implemented on 1 July 2012 - and Vueling is instead pursuing "concessions" from the airports operator over the 5%-above-RPI increases planned for the beginning of 2013 and 2014. Though a goal for the airline, Cruz admits that such provisions will be "insufficient".

Hedging your bets


Full article in JPG format

When Delta Air Lines announced its intention to acquire an oil refinery earlier this year, the unusual move drew a mixed response from analysts. Some praised its innovation, arguing that its daily consumption of 210,000 barrels of jet fuel justified cutting out the middle man. Others questioned whether airlines should be in the business of refining crude oil.

But one thing no one disputed was the urgent need to offset fuel price volatility. According to IATA's latest forecast, Brent crude, the main European benchmark, is likely to average $110 a barrel this year - but in just six months spot prices have ricocheted wildly between $128 and $88.

For airlines that rely on stable ticket pricing to deliver profitability, such swings have brought fuel hedging firmly back into vogue during the post-2008 recovery. In its simplest form, hedging allows fuel prices to be fixed or capped for future expenditure, smoothing out unforeseen spikes in the oil price and bringing some certainty to margins...

Cracking up


Full article in JPG format

On 4 November 2010, in the skies above the Indonesian island of Batam, one of the four engines powering an Airbus A380 operated by Australian flag carrier Qantas blew up mid-flight. The force of the explosion was so great that shrapnel from the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine punctured the wing, sent fuel gushing from two tanks, and disabled an array of vital flight control systems.

Despite malfunctioning hydraulics, limited reverse thrust and no anti-skid brakes, Captain Richard de Crespigny successfully landed Qantas Flight 32 at Singapore Changi Airport. None of the 440 passengers and 29 crew aboard was injured.

In the months that followed, air safety investigators branched out from focusing solely on the faulty engine to addressing a new issue of concern – the discovery of hairline cracks in the Qantas A380’s wings. Though not a contributing factor to the mid-air explosion, it quickly became apparent that these newly identified fissures – located on nine-inch aluminium brackets connecting the wing’s outer skin to its inner rib structures – warranted further scrutiny...

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Interview: Howard Millar, Ryanair CFO


Ryanair defends hedges despite higher Q1 fuel bill

Ryanair will continue to hedge fuel costs with the same swap instruments that prompted heavy mark-to-market losses for the industry in 2008/09, despite taking an apparent hit on its fuel risk management strategy in the first quarter, says chief financial officer Howard Millar.

The airline's average fuel price increased by 21% year-on-year during the first quarter, rising from $820 per metric tonne (pmt) last year to $998pmt in Q1 2012/13.

This came despite a 6% reduction in average jet fuel prices across all benchmarks over the corresponding period, according to global energy information provider Platts. Average global prices between April and June stood at $994pmt, data from Platts shows, compared with $1,057pmt during the same months last year.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Gambling with a clear game plan


Full article in JPG format:
page 20/21 & page 22/23

In its 2006/07 annual report, Dubai-based Emirates Airline proudly announced that its “fuel risk management programme” – more accurately described as an oil hedging strategy – had delivered savings of $197 million against spot prices for jet fuel. Gary Chapman, president of group services at the carrier, said the programme had saved Emirates $1 billion over eight years.

One year later, on the precipice of the worst financial crisis in living memory, the airline vowed that it would continue to “achieve a level of control over jet fuel costs so that profitability is not adversely affected” by volatile market prices.

It failed to do so. By the time Emirates’ 2008/09 report was being audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the company had written down annual fuel hedging losses of Dhs1.57 billion ($428 million). It may have succeeded in positioning itself defensively against higher oil prices, but it did not mitigate the downside risk of a price crash, which inevitably accompanied the global recession. The mistake was repeated in airline boardrooms around the world...

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Interview: Ed Winter, FastJet CEO


FastJet eyes late summer launch alongside Fly540 brand

FastJet, the pan-African low-cost carrier planned by EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, expects to launch operations in three to four months, chief executive-designate Ed Winter tells Flightglobal.

It will initially operate alongside Fly540 - the Nairobi-based airline acquired by Stelios-linked investment firm Rubicon - and will start by taking over the carrier's highest density east African routes as well as international services from Ghana. The Fly540 brand will then be phased out as FastJet takes delivery of new leased jets, which are likely to be either Airbus A319s or Embraer 190s.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Flybe in balancing act as UK economy stumbles


UK regional carrier Flybe is mitigating the downturn in its home market by shifting capacity to Europe, pursuing new codeshare partnerships at Manchester airport, and increasing its oil hedging exposure, chief executive Jim French and CFO Andrew Knuckey said in a media briefing this morning (11 June).

Speaking after the company posted a pre-tax loss of £6.2 million ($9.64 million) for fiscal 2011/12 – marginally beating analyst forecasts – French blamed losses at Flybe Finland, the new joint venture with Finnair, and the opening of a new training academy in Exeter for bringing down the full-year results.

But he emphasised the "resilience" and "scale" of the business model, promising that new regional partnerships and flexibility over aircraft options will mitigate short-term headwinds, positioning the airline to benefit from an eventual macroeconomic recovery.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Qatar ready for take off


Full article in JPG format: page 48/49 & page 50/51

When the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) opens its doors on 12 December 2012, the Gulf's youngest aviation hub will be able to handle 12.5 million passengers per year – more than eight times the current population of Doha. By the time it is completed in 2015, the 5,400 acre site will be almost two-thirds the size of the capital.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker, who also heads up the development of NDIA, admitted last month that the project would come in more expensive than planned. His latest estimate pegs it at $17.5 billion (QR64 billion), and few will be surprised if costs rise further.

But for Qatar, which has allocated 40 percent of its budget between now and 2016 to infrastructure projects, this is undoubtedly a price worth paying. The tiny Gulf emirate places aviation at the heart of its economic growth plans – matching commitments by the governments of Abu Dhabi and Dubai – and NDIA will be the centrepiece of Doha's strategic vision to become one of the busiest transit hubs in the world...

Winds of change


Full article in JPG format

For a man more accustomed to castigating his European rivals, Akbar al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, caught many observers off guard at this year's Arabian Travel Market. Far from berating Willie Walsh, the CEO of British Airways, al Baker heaped praise on his competitor, describing him as a "good friend" and hailing his uncompromising management style.

“I respect what he did for British Airways,” the Qatari fawned, in reference to the 2010 cabin crew strikes. “He stood up to the unions and won at a very difficult time. And he doesn’t badmouth the competition. I always say that if you cannot defeat someone, you should make an ally of them.”

Al Baker’s conspicuously chummy tone did not come entirely out of the blue. Walsh, in contrast to many European counterparts, has long given credit to the Gulf carriers. Two years ago, for example, he accused neighbouring legacy airlines of preferring to “bitch and moan” about Gulf competitors, rather than getting their own houses in order. But even so, camaraderie between the Gulf and Europe has until recently been a rare sight in aviation circles...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Libyan Airlines fights back


Full article in JPG format

Of all the images broadcast during the Libyan uprising, few encapsulated the chaos of war more than the charred tailfin of an Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A300 – caught in the crossfire as rebel fighters descended on Tripoli International Airport.

Alongside the grave humanitarian toll of the eight-month conflict, Libya's fledgling civil aviation infrastructure was razed almost beyond recognition.

Just two of Afriqiyah's aircraft emerged from the war unscathed, and sister flag carrier Libyan Airlines fared no better at escaping the carnage. The older state-owned airline lost one A300 and one Bombardier CRJ900, in addition to suffering gunfire and mortar damage on its remaining seven CRJs and four Airbus A320s...

Qatar's diplomatic act


Full article in JPG format: page 48/49 & page 50/51

In April 2011, Syrian state media reported that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, had sent a letter to Damascus pledging his support against "the conspiracy targeting its security and stability". Just one year on, and the same government mouthpiece now accuses Qatar of masterminding that conspiracy. Such is the nature of international diplomacy.

Qatar's new perspective of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could not be clearer – Sheikh Hamad closed the Qatari embassy in Damascus last July, and by February 2012 was openly calling for the arming of Syrian rebels. What is less apparent, though, is how this hawkish approach fits in with Qatar's self-styled reputation for being a regional peacemaker...

Qatar making a noise


F
ull article in JPG format: page 46/47 & page 48

Speaking at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi last month, Akbar al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, surprised no-one when he announced that the flag carrier expects to double in size by 2020. While that prediction would be met with derision if uttered by one of Europe or North America’s legacy airline bosses, Qatar has for years been staking its claim in the rising fortunes of the Gulf aviation market.

From its humble beginnings in 1994, when it started operations with a wet-leased Boeing 767, Qatar Airways has lived up to the emirate’s reputation for punching above its weight...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Saudia looks for direction


F
ull article in JPG format: page 46/47 & page 48

Despite being the Middle East’s third largest carrier by revenue, Saudi Arabian Airlines, or Saudia as it is often still known, rarely features in discussions about Gulf aviation. The kingdom’s flag carrier has a reputation for shying away from the limelight, due in part to its beleaguered domestic market, and in part to the pre-eminence of more media-savvy rivals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.

This coming year, however, Saudia will throw itself onto the global stage like never before. Against a backdrop of gradual privatisation, the airline will join the SkyTeam airline alliance in May – kick-starting a strategic plan which, if successful, will see business travellers in the Americas, Asia and Europe fuelling profitability...

Friday, 9 March 2012

The runway that won't go away


Full article on economist.com

Before Britain’s Conservative Party could form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in May 2010, negotiators from both sides had the unenviable task of reconciling some of their less-than-complementary policies. One issue that required no wrangling, however, was the proposal for a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport, which was buckling under the pressure of operating at 98% capacity. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, had already broken with party tradition by opposing expansion at the airport, and the greener Liberal Democrats had long supported west London's NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) residents. Ironically, this easy consensus has now become one of the coalition's toughest dilemmas...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Still waiting for the tide to turn


Full article in JPG format

Bahraini flag carrier Gulf Air has made no secret of its desire to cut underperforming routes, nor has it downplayed the impact of the Arab Spring on its operations. Even so, last month’s culling of four more destinations from the airline’s route network – Athens, Milan, Kuala Lumpur and Damascus – caught many observers by surprise. Set against a backdrop of intense parliamentary scrutiny that has at times bordered on enmity, some are beginning to ask questions about its future.

There is no denying Gulf Air had a torrid time in 2011. Bookings fell by 25 per cent in the first five months of the year as regional unrest spooked foreigners and parliament banned flights to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon – fearful that groups like Hezbollah might antagonise the country’s Shia population. Factor in high oil prices, and it is little wonder that Gulf Air’s much-lauded recovery plan, which had targeted profitability by 2013, was aborted in January...

Monday, 27 February 2012

Interview: Khaled Taynaz, Libyan Airlines CEO


Libyan Airlines planning CSeries order, EgyptAir wet leases

Libyan Airlines has conducted a viability study into the Bombardier CSeries and will likely order four to eight of the aircraft, chief executive officer Khaled Taynaz has said. The Libyan flag carrier is currently repairing its existing Bombardier CRJ900s, which were damaged during last year's revolt against Muammar Gaddafi, but has received a "very good offer" to upgrade the models in about four years. Taynaz is also poised to sign a short-term lease with EgyptAir for some of its Airbus A330s, though the paperwork has yet to be finalised and upcoming merger partner Afriqiyah Airlines may alternatively loan the aircraft.

Outlining Libyan's fleet renewal plans in his first interview since the civil war, the CEO said repair work on damaged aircraft had progressed well and that the carrier is now turning its attention to long-term expansion. Five of the airline's eight CRJ900s have already been restored by Lufthansa, while two more should be airworthy by April and the eighth will be decommissioned. Libyan had also signed a five-year maintenance contract with Air France-KLM, which will complete repair work on the last of four damaged Airbus A320s by the end of February.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Flagging carriers out east


Full article on economist.com

The grounding of Malev, Hungary’s national carrier, shows once again how Eastern European countries are struggling to fly their flags around the world. According to a report from CAPA, Hungary is now expected to follow Slovakia in switching to a predominantly low-cost carrier (LCC) market. The report notes that, prior to Malev's bankruptcy, LCCs accounted for just 24% of capacity in Hungary, compared with more than 70% for its neighbour to the north. That figure shot up to 40% overnight, and with Ryanair circling covetously above will only rise further.

But there are few positive signs for Eastern Europe's older airlines. Slovakia has a high LCC penetration because it abandoned its flag carrier in 2007. Lithuania did the same thing two years later, while Latvia clung onto its national airline, but only by marketing it as a pseudo-LCC with pan-Baltic aspirations—baffling analysts, and perhaps government financiers, in the process. Poland and Romania seem no more confident in their flag carriers, beating paths to Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for financial backing and feed-in traffic. While none would admit it, they are all perilously close to their own Malev moment...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Headwinds over Europe: ETS


Full article in JPG format

Last month, Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia X called time on its flagship services to Europe, under the pretext that the continent’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – essentially an environmental tax – had made flying to London and Paris unprofitable.

Behind the whitewashed press release, its hand was in truth forced by the short-sightedness of a business plan conceived in 2009, when oil prices stood at just $40 per barrel. With Brent crude surging to three times that level in recent months, the viability of a low-cost, long-haul product – absent of any high-yielding corporate passengers – was well and truly blown out of the water.

But while blaming the ETS was undoubtedly a face-saving exercise, AirAsia X will have many sympathisers both within the industry and beyond. Europe’s carbon trading scheme has been an unremitting source of contention for foreign governments, who say the tax violates their sovereignty and who are increasingly talking up the prospects of a trade war...

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The future of biofuels


Full article in JPG format: page 44/45 & page 46/47 & bio

Talk to an airline executive anywhere in the world today, and you're virtually guaranteed to hear the same fundamental complaint. With Brent Crude prices hovering around $110 per barrel – up 350% in the space of two years – it's now all but impossible to make money from the business of flying people around.

Of course airlines have several tricks up their sleeves. Hedging fuel contracts is one strategy, albeit a risky one if you misjudge the market. Cutting operational costs and hiking airfares are two others. Perhaps the most pragmatic approach is to fork out a few billion dollars for some next-generation, fuel-efficient jets. In the current financial climate, though, few have that option.

The inconvenient reality is that aviation is well and truly addicted to oil. In order to get a 650-tonne Airbus A380 off the ground, the high energy density required makes anything short of the black stuff a feeble substitute. And that means, in contrast to electric cars, battery-powered planes will never make their commercial debut in our lifetimes...

Friday, 6 January 2012

It's Not Racist to Say Some Black People Are Racist


Full article on huffingtonpost.com

A curious thing happened to me last Thursday while I was reading Bim Adewunmi's article on The Guardian website. Adewunmi was describing, in a very rational and factual manner, the circumstances surrounding her Twitter chat with Diane Abbott - which made headlines after the Shadow Health Minister seemingly accused all white people of being colonialists who "love playing divide and rule". I appreciated Adewunmi's dispassionate article, and I aired my opinion to that effect. Here's my comment in its entirety:

"Thanks for this explanation, and congratulations for (unwittingly or otherwise) exposing Diane Abbott's true views about white people. Last time I checked, I'm not a colonialist. So I now consider her a racist."

Harmless enough, I thought. And my fellow readers appeared to agree. As the tenth comment in a thread which now runs into the hundreds, my highly visible two cents quickly became the second-most 'recommended' post beneath the line. But The Guardian's moderators took umbrage to my contribution, deleting it under the pretext that it had failed to "abide by our community standards". I hastily re-posted the comment, appending a request that they explain which specific standard - racism, offensive behaviour, or another - had been breached. But that post also disappeared within minutes...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Interview: Peter Hill, Oman Air CEO


Full article in JPG format

After 50 years in the industry, Oman Air chief executive Peter Hill recently hung up his flight jacket for the last time. Though his successor has yet to be announced, Hill leaves the flag carrier with a well-defined “luxury boutique” business plan that will nurture the Sultanate’s tourism sector and help articulate its identity within the Gulf region.

As a founding member of Dubai’s Emirates Airline, Hill was headhunted by Oman Air four years ago to develop the plan begun by his predecessor, Ziad al Haremi, who had died tragically of a heart attack. In contrast to the mega-hub strategy Hill advanced in Dubai, the flight path for the Muscat-based carrier focused on selective long-haul expansion and a bespoke in-flight service that, in his words, “the bigger boys just can’t offer”...