Friday, 31 May 2013

Life after Malev

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The collapse of Malev, Hungary's flag carrier, in February 2012 could have triggered a crisis at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International airport (pictured). The capital's main gateway lost 40% of its revenue and, without Malev's feeder network to bring them passengers, its two extant long-haul operators—American Airlines and Hainan Airlines—withdrew their respective services to New York and Beijing. As its connections disintegrated, Budapest started to look like a bellwether for the decline of European aviation. Yet it seems Hungary may actually have done well to lose Malev and set off down a new, less vainglorious, path...

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Interview: Bijan Mougouee, FlyGeorgia CEO

FlyGeorgia targets London route launch this year

FlyGeorgia is hopeful of launching flights to London as soon as this autumn, with either Luton or Stansted airport seen as the optimal UK gateway for the Georgian start-up carrier.

"We were planning for this summer, which didn't happen, so we have to postpone it until September onwards," chief executive Bijan Mougouee tells Flightglobal.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Interview: Kam Jandu, Budapest Airport Aviation Director

Budapest's new role in the shadow of Malev

Budapest Ferenc Liszt International airport lost almost 40% of its traffic overnight on 3 February 2012, when flag carrier Malev Hungarian Airlines succumbed to its growing debt pile and ceased operations. One year later, despite a high-profile spat with second-largest customer Ryanair, the Hungarian capital's airport has stemmed the decline in annual footfall to a mere 5%.

Describing that modest drop as a "fantastic outcome", Kam Jandu, Budapest airport's executive director of aviation, now expects flat passenger numbers of 8.5 million for 2013. He then forecasts an annual compound growth rate of 4% from next year onwards, targeting 10 million passengers by 2017.

Without a national carrier to provide feeder traffic, however, the airport has been forced to shift away from its former hub-and-spoke model. Instead, it is experimenting with what Wizz Air chief executive József Váradi describes as a "new paradigm" for the beleaguered European aviation market.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Interview: József Váradi, Wizz Air CEO

Wizz Air to double operations outside Europe by 2015

Wizz Air expects to double its operational presence outside of Europe over the next 12 to 18 months, chief executive József Váradi said in a media briefing at the Routes Europe conference in Budapest this week.

The Hungarian low-cost carrier (LCC) has spread its reach beyond European borders during the past year, announcing new services to Kutaisi in Georgia, Baku in Azerbaijan, Tel Aviv in Israel and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

It also operates subsidiary Wizz Air Ukraine at Kiev Zhuliany airport, where it has based three Airbus A320s.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Interview: Sergey Emdin, Pulkovo Airport DG

Full article in JPG format: page 32-33 & page 34

As the gateway to Russia's cultural capital, it is perhaps no surprise that Pulkovo Airport in St Petersburg consistently posts double-digit growth in annual passenger numbers. Footfall at the airport grew by 16.1% last year to 11.2 million, and director general Sergey Emdin says he is confident that figure will reach 12.5 million in 2013.

But rapid year-on-year growth has placed renewed pressure on the hub to expand its facilities and improve passenger experience. Mindful of this, operator Northern Capital Gateway consortium – comprising Fraport (35.5%), VTB Bank (57.5%) and Copelouzos Group (7%) – has since April 2010 overseen a $1.2 billion modernisation project. The 30-year public-private partnership focusses on construction of a new international terminal, expansion of the apron areas, and development of a hotel and business centre...

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Interview: Kyle Haywood, Fastjet South Africa CEO

Fastjet to launch in South Africa with wet-leased 737

Fastjet will enter the domestic South African market on 30 May with a Boeing 737-300 wet-leased from Star Air Cargo, division chief executive Kyle Haywood says, though no final decision has been taken about the future fleet.

The 1994-build aircraft (MSN 27346) is subject to a rolling six-month lease. It was formerly operated by defunct South African carrier Velvet Sky, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

I'll have what I ordered

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From this month Air Baltic, the Latvian flag-carrier, is allowing its passengers to choose from up to 20 meal items when booking their tickets. Pre-selecting an on-board meal is nothing new—American Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways are among the carriers extending that privilege to premium customers—but Air Baltic's approach is novel. Passengers drag-and-drop their preferred main course, salad, drink and dessert onto a digital airline tray. Their selection is then relayed to LSG SkyChefs, the in-flight caterer, which customises the actual tray as necessary before loading it onto the plane at Riga airport...

Iraq walking on air

Full article in PDF format: page 18-22 & cover

The resolution of a 23-year-old dispute between Iraq and Kuwait has opened the door for both countries to concentrate on reviving their ailing flag carriers. But while Kuwait's parliament is bogged down with political apathy towards its loss-making airline, Iraq is seizing the day with ambitious aircraft orders and diplomatic overtures across the Arab world and beyond.

Iraqi Airways director general Captain Saad Al-Khafaji struck a sanguine note as he outlined the role his carrier will play in bringing Iraq back to the international fold, speaking shortly after flights to London resumed in March. Though he made no attempt to downplay the difficulties Iraq has faced – both under Saddam Hussein, and in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion – he was overwhelmingly optimistic about the benefits that a well-funded, well-connected flag carrier can bring to its home nation.

"This is the new Iraq. We have a new political situation – democracy is ruling Iraq now," he told Arabian Aerospace. "We want to do our best to communicate with other countries, not with guns, but with brains. And we cannot communicate with other countries unless we meet, so Iraqi Airways is building bridges between the world and Iraq...

Calling the slots

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The European Parliament’s endorsement of secondary slot trading last December appeared, on the surface, to sanction the long-standing practice of selling, leasing and swapping runway rights at the continent’s over-stretched aviation hubs.

Although proposed legislation is unlikely to progress during Ireland's presidency of the EU, which ends in June, this delay stems from a largely unrelated debate in Brussels. The European Commission had drawn up slot trading proposals as part of a wider package of measures governing airport reform. The European Parliament reached a consensus on slot trading and aircraft noise mitigation, but it came unstuck over the issue of how best to liberalise ground handling services.

Notwithstanding the slow pace of reform, Morgan Foulkes, deputy director general of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, says that legislation enshrining slot trading will be a welcome boost to the continent's over-stretched airports...

Pragmatism at DWC

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Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai will open its doors to passengers in October, when Saudi Arabia's Nas Air and eastern Europe-based Wizz Air begin low-cost operations. The gateway began accepting cargo flights back in June 2010, but the commencement of passenger services marks the most significant milestone to date on its path to becoming the world's largest airport.

The emirate's existing hub, Dubai International Airport (DXB), is undergoing a $7.8 billion expansion project of its own, lifting annual passenger capacity from 75 million today to 90 million by 2018. But Al Maktoum Airport, also known as Dubai World Central (DWC), will eventually dwarf its forbearer with capacity of 160 million passengers...