Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Interview: Suleiman Obeidat, Royal Jordanian Airlines CEO

Full article on alarabiya.net

European airlines are bracing themselves for a disappointing summer as the threat of terrorism looms large across the continent.

The industry’s jitters are well-founded. Even if airlines manage to keep their planes safe from bombs – something that cannot be taken for granted following recent attacks on Metrojet, Daallo Airlines and perhaps EgyptAir – Europe’s safe-haven status has been dented by a string of atrocities in France and Belgium.

Tourists and business travellers are responding by deferring or cancelling trips to the continent.

With British Airways, Air France, Ryanair and EasyJet all warning of a terror-related downturn, lessons can be learned from one of the Middle East’s most resilient carriers, Royal Jordanian Airlines, which returned to profit last year despite being on the doorstep of several geopolitical crises...

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Guesswork masquerading as analysis blights EgyptAir crash coverage

Full article on alarabiya.net

Media organizations and aviation analysts have been quick to point the finger of blame at terrorists for the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804, which disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday with 66 souls aboard.

Egypt’s transport minister, Russia’s spy chief and both presumptive candidates for this year’s US presidential election have also concluded that an act of terror is the most likely explanation for the disaster.

The rush to judgment by so many prominent voices – though uncharacteristic in the aftermath of a plane crash – is perhaps understandable in the prevailing security climate. It may also be that Egyptian, Russian and American officials have access to classified intelligence that bolsters the otherwise circumstantial evidence.

Nonetheless, to the extent that media outlets are regurgitating and developing the terrorism narrative, it is clear that conjecture now dominates the global coverage...

Monday, 16 May 2016

Not-so-open skies for Norwegian

Full article on economist.com

America's House of Representatives is considering a bill, HR5090, that aims to block further expansion by Norwegian Air Shuttle, the only low-cost carrier flying direct between Europe and America. Four lawmakers introduced the bill last month after the Department of Transportation (DoT) tentatively agreed to let Norwegian scale up its transatlantic operation. They accuse it of unfair commercial advantages, echoing concerns voiced by several airlines and trade unions.

Low-cost carriers like Norwegian place operational efficiency and cost-competitiveness at the heart of their business models...

Friday, 13 May 2016

Friend or foe? American Airlines partner British Airways deepens ties with Qatar

Full article on forbes.com

British Airways (BA) has announced plans to serve Qatar’s capital Doha with a nonstop daily service from October, removing its existing stopover in Bahrain.

The move comes less than a month after Qatar Airways disclosed that it has increased its stake in International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of BA, from 9.99% to 12%. Both airlines are members of the Oneworld alliance and have reciprocal codeshare agreements at their hubs.

By itself, the steady expansion of ties between the flag-carriers of Britain and Qatar is not remarkable. For fellow Oneworld member American Airlines, however, it may have uncomfortable ramifications...

Friday, 6 May 2016

Low cost, high stakes Eurowings

Full article on economist.com

Lufthansa is already Europe's largest group of airlines, counting the flag-carriers of Germany, Switzerland and Austria among its portfolio of subsidiaries. It may be about to get even bigger. Impressed with the results of consolidation in North America—now the world’s most profitable aviation market—Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, is shopping for more airlines. Efforts to lift the group’s shareholding in Brussels Airlines to 100% were disrupted by terrorist attacks in its home city in March, but remain on-track. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the shared flag-carrier of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and Condor, the German leisure carrier, are also now rumoured to be in its sights...

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Flyadeal marks one step forward, two steps back for Saudi aviation

Full article on alarabiya.net

Saudia made good on plans to establish a low-cost carrier last month when it unveiled the branding and tentative launch date for new subsidiary Flyadeal.

The flag-carrier believes that entering the low-cost market will help it pare back losses on its all-important domestic network. Low-cost carriers put cost-discipline at the heart of their business models, removing complimentary perks from ticket prices and maximizing operational efficiency.

That contrasts with the business model of traditional full-service carriers like Saudia, which focus on high-yielding customers by offering premium products and building slack into their schedules.

But while a dual-brand strategy could lift the state-owned carrier’s fortunes, some analysts are beginning to doubt the kingdom’s longstanding commitment to private-sector reforms...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Somalia's home-grown success story

Full article in JPG format: page 14/15, page 16/17 & cover

In terms of overall scale, Somalia is undeniably a minnow in the global aviation market. About 420 scheduled flights take off from the country each month, compared with more than 8,900 in neighbouring Kenya – East Africa's most developed aviation market.

Somalia also has unique challenges on the security front. Though no longer considered "the most dangerous city in the world" by the United Nations, its capital city Mogadishu remains a battlefield for the ongoing struggle between African Union forces and Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organisation. Shootings, kidnappings and bombings are a daily occurrence.

Yet it is precisely because of these difficulties that civil aviation in Somalia – though modest in size – has become a lifeline for the country...

Qatar's American dream

Full article in PDF format

In June, Qatar Airways will begin operating nonstop daily flights from its mega-hub in Doha to Atlanta, the capital of the US state of Georgia. The wide-body Boeing 777s that have been earmarked for the route will touch down in the home base of Delta Air Lines – an acrimonious rival that has spent the past year intensely lobbying Washington to block further expansion by Gulf carriers on its home turf.

Atlanta is the third US route launch for Qatar Airways in 2016, following the commencement of flights to Los Angeles and Boston. Frequencies on its New York service also rose to twice-daily in April. With the latest addition, Qatar Airways will fly 3,400 seats to ten cities in America each and every day...

Interview: Mohamad El-Hout, Middle East Airlines Chairman

Full article in PDF format

In the decade following Lebanon's civil war, flag-carrier Middle East Airlines (MEA) failed to post one single annual profit.

When net losses peaked at $87 million in 1997, the country's exasperated Central Bank gave Mohamad El-Hout, its chief of financial asset development, the unenviable task of finding a manager to rehabilitate the airline.

Apparently unimpressed with the candidates he proposed, it then handed El-Hout the still-less enviable task of fixing MEA himself.

By anyone's standards, the unwitting chairman has performed phenomenally well. MEA has been profitable in each of the 13 years following his 2001 restructuring programme – a slash-and-burn overhaul that grounded lossmaking routes and shrunk the workforce by about 40% despite strong union opposition...

Iran Aseman follows the straight and narrow

Full article in PDF format

Though hardly known outside of the Islamic Republic, Iran Aseman Airlines is the largest domestic operator in Iran and potentially one of the prime beneficiaries of the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions.

The airline was established in 1980 and is headed by Hossein Alaei, the former navy chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Despite this apparent military link Aseman has escaped terrorism-related sanctions imposed by the US, which leaves it free to engage with western suppliers now that the broader nuclear embargo is over.

"Aseman has never been on any [terrorism] blacklist since the [Iranian] Revolution of 1979," stressed Mohammad Gorji, the airline's vice-president of executive affairs and fleet development. "We have always been following the rules and regulations...

Iran comes in from the cold

Full article in PDF format

One of the world's biggest pariah states came in from the cold on 16 January 2016, when the lifting of nuclear sanctions against Iran ushered in a new era of cooperation with the international community.

For the Islamic Republic's long-suffering civil aviation sector, reintegration will be nothing short of transformative.

More than three decades of sanctions have left Iran's airlines in a sorry state. Rigid enforcement action by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a wing of the US Treasury, pushed flag-carrier Iran Air and its 15 domestic rivals into the black market when buying and repairing aircraft.

The sector's ingenuity and perseverance outwitted the best efforts of a US Government that viewed every Iranian plane as a military threat, but success came at a price...