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...