Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Interview: Olga Pleshakova, Transaero CEO

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It should come as no surprise that Transaero's new base at Moscow Vnukovo Airport – which opened just last year – has already given rise to a strategic partnership with the gateway's other home carrier, UTair Aviation. The second and third largest airlines in Russia make a good strategic fit. Transaero's predominantly widebody fleet focusses on long-haul destinations overseas and in the Russian Far East, while UTair's majority narrowbody metal is mainly put to work in the country's vast territories and eastern Europe.

But for Transaero chief executive Olga Pleshakova, who has been at the helm since 2001, there is much work to be done before the true potential of Russia's aviation market can be unlocked...

Interview: Igor Petrov, UTair CFO

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Few airlines around the world can claim to have as diverse a fleet and range of operations as UTair Aviation. Even setting aside its numerous rotorcraft divisions – which deploy more than 350 helicopters from bases as far afield as Siberia, South Africa and India – the carrier's fixed-wing businesses encompass a dizzying array of aircraft, comprising Boeing, Airbus, ATR, Bombardier, Tupolev, Antonov, Yakovlev, LET and Gulfstream types.

Alongside the mainline UTair Aviation fleet, the group's operations centre on regional divisions UTair Express and Katekavia; freight specialist UTair Cargo; and UTair Ukraine. Fleet homogeneity will never be a goal for the airline – its subsidiaries contend with a multitude of different airports, climates and operating environments – but chief financial officer Igor Petrov insists that work is under way to streamline the fleet...

Interview: Vitaly Vantsev, Moscow Vnukovo Airport Chairman

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The opening of Mocow Vnukovo Airport's Terminal A in December 2012 was the latest, and perhaps most significant milestone in the gateway's 2015 Master Plan. The new domestic and international terminal has total floor space of 270,000 sq m, comprising 52 boarding gates and 31 contact stands. Three of the jetways are configured for the Boeing 747 – favoured by home carrier Transaero – including one which can also handle the Airbus A380.

Together with Terminal B, which caters for international charter and low-cost flights, the Vnukovo-1 mainline terminal cluster has a total capacity of 15 million passengers per year. That is comfortably above the 9.7 million customers it served in 2012, but Vnukovo chairman Vitaly Vantsev says further expansion is on the horizon. "Over the next five to ten years, we expect to have throughput capacity of about 20 million passengers per year," he predicts....

Risk-on at Aeroflot

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The largest airline in Russia by every metric, Aeroflot has the most to gain or lose from changing fortunes in the country's aviation industry. The flag carrier has consciously put itself at the forefront of all sectors – acquiring regional subsidiaries, planning a low-cost offshoot, and championing Russian-made aircraft. It is a strategy that could pay off handsomely, but also exposes the state-owned airline to heavy downside risk.

The decision to acquire controlling stakes in six regional operators in 2010 – Rossiya, Orenair, Kavminvodyavia, Saravia, Vladivostok Avia and SAT Airlines – brought Aeroflot's domestic market share above 33%. Kavminvodyavia has since been closed, while Saravia was re-sold in 2011. Vladivostok Avia and SAT Airlines are now being merged under a new brand for the Russian Far East. Aeroflot also owns Donavia, which serves southern Russia from its base in Rostov-on-Don...

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Interview: Michael O'Leary, Ryanair CEO

O'Leary maps out growth plans

Ryanair's expanding fleet of Boeing 737-800s will mainly be put to work restoring capacity in European markets whose home carriers are faltering, chief executive Michael O'Leary tells Routes News, though he adds that talks are ongoing with several countries on the peripheries of the continent.

"The big growth for us in the next five years will be taking more of the traffic from airlines that will be imploding, like SAS, Iberia, Alitalia, and the central European airlines," O'Leary says. The low-cost carrier ordered 175 737-800s at the 2013 Paris Air Show, with 70 aircraft slated for expansion and 105 due to replace older units in the fleet.

Interview: Cathal O'Connell, BMI Regional CEO

Full article in JPG format: page 22/23, page 24 & page 26

When International Airlines Group (IAG) acquired rival British carrier BMI in 2012, CEO Willie Walsh was unequivocal that he had no interest in retaining its two loss-making subsidiaries. That meant the end of the road for bmibaby, the airline's troubled low-cost unit. But BMI Regional lived on after a £8 million buyout by Sector Aviation Holdings, an Aberdeen-based consortium funded by aviation entrepreneurs Stephen and Peter Bond.

Alongside chairman Ian Woodley and chief operating officer Graeme Ross – the founders of BMI Regional's precursor, Business Air – CEO Cathal O'Connell is leading the charge to re-define BMI Regional in the absence of its former Star Alliance partners. In doing so he is exploring new paradigms for Europe's beleaguered regional airlines, whose smaller fleets have been hardest hit by the rampant fuel price hikes of the past decade...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Interview: Farhad Parvaresh, Iran Air Chairman

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

Although all flag carriers are to some extent entwined with the vagaries and fortunes of their home government, few will have their course through history as profoundly and irrevocably altered as Iran Air.

From its founding as Iranian Airways in 1946 up until its rapid expansion in the 1970s, the airline was considered an early success story for Gulf aviation. It became one of the first carriers to operate the Boeing 747SP – deploying it on daily nonstop flights from Tehran to New York – and had even placed an order for two supersonic Concordes.

But halfway through its history, the 1979 Islamic Revolution completely reconfigured Iran's standing on the international stage. Iran Air came to be seen as a dangerous wing of a hostile government by America, and its route network began contracting in tandem with its list of overseas partners...

Interview: Ahmed Alwani, Yemenia Chairman

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The final report into the June 2009 crash of Yemenia Flight 626 off the Comoros Islands surprised no-one when it was completed this summer. Chief investigator Bourhane Ahmed Bourhane said that "inappropriate action by the crew" during "an un-stabilised manoeuvre" resulted in the A310 stalling. Though pilot error was ultimately to blame, the report acknowledged that concurrent alarms within the cockpit had created a "stressful situation" for the crew of the night-time flight.

The joint probe by Comorian, Yemeni and French investigators – dozens of the 152 fatalities were French – brings to an end the darkest chapter in Yemenia's history, which stretches back more than six decades. However, it is unlikely to usher in any sweeping changes at the flag carrier...

South Africa's crash landing

Full article in JPG format: page 68/69 & page 70

Constant bickering between incumbent and future operators in South Africa underscores how its aviation sector – though by far the most developed on the continent – remains beset by problems. Ten of the 11 independent airlines created since market deregulation in 1991 have collapsed, most recently including 1time and Velvet Sky.

The tense atmosphere has begun spilling over into the country's courts. Private operator Comair is now challenging the 5 billion rand ($490 million) government guarantee afforded to flag carrier South African Airways (SAA). "We just have to wait for a court date," chief executive Erik Venter says when asked about his next move. He believes that state support enables SAA to under-cut fair market ticket prices, driving private carriers out of business...

Interview: Basma Majali, Royal Jordanian Airlines Acting VP Commercial

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

Few companies were worse affected by the Arab Spring that those in the region's tourism and travel sector. Although protests on the streets of Amman reached neither the scale nor the ferocity seen in neighbouring countries, Royal Jordanian Airlines plunged to a record annual loss of 57.9 million dinar ($82 million) in 2011. The alarming result prompted former chief executive Hussein Dabbas to call for downsizing and even a strategic merger.

The airline's subsequent move into the black in 2012 – albeit on a razor-thin margin of 0.14 per cent – raised expectations that it was emerging from the difficulties. But with civil war across the border in Syria now in its third year, the flag carrier is coming to terms with the uncomfortable reality that tourists could stay away for many years to come...