Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Baghdad International Airport: After the war

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Security at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) has come a long way since November 2003, when a cargo plane operated by DHL, a courier company, was struck by a surface-to-air missile shortly after take-off. No one was injured, despite the plane being forced into an emergency landing without hydraulic control and with its left wing on fire. In the following two months a couple of aircraft—this time military jets—were struck by missiles during take-off. Mercifully, both landed safely.

Nerve-jangling corkscrew manoeuvres which were once necessary to avert such incidents at BIAP are now a distant memory. Judging by the number of scheduled carriers that operate from the airport, confidence (and presumably passenger demand) is coming back...

Friday, 22 March 2013

On-board deliveries

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As anyone who has been stuck on airport Tarmac for any length of time will attest, runway delays are not fun. “South Park”, a satirical television show, hit the nail on the head when it likened the whole process to purgatory—"like a terrifying limbo"—because it is just that. You can't get off the plane, you can't even use the loos, and in many cases the pilot can't give any information about the expected length of the delay. What he can supply, however, as passengers aboard a Delta Air Lines flight on March 18th discovered, is pizza...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Gulf Air restructuring strong on rhetoric, weak on detail

Gulf Air's decision to withdraw another six aircraft from service - four Airbus A330s and two A319s - has brought the Bahraini flag carrier to its targeted fleet size of 26 aircraft. Further changes are assured, with management setting out a requirement for up to 16 Boeing 787s and 24 A320s. But continuous board changes and lukewarm political support mean that few concrete details have emerged about the airline's restructuring plan.

One certainty is that both the fleet and the route network will continue to shrink, as Gulf Air cedes market share to its dominant neighbours in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The airline completed its retirement of two Embraer 190s in January, having previously placed four A340s and two A321s in storage. The fleet now comprises 16 A320s, six A330s and four A321s.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Interview: Saad Al-Khafaji, Iraqi Airways DG

Iraqi Airways route expansion to focus on Europe, China

Iraqi Airways director general Saad Al-Khafaji has outlined details of the flag carrier's upcoming network expansion, which has been made possible by its reconciliation with Kuwait Airways.

Flights to Frankfurt will get underway in about a fortnight, he says, while Copenhagen and Amsterdam are being targeted shortly after. In Asia, the airline has its sights set on Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Bangkok.

Washington and New York could also be added soon, says Al-Khafaji. He credits the US embassy in Baghdad with "helping to speed up the process" of launching flights to America.

Friday, 1 March 2013

West Africa via Banjul

Full article in JPG format: page 41 & page 42

Air connectivity in West Africa has been in dire straits ever since Air Afrique, the transnational carrier part-owned by Air France, filed for bankruptcy in 2002. While numerous small airlines have sprung up across the sub-region, their modest fleets have only succeeded in creating a patchwork of overlapping services – lacking the scale and cohesiveness needed to bind together West Africa's economic hubs. On routes such as Conakry, Guinea to Accra, Ghana (1,000 miles), detours of 6,000 miles via Paris are commonplace.

For travellers in the sub-region, the root causes are depressingly familiar. Weak infrastructure, high airport taxes and dubious management strategies have all played a part in slowing progress in the aviation sector. Nor are foreign airlines in any rush to change the status quo. The four main European carriers serving Africa – Brussels Airlines, British Airways, Air France and KLM – all enjoy high demand among West Africans due to limited competition from regional players...

Interview: Richard Nuttall, Bahrain Air CEO

Full article in JPG format:
page 49 & page 50/51

The collapse of Bahrain Air in February was yet another grim milestone in the kingdom’s faltering efforts to reform its civil aviation sector. With flag carrier Gulf Air having narrowly averted its own closure last autumn, doubts are growing about the long-term contribution that Bahrain can make to a regional sector now dominated by mega-hubs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.

Bahrain Air, a low-cost carrier servicing routes across the Middle East and South Asia, filed for voluntary liquidation on 12 February. Announcing its closure after just five years in business, the airline heaped criticism on Bahraini transport minister Kamal Ahmed, whom it accused of having a conflict of interest due to his parallel role on the board of Gulf Air. It also reiterated criticism of the government’s alleged failure to provide compensation for difficulties encountered during the Arab Spring...