Friday, 29 September 2017

Ukraine’s aviation sector is holding the country back


Full article on economist.com

Look at a map of domestic air traffic in any rich country and the relationship between flying and economic prosperity becomes obvious. In America, 614 towns and cities have regular flights to other domestic airports. Australia has 144 such places. Even in modestly sized Britain that number is 49. The more complex and headache-inducing a domestic route map becomes, the more a country fosters connectivity between its regions. Development naturally flows. It is a symbiosis that helps to fuel growth in rising economies like India and China. Yet not all emerging markets foster the link between travel and wealth...

Interview: Yaroslav Agafonov, Yanair CEO


Full article on forbes.com

Ukrainian airline Yanair has secured traffic rights for several European countries and expects to launch new scheduled services in the summer 2018 season.

“We are intending to enlarge the geography of our network from Kiev and Odessa,” chief executive Yaroslav Agafonov tells me, referring to the airline’s flights to Tbilisi and Batumi in Georgia, plus Tel Aviv in Israel. “It may be secondary airports, not huge airports, for example Krakow in Poland, Paderborn in Germany, or Frankfurt Hahn.”

Agafonov also identifies Cyprus, Italy and Romania as potential targets for expansion, without specifying which cities will be considered in those markets...

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Interview: Volodymyr Omelyan, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister


Full article on forbes.com

With a score of 29 out of 100 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index – placing it 131st out of 176 counties – Ukraine was guaranteed a turbulent ride in March when its pro-Western government moved to liberalize the closely guarded civil aviation market. It ultimately took just four months for Ryanair to cancel its planned launch in the country, retreating from what Volodymyr Omelyan, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister, describes as “sabotage” by a network of post-Soviet oligarchs and vested interests...

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Chucking Kiev


Full article on economist.com

Such has been the success of Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, that the continent is now awash with towns and villages whose economies depend in no small part on access to its route network. This encroachment into small regional airports evolved from an early focus on large European cities, whose gateways swelled with traffic following deregulation in the 1990s. Yet today, there are still European countries not served by the airline. Ukraine, the last big jewel for low-cost carriers in Europe, is an obvious white spot. It may be for some time to come. Despite promising to add four routes to Kiev and seven to Lviv this year, Ryanair has been pushed out by a coalition of local interests who have little appetite for competition. Ukrainians will foot the bill for their protection...

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Ban on the run


Full article in PDF format

After months of threatening to roll out its laptop ban globally, the US Department of Homeland Security in June unveiled a raft of new security measures aimed at fighting terrorism without further inconveniencing passengers.

America’s new approach obliges foreign airports to adopt more stringent measures in relation to explosive-trace detection, canine security and vetting of airport personnel. Any gateways that fail to comply will be prohibited from allowing large electronic devices in the passenger cabins of flights to the US – echoing the measures placed on seven Arab countries plus Turkey in March.

At the time of writing, six of those affected countries – the UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan – have been lifted from the ban, which was hastily rolled out after intelligence agencies uncovered a possible Daesh plot to smuggle bombs in the battery compartments of laptops...

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Interview: Blair Pollock, Qazaq Air CEO


Full article in PDF format

Looking back, 2015 seems like an unfortunate time to have launched an airline in Kazakhstan, the central Asian nation whose economy relies heavily on commodity earnings.

The collapse in oil prices from $115 per barrel in mid-2014 to $30 in early 2016 had a crippling effect on the former Soviet republic, choking off both domestic spending and foreign investment. While the government responded prudently by floating its currency, a subsequent halving of the Tenge’s value only heaped more pressure on Kazakh workers and businesses.

Having launched operations at the height of the crisis, there was little chance that Qazaq Air would enjoy the smooth entry into service its management originally hoped for.

But chief executive Blair Pollock is quick to find a silver lining, arguing that headwinds create opportunities for ambitious start-ups – particularly state-owned ones that have a political mandate to drive long-term development...

Low-cost long-haul coming of age?


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In March 2015, after years of teasing passengers with the promise of £10 transatlantic fares, Ryanair formally ruled out moving into the low-cost long-haul (LCLH) marketplace.

“The Board … has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so,” it said in a terse statement, backtracking on plans announced just days earlier to connect Europe with a dozen cities in America. Chief executive Michael O’Leary insisted that the industry needs to enter a cyclical downturn before widebody aircraft become available at suitably discounted prices.

Ryanair’s scepticism of LCLH models has not changed over the past two years, but the once-vacant sector is now advancing leaps and bounds without it. Two rivals – Norwegian Air Shuttle and Iceland’s WOW Air – have grabbed sizable chunks of the transatlantic market with their no-frills offerings. Responding to the new competition, three of Europe’s legacy carriers have launched or promised to launch their own LCLH subsidiaries...

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Biofuels: The cost of going green


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Having pledged to pursue carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards at last year’s ICAO Assembly, airlines are committed to reducing the environmental cost of flying even as they gear up for decades of continued growth in air transport.

Initially, this will be achieved through the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) – a market-based mechanism that plugs the gap between the industry’s targeted emissions and its actual output. For every year that airlines exceed their emissions quotas, they have agreed to invest in UN-approved carbon-reduction schemes that mitigate the resultant environmental damage.

However, CORSIA is just one component in a basket of long-term measures aimed at achieving carbon neutrality. The other three are technological improvements, such as more fuel-efficient engines; operational advancements, such as better air-traffic management; and sustainable fuels, which are more commonly referred to as biofuels...

Interview: Piya Yodmani, NokScoot CEO


Full article in JPG format:
page 38/39 & page 40

When the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) red flagged Thailand for “significant safety concerns” in 2015, no airline suffered more than NokScoot, the low-cost long-haul carrier jointly owned by Thailand’s Nok Air and Singapore’s Scoot.

The start-up had just initiated charter flights to Japan and South Korea – its two main target markets – and was weeks away from maturing the links into regular scheduled services. Before it could do so, however, ICAO issued the red-flag warning and both countries stopped granting new route approvals for Thai operators.

Chief executive Piya Yodmani admits that the disruption was a “big headache” for the airline, allowing rival Thai AirAsia X to cement its one-year head-start in the all-important Northeast Asian market. But he says the company is now back on track, reporting its first ever quarterly profit in May and rekindling plans for Japanese and South Korean flights as soon as ICAO gives the green light to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT)...

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Two flights are better than one


Full article on economist.com

It is a peculiarity of the airline business that a connecting flight is often cheaper than a shorter nonstop route to the same destination. Normally, paying less to receive more is economically preposterous. But in transportation, where the fastest conveyance from A to B is the main utility, it makes perfect sense. For passengers, sitting on a plane any longer than necessary can be an exasperating, even painful experience. For airlines, flying empty seats is no less harmful. This inverse relationship between a journey’s value and its cost is something that Europe’s new breed of long-haul budget carriers may be overlooking...

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Interview: Mohamed Radhy Ould Bennahi, Mauritania Airlines International CEO


Full article in PDF format

When Mauritania Airlines International was established in December 2010, it marked the third attempt at a flag-carrier in a decade by the Islamic Republic.

Just three years previously, Mauritania Airways, a joint venture with Tunisair, had been set up with the same aim of providing connectivity for the little-known West African nation. Its rapid fall from grace followed the slow demise of Air Mauritanie, the country’s historic flag-carrier, which cooperated with pan-regional carrier Air Afrique for most of its four decades in the skies.

That financial headwinds grounded both predecessors is hardly surprising when one considers Mauritania’s vital statistics. With an agriculture-focused economy and a small, conservative population that typically eschews overseas travel, the country suffers from weak demand on both the inbound and outbound sectors...

Interview: Abubaker Elfortia, Afriqiyah Airways Chairman


Full article in PDF format

When Libya’s globally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) was signed into existence in December 2015, the United Nations hailed its “clear plan for rebuilding a strong, united and peaceful Libya” after five years of unrest split the country down the middle with two competing governments.

The 12 months that followed saw the Misrata brigades, a band of militias loyal to the GNA, drive Daesh from its strongholds in Libya – liberating thousands from the ultra-hardline terrorists and securing a key victory for the fledgling government.

But, beyond that all-important military success, there are few reasons to look back on 2016 as an encouraging year for Libya. Hopes for unity have unravelled in the face of continued opposition from power-brokers in the east of the country, who flexed their muscles last summer by voting against the GNA’s mandate and seizing oil terminals. One western group responded by seizing premises in Tripoli and trying to restore executive powers to Khalifa Al-Ghwell, the former prime minister...

Interview: Benyamin Ismail, AirAsia X CEO


Full article in JPG format:
page 29 & page 30/31

Malaysia’s AirAsia X is rightly considered a trailblazer in the low-cost long-haul market, having pioneered no-frills wide-body operations at a time when few in the industry thought the model viable.

Its launch a decade ago precipitated a flurry of activity across the Asia Pacific region, with rivals in Australia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand rapidly developing their own low-cost long-haul products. Even in Europe, where the concept had failed to gain traction for decades, it was not long before Norwegian Air Shuttle began flying eastward to Asia and westward to the Americas – pushing down average fares in both corridors.

This encroachment by low-cost carriers into markets formerly dominated by full-service airlines is described by Sir Tim Clark, president of Dubai’s Emirates Airline, as a “gathering storm” for the industry...

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

America restricts large electronic devices on all flights from the Arab world


Full article on economist.com

Passengers flying nonstop to America from anywhere in the Arab world are now banned from bringing large electronic devices in their carry-on luggage. The Associated Press, citing American government officials, says the restriction applies to eight countries: Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But the only other Middle Eastern or North African country with passenger flights to America is Israel (which is also the country in the region that American carriers fly to). That makes the measure, in effect, a pan-Arab ban. All devices larger than a mobile phone must be checked in under the new rules, including laptops, Kindles, cameras and portable DVD players...

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Air Baltic gaining altitude


Full article in PDF format

Martin Gauss is a man who understands only too well the perils of running a state-owned airline. In 2012, shortly after he stepped down as chief executive of Malév Hungarian Airlines, the European Union ordered his former employer to repay €130 million of illegal state aid. Unable to do so, Malév, one of Europe’s oldest flag-carriers, ceased operations.

Its demise came just three months after Gauss had agreed to steer another troubled eastern European flag-carrier: Air Baltic. Within one year, history was repeating itself and Brussels was launching a new investigation into the Latvian airline.

The similarities, however, end there.

Whereas Malév relied on subsidies from its government owner to stay afloat – violating competition laws in the process – Air Baltic deployed private-sector efficiency and commercial sustainability to get its house in order. The EU’s two-year investigation failed to unearth any wrongdoing by the state-owned carrier, clearing the way for a bold new future in Latvia’s picturesque capital Riga...

Loganair's independence vote


Full article in PDF format

Loganair’s decision to end its franchise agreement with Flybe amounts to a dramatic vote for independence by the Scottish carrier, returning commercial decision-making to Glasgow after 24 years as a white-label operator.

The airline has promised to create a “bold new corporate identity” when it parts ways with Flybe in September, most noticeably by phasing in a Scottish livery with an eye-catching red and black tartan design. An in-house reservations system should also go live by March, enabling the company to take direct bookings through its website.

Independence will further allow Loganair to take back control of its product and pricing strategy, amid accusations of poor service standards and exorbitant inter-island fares under Flybe’s watch...

NG conversions struggle to take off


Full article in PDF format

Aviation consultancy Flight Ascend predicts global demand for 1,530 jet conversions over the next two decades – more than 70% of them narrowbodies – as passenger airlines switch to the latest generation of fuel-efficient planes, and older models are re-purposed for a new life flying cargo. The work is conducted by a handful of highly specialised companies that obtain Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) for their designs from national regulators.

Aircraft valuations are the main factor in determining the viability of such projects, with cargo customers routinely shelling out $3.5 million for conversions and $1.5 million for maintenance on top of base prices for narrowbodies. Older, more affordable models like the Boeing 737 Classics (-400s and -300s) therefore dominate the conversion market. But as the availability of Classics dwindles, the industry is turning its attention to younger – and much pricier – 737NGs (-800s and -700s), the current generation of narrowbody passenger jets...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Middle East slowdown: Narrowing the gulf


Full article on economist.com

Last April, Etihad Airways, the flag-carrier of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, claimed that 2015 had been its fifth consecutive year in the black, with net profits of $103m. James Hogan, the firm’s chief executive, hailed the result as proof that Etihad is a “sustainably profitable airline”. Yet less than one year on, both Mr Hogan and his chief financial officer, James Rigney, have been eased out amid a “company-wide strategic review” to “improve cost efficiency, productivity and revenue”; reforms ill-befitting a healthy business. Just across the sand, Emirates, the flag-carrier of Dubai, has deferred orders for 12 double-decker Airbus A380s in response to a 75% drop in profits. Qatar Airways, the region’s other super-connector airline, has abandoned plans for a subsidiary in Saudi Arabia. After years of uninterrupted and speedy growth, the Gulf carriers are hitting turbulence...

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Air Astana turns to transfer traffic


Full article in JPG format:
page 38/39 & page 40

The decision by Kazakhstan’s government to free float its currency in August 2015 had an immediate impact on Air Astana, driving up costs and dampening demand as the oil-producing nation adjusted to a new era of low commodity prices and high inflation.

Peter Foster, the flag-carrier’s president and chief executive, admits that the rapid devaluation of the Tenge was a “massive negative” for the 15-year-old company, which is jointly owned by sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna and BAE Systems. The airline’s revenues fell 20% over the course of 2016, with foreign investors thinking twice about the country and Kazakhs tightening their belts in response.

“Free float ought to have been called freefall, because the currency really went into meltdown this time last year,” he tells Asian Aviation.

“But thank goodness it did happen, because it would have been completely impossible to sustain the Tenge at the level that it was. And at least in terms of local salaries and local expenditure, that now is reflective of genuine economic conditions...

Friday, 10 February 2017

Bombardier CSeries: The comfort of strangers


Full article on economist.com

One statistic that never fails to amaze Gulliver is the oft-cited claim by Boeing that one of its 737s lands or takes off somewhere in the world every two seconds. Airbus, the American planemaker’s bitter European rival, makes the same claim for its A320-family model (perhaps surprisingly, given that fewer have been built). So ubiquitous are these mid-sized, short-haul aircraft that you are all but guaranteed to be on one of them when boarding a modern plane with 120-200 seats. That duopoly is nice for Boeing and Airbus, which have collectively delivered 16,800 of the two models. But, in Europe at least, passengers are getting a taste of what else might be...

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Afriqiyah's flight to safety


Full article in PDF format

When Afriqiyah Airways Flight 209 touched down at Malta International Airport on 23 December 2016, its arrival was anything but the illustrious new beginning management had envisioned at the gateway. For more than a year, the state-owned Libyan airline has been laying the foundations for a new subsidiary, PanAfriqiyah, on the Mediterranean island – one that can bypass the lawlessness of its home nation and restore the company’s battered fortunes. Instead, Flight 209 was a product of that very lawlessness, targeted by hijackers with fake weapons and a promise to kill all aboard if the domestic Libyan flight was not diverted to Malta...

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Interview: Yasser El Ramly, Air Cairo CEO


Full article in PDF format

Despite crisis after crisis paralysing the Egyptian market in recent years, Air Cairo is sticking by its growth plans and even stepping up activity in Europe as it evolves from a mixed charter/low-cost carrier into a hybrid scheduled operator.

The airline was launched in 1997 as a charter specialist, but gradually diversified with low-cost flying after EgyptAir, the state-owned flag-carrier, became a shareholder in 2003. Its brand name is somewhat misleading, with the majority of flights departing from secondary cities like Sohag and Asyut on the Nile River; Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada on the Red Sea; and Alexandria on the northern coast.

Although a good portion of the network caters for regional flows between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Air Cairo’s leisure bases have inevitably felt the impact of repeated aviation disasters and scares in the country...

Interview: Justin Kalumba Mwana Ngongo, Congolese Transport Minister


Full article in PDF format

By the time African Aerospace goes to press, it should be clear whether Joseph Kabila, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is clinging onto power beyond the expiration of his mandate on 19 December 2016.

The postponement of elections until April 2018 has created a political crisis in the country, with Kabila insisting – to the dismay of his opponents – that he should stay in charge until polling day. Repeated hints that DRC’s constitution may be rewritten to permit a third term in office are further inflaming the situation.

What all this means for Congo Airways, the country’s resurrected flag-carrier, is impossible to know. The airline has made impressive strides since its October 2015 launch, tackling DRC’s poor air-safety record with $100 million start-up capital from the government and support from Air France Consulting...

Interview: Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, ICAO President


Full article in PDF format

Four years after the European Union tried and failed to impose its Emissions Trading System (ETS) on the rest of the world, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has made good on its promise to deliver an alternative scheme for tackling cross-border pollution.

The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), finalised at ICAO’s 39th Assembly in Montreal in October, commits the industry to an “aspirational goal” of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards. Unlike the ETS, which would have capped carbon emissions in real terms, CORSIA adopts a carbon offsetting approach that mitigates higher emissions through investment in environmental projects approved by the United Nations (UN)...

Interview: Ian Patrick, Air Djibouti CCO


Full article in PDF format

More than a decade after its previous incarnation was liquidated, Air Djibouti is back in the skies with one Boeing 737-400 and one BAe 146 wet-leased from VVB Aviation Malta and South Africa’s Fair Aviation respectively. Another BAe 146 is due to arrive in February, while a 767-200ER owned by Djibouti’s government has been lined up for long-haul flights.

The flag-carrier was resurrected in August 2015 with a Fokker 27 freighter wet-leased from Kenya’s Astral Aviation, but promptly returned the turboprop after a series of maintenance issues.

Air Djibouti relies wholly on wet leasing due to restrictions placed on the Horn of Africa nation by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which deems the Djiboutian Civil Aviation Authority unfit to oversee operations. The full spectrum of its managerial, operational and technical activities has been contracted out to Cardiff Aviation, the support specialist founded by Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson...

Monday, 9 January 2017

'Poverty pay' for BA's high flyers


Full article on economist.com

Barring a last-minute breakthrough, about 2,500 cabin crew members employed by British Airways (BA) will strike this week over alleged “poverty pay” at the airline. Workers originally planned walkouts for the Christmas period, but suspended the action to consider a revised pay offer. Having rejected that offer by a 7-1 margin, the strikes will now occur on 10th and 11th January. BA says the impact will be minimal, with 85% of cabin crew reporting for duty and just 12 return flights being cancelled each day. Passengers due to travel on those affected flights, which all leave from London Heathrow Airport, will be rebooked onto alternative services. Still, the slightest whiff of disruption will prompt howls of discontent in the capital, which is already reeling from strikes on the London Underground network and some national rail services...

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Interview: Ashraf Lamloum, Nesma Airlines Managing Director


Full article in PDF format

At the time of writing, Egypt’s Nesma Airlines had just launched domestic flights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) with a pair of ATR 72-600s. The Saudi unit will initially operate from the northern city of Ha’il, before basing aircraft elsewhere in the country and eventually adding international flights.

The launch of a new airline in Saudi Arabia is a landmark event for a sector that has long shied away from competition. Until late last year, state-owned flag-carrier Saudia provided 77% of capacity in the domestic market, with privately-owned Flynas offering the only alternative for travellers. Efforts to launch two other carriers – SaudiGulf Airlines and Al Maha Airways – moved at a glacial pace since 2012, although the former announced progress just as this article went to press.

The establishment of Nesma KSA is also the latest in a series of strategic rebirths by Nesma Egypt, which began life as a charter operator connecting Red Sea and Nile River resorts with Europe in July 2010 – just before President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown and Egypt’s once-flourishing tourism sector nosedived...