Wednesday, 10 December 2014

APD: It’s a London thing

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The decision by George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, to scrap air passenger duty (APD) on children is unlikely to appease many of his pro-aviation critics. Penalising families had been one of the main complaints levied against the tax, which on some routes has increased nearly tenfold since its introduction 20 years ago. Another common criticism was that APD unfairly punishes Caribbean travellers because of the rudimentary way it is calculated. (Distances are measured to a country’s capital city, making the tax on a 4,400-mile flight to Trinidad higher than on a 7,200-mile flight to Hawaii.) This irregularity, too, was rectified in Mr Osborne’s autumn statement, Britain's mini budget...

Monday, 1 December 2014

Interview: Giorgio Callegari, Aeroflot Deputy General Director for Strategy

Full article in JPG format: page 12 & page 14

If there was any doubt that Russia remains defiant in its ongoing sanctions battle with the West, state-owned flag-carrier Aeroflot drove home the message in October by branding its new low-cost subsidiary ‘Pobeda’, or ‘Victory’.

To a domestic audience, the word is most commonly associated with 9 May: the national holiday that marks the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. It is a term steeped in patriotic fervour, evoking all the sentiments that Moscow wants to stir up at home during the current geopolitical crisis.

To Russia’s Western neighbours, meanwhile, the brand will be interpreted as a cheeky reference to Pobeda’s defunct predecessor, Dobrolet, which succumbed to EU sanctions in August after just two months of operations...

Interview: Guliz Ozturk, Pegasus CCO

Full article in JPG format: page 36/37 & page 38/39

For several years Europe’s network carriers have been fighting a losing battle on two competitive fronts, pinned down by both the lower costs of no-frills rivals at home and the superior products of full-service rivals in the Middle East.

Though the continent’s flag-carriers are beginning to adapt, they have already relinquished huge traffic volumes to the market leaders of both new airline breeds: Ryanair and easyJet in the low-cost camp; and Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways in the Gulf. The unwillingness of European governments to foster healthy competition in their capital-city hubs has only accelerated this transfer of power.

And now, in a further blow to their fortunes, yet another competitive dynamic is emerging on the fringes of the continent...

Interview: Habiba Laklalech, Royal Air Maroc Deputy CEO

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Though global airlines are enjoying benign market conditions at present, the industry has a habit of swinging from crisis to crisis over the long-term. Carriers based in the Middle East and North Africa have experienced this more than most, suffering not only from the 2001 terror attacks on America and the 2008 global financial crisis, but also the 2011 Arab Spring and its ongoing legacy of regional instability.

In the North African state of Morocco, flag-carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) can add one more crisis to that already ample list of headaches. In 2006, the Moroccan government initiated an open skies agreement with the European Union, swinging open the doors of competition and granting foreign airlines unbridled access to the country in a bid to expand its tourism sector...

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Meetings in Mogadishu

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Around the world certain cities have sadly become synonymous with war, brutality and lawlessness. For the business traveller, particularly the Western business traveller, Baghdad surely ranks among the most feared of assignments. Tripoli looks to be going that way soon. Beirut, long considered a byword for chaos, has in recent times rehabilitated its image. But of all the godforsaken places on the planet, Mogadishu, the damned capital of Somalia, evokes uniquely and impenetrably negative connotations. So it was with some trepidation that Gulliver set foot on the tarmac of Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

WOW Air throws a curve-ball

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In an attempt to live up to its name, WOW Air, an Icelandic low cost carrier, caused some excitement last month by unveiling promotional fares of $99 one-way for its upcoming transatlantic routes. Prices have since nearly doubled, but even so they remain competitive with Norwegian Air Shuttle, currently the only other true budget carrier offering flights from Europe to North America. Norwegian keeps its prices in check, in part, by flying the most up-to-date, fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners. So how does WOW compete? The answer, quite simply, is geography...

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Interview: Abdul Wahab Teffaha, AACO Secretary General

Full article in PDF format: page 21-25 & cover

Whatever AACO's executive committee was planning for this year's annual general meeting (AGM), their agenda has been torn asunder by two catastrophic events still gripping the airline industry.

Malaysia Airlines cruelly bore the brunt of both disasters – the loss, literally, of MH370 in March, and the shooting down of MH17 in July – but all aviation stakeholders now face the grave responsibility of plugging safety gaps and improving regulatory protocols. No region is more burdened with this collective duty than the Middle East, whose fast-expanding airlines operate in the most volatile of neighbourhoods.

At the same time, though, more familiar concerns still weigh heavily on the region's airlines. In European capitals, increasingly protectionist measures are being called on to fight Gulf competition; in Arab capitals, the 2004 Damascus Convention is falling well short of its promise to liberalise Middle Eastern skies...

Libya starts again

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In early 2012, shortly after Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by an alliance of tribal militias, Libyan Airlines chief executive Khaled Taynaz spoke to Arabian Aerospace about the prospects for the war-weary country and its well-developed civil aviation sector.

Though careful not to downplay the challenges ahead, Taynaz painted an overwhelmingly positive picture for the future. His mood matched the broader sentiment sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring.

Just two years on, however, events on the ground seem anything but upbeat. The revolutions that engulfed the region have largely evolved into new dictatorships or entrenched civil warfare; many of the militias that united against despots are now turning their guns on each other; and the worrisome security climate has struck fear in the hearts of western governments, which are now mobilising their own forces for potential conflict...

Iran Air's open door

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On November 24 2014, exactly one year after the signing of the historic Geneva Interim Agreement on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, talks between Tehran and the P5+1 countries (America, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) will formally come to a close.

The dream of a comprehensive deal that normalises relations between Iran and the West still faces immense challenges, weighed down as it is by three decades of open hostilities. Public opinion on both sides remains divided, and the backdrop of a deepening security crisis in the Middle East has injected new complexities. The original, mutually-postponed deadline of 20 July passed without apparent progress.

But, if rapprochement prevails, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Barack Obama will leave a legacy of renewed economic cooperation between the two countries. Iran’s civil aviation sector and America’s aerospace manufacturing industries stand to be among the main beneficiaries...

Interview: Mohamed Frikha, Syphax Airlines Chairman

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In an aviation market as heavily regulated as Tunisia, Mohamed Frikha, the founder and chairman of Syphax Airlines, fully anticipated that his start-up would encounter push-back from existing players when it launched in April 2012.

Sure enough, on the very first day of operations at Tunis Carthage International Airport, Syphax’s passengers were turned away by staff from the ground-handling division of flag-carrier Tunisair.

The debacle marked a rocky start for the fledgling privately-owned airline, and it was not to be an isolated occurrence. Over the months that followed Tunisair’s former chief executive, Rabah Jrad, repeatedly accused his competitor of “illegal and unfair” business practices. Though undoubtedly a headache, this opposition ultimately failed to deter Frikha from injecting competition into the sector...

Pegasus harnesses the best of both worlds

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When Pegasus Airlines was acquired by ESAS Holdings and re-branded as a low-cost carrier (LCC) in 2005, the airline’s incoming management team were faced with an immediate strategic dilemma.

On the one hand, their home nation of Turkey was poised to embark on a decade of break-neck civil aviation growth matched in scale and ambition only by the Gulf mega-hubs. Istanbul’s geographical location at the crossroads of three continents was enabling Turkish Airlines (THY), the country’s flag-carrier, to transform Istanbul Atatürk Airport into one of the world’s pre-eminent intercontinental hub-and-spoke networks.

On the other hand, across Turkey's western border with Europe, LCC giants Ryanair and EasyJet were perfecting the art of ultra-low-cost travel, tearing up the rulebook for hub economics and unlocking the full potential of the point-to-point business model...

TAAG angling for investment

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Sir Tim Clark, the president of Emirates Airline, Dubai's flag-carrier, has often spoken critically about the kind of equity investments and deep-rooted partnerships that Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways favours. Whereas Etihad holds stakes in eight overseas airlines, Emirates largely stands alone in the global marketplace. It can afford to do so: in just three decades, Emirates has become the largest carrier in the world by passenger capacity. Alliance membership, codeshare agreements and equity deals simply don't have the same charm for Sir Tim as for other, less exalted airline bosses.

His scepticism has also been shaped by personal experience. In 1998, Emirates acquired 43.6% of SriLankan Airlines under a ten-year management contract. The partnership delivered few strategic benefits, instead becoming a huge drain on resources...

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A modest proposal for the equitable treatment of the taller passenger

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This blog often applauds the impact that low-cost carriers have on the travelling habits of everyday consumers. Thanks to a canny mixture of operational efficiency and commercial flexibility, these airlines are opening up the world to vacationers like never before. In Europe, once-obscure destinations far off the beaten tracks of travel agencies have blossomed into popular retreats. User-generated content on websites such as TripAdvisor has further empowered travellers, delivering more or less objective destinations guides. With this in mind, and with a few days booked off work, Gulliver recently boarded a Wizz Air flight to Sibiu in central Romania...

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

ASKY plans a home from Lomé

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Since launching operations in 2010, Togo's ASKY Airlines has cemented its status as the dominant home-grown entity in West Africa's fragmented aviation market.

The airline was founded at the behest of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an alliance of 15 nations that correctly identified air connectivity as a potential catalyst for the sub-region's fortunes.

Today, ASKY deploys an eight-strong fleet – four Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s, three Boeing 737-700s, and one 737-400F freighter – to 22 points in West Africa, stretching from Dakar on the westernmost tip of the continent to the central African metropolis of Kinshasa.

And although 60% of its traffic is routed through the Togolese capital Lomé, chief executive Yissehak Zewoldi is not blind to the economic powerhouse across his western border...

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

DWC: Air travel reinvented

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Thinking big has never been a problem for the rulers of Dubai. Back in 2005, when fewer than 24 million passengers used Dubai International Airport (DXB), the emirate unveiled plans for a six-runway hub at Jebel Ali, southwest of the city, that could handle up to 120 million people each year. A sprawling complex called Dubai World Central (DWC) was to be developed around the airport, creating “the world’s first purpose-built aerotropolis”.

At the time, DXB did not even rank among the top ten busiest international gateways on the planet. Dubai’s vision of becoming the centrepiece of global aviation was ridiculed in some corners as a delusion fuelled by free-flowing cash and unbridled Gulf egos. For years to come, discussions about the project were tainted with accusations of building a “white elephant” in the desert.

Today, however, with DXB on the cusp of overtaking London Heathrow Airport as the largest international gateway anywhere in the world, the sceptics have fallen silent...

MPL makes its mark

Full article in JPG format:
page 24/25, page 26 & page 28/29

When the concept of Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) training was first introduced to the aviation industry in 2006, many cynics feared that the initiative was a smokescreen for fast-tracking cadet graduations in order to fill the deepening pilot shortage across Asia.

There is no disputing that the continent faces an uphill struggle in training adequate numbers of pilots for its projected aviation growth. According to Boeing’s latest forecast, 216,000 new pilots will be required across Asia by 2033. More than one-third of those vacancies will be in China, where domestic training infrastructure is lagging far behind the country's booming air transport sector.

But several years into the industry-wide roll out of MPL – which is backed by both the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – it is clear that the advantages of the concept go far beyond speed and cost. To the contrary, the competency-based ethos underpinning MPL is now widely accepted as building and improving upon more traditional training programmes...

Mystery of LAM's cabin lock-out

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The loss of LAM Mozambique Flight 470 on 29 November 2013 undoubtedly marked the darkest day in the East African flag-carrier’s 77-year history.

All 33 souls aboard the newly delivered Embraer 190 died when, according to preliminary investigations, Captain Herminio dos Santos Fernandes locked his co-pilot out of the cockpit and deliberately sent the plane hurtling towards Namibian soil at 6,000 feet per minute.

The suggestion that pilot sabotage was to blame only intensified the distress of LAM’s management team, which had been working tirelessly to remove the airline from the European Commission’s blacklist. Chief executive Marlene Manave and chairman Carlos Jeque both lost their jobs in the months that followed, with the board pledging a fresh start for the beleaguered airline...

Grounded Uganda’s seven-year hitch

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Air Uganda's ascension to IATA was supposed to be a watershed moment for the privately-owned carrier, heralding a new era of industry cooperation and paving the way for significant expansion of its turboprop fleet.

The seven-year-old airline joined the global club on 2 June 2014, having made significant progress in negotiations with Uganda's government over the acquisition of a strategic stake.

"Certainly the government does want to partner with us to create a strong airline for Uganda," chief executive Cornwell Muleya told African Aerospace shortly after receiving his IATA certificate. "There is willingness on both sides to ensure that we have a strong home-based airline out of Uganda – one which would facilitate the growth of the economy of Uganda. As the market grows, everybody wins."

But the upbeat mood was to be short-lived. Just one fortnight later, Uganda's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was withdrawing the Air Operator's Certificates (AOCs) of Air Uganda and two local freight carriers, Transafrik and Uganda Air Cargo...

Little Red's big problem

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When Virgin Atlantic Airways announced the launch of its domestic British feeder airline, Little Red, in late 2012, Gulliver was among the rabble of aviation hacks scratching his head and wondering what on earth Sir Richard Branson, the airline’s founder, was up to. The number of domestic air passengers in Britain had fallen by 23% since 2005, with British Airways (BA) and a handful of low-cost carriers amply satisfying what little demand remained. In any case, although grumbling about the rail network is a national pastime, most Brits concede that trains are a more cost-effective, convenient and environmentally guilt-free mode of transport (not to mention one that Sir Richard owns a good share of with his Virgin Trains franchise)...

Interview: Yissehak Zewoldi, ASKY Airlines CEO

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On 20th July, as the full scale of West Africa’s Ebola crisis was slowly becoming apparent, a 40-year-old Liberian man took a routine ASKY Airlines flight from Lomé, Togo to Lagos, Nigeria.

The passenger, a government official named Patrick Sawyer, had started his journey in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. He was en route to attend a meeting organised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Calabar, southern Nigeria, but never reached his final destination. By the time his plane landed in Lagos, Sawyer was violently ill and required urgent medical attention.

Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, later confirmed that this unfortunate individual had become the country’s first Ebola fatality – just one of the more than 2,000 confirmed deaths across the sub-region...

Interview: Willem Hondius, Jambojet CEO

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Media reports about Africa’s fledgling low-cost carrier (LCC) market tend to be dominated by the trials and tribulations of fastjet, the Tanzanian airline that began operations in November 2012 with the backing of EasyJet’s founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

After promising nothing short of a European-style low-cost revolution in Africa, fastjet’s slow progress has disappointed many. The London-headquartered company still deploys just three aircraft – one fifth of the fleet size it planned for 2014 – and cross-border expansion is proving troublesome.

Though international routes are finally being added, its share price has tanked 96% since launch as the business comes under intense regulatory pressure.

Yet across Tanzania’s northern border with Kenya, another African LCC is quietly gaining traction. Jambojet, a wholly-owned subsidiary of flag carrier Kenya Airways, began flying from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in April. The venture is headed by former KLM executive Willem Hondius, who, mindful of the problems that fastjet has encountered, is decidedly cautious when assessing progress to date...

Monday, 1 September 2014

Airspace anxiety

Full article in JPG format:
page 18/19 & page 20/21

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over eastern Ukraine in July gave an international dimension to what had hitherto been a bilateral conflict between Moscow and Kiev. Unlike in February, when the West quietly stood by as Russia annexed Crimea, the murder of 298 mostly Dutch passengers by Moscow-backed rebels forced the European Union (EU) to act, imposing harsh economic sanctions on Russia.

How the conflict will play out under these new dynamics remains to be seen, with NATO estimating that 20,000 Russian troops have amassed at Ukraine’s border ahead of what many fear will be a full-blown invasion. Hopes that Russian president Vladimir Putin might have been chastened by the catastrophe were quickly dashed. Within days of the loss of MH17, two more Ukrainian military jets were shot down. The death toll on both sides has surpassed 2,000 and is rising daily.

But as well as dragging East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War, MH17 is stoking fears about wider vulnerabilities in the world’s increasingly crowded skies...

Interview: Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, Bangkok Airways President

Full article in JPG format: page 16/17 & page 18

Thailand’s low-cost carrier (LCC) sector turned 10 years old in 2014, and even in the midst of political upheaval it continues to go from strength to strength.

The country’s largest LCC, Thai AirAsia, may have trimmed its growth projections after the 22 May military coup in Bangkok – reducing this year’s aircraft deliveries from eight to five – but its 39-strong fleet still operates more flights per month than flag carrier Thai International Airways (THAI).

Together with Nok Air, THAI’s low-cost offshoot, and Thai Lion Air, an affiliate of the Indonesian group, LCCs now account for 60% of domestic and 20% of international seats in the country...

Interview: Woranate Laprabang, Thai Smile CEO

Full article in JPG format:
page 18/19, page 20, page 22 & cover

Thailand’s long-running political crisis has had a predictable impact on tourism flows to the country, with holidaymakers understandably feeling nervous about the May 2014 coup d'état that ushered in the current military junta. Visitor numbers fell 10.7% year-on-year to 1.7 million in May, following months of earlier declines fuelled by violent street protests.

Flag carrier Thai Airways International (THAI) has felt the pinch more than most, posting four consecutive quarterly losses and seeing its load factors slip below 60%. Political meddling remains an endemic problem at the airline, which had five executive vice presidents replaced by military appointees in July. That followed the resignation of another five board members in June, severely undermining management’s ability to mount a cohesive strategic turnaround.

But despite the challenging climate, both THAI and its full-service rival Bangkok Airways are confident of recovery. Thailand has experienced 19 coups since its absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932, and each time the tourists returned as security prevailed...

Friday, 22 August 2014

Sleep tight

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Nine Hours, a Japanese hotelier that provides ultra-economical, pod-style accommodation, has opened a new location at Narita Airport in Tokyo. The concept of capsule hotels is nothing new—the first such establishment opened in Osaka in 1979, and they have grown in popularity among frugal travellers, inebriated office workers and even the unemployed—but this is the first time sleeping pods have appeared at airports. Gulliver is surprised it didn’t happen sooner...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

MH17: No more shoot-downs

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On July 17, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew members. Investigations continue, but it is widely assumed that the aircraft was brought down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired by separatist rebels. While the earlier loss of another Malaysia Airlines plane, Flight 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean in March, remains a mystery, the menace to flights over conflict zones is all too apparent. Could this disaster have been avoided?

Ukraine’s chief of counterintelligence, Vitaly Nayda, admitted that as early as July 14, three days before Flight 17 was shot down, he knew that rebels had Buk missile systems capable of striking targets up to 70,000 feet (far beyond the usual 33,000 feet cruising altitude of jetliners). It was also common knowledge that at least seven military aircraft had been shot down in the preceding weeks, including a cargo plane traveling at about 21,000 feet — well beyond the range of less sophisticated shoulder-fired missiles...

Friday, 15 August 2014

Interview: Temel Kotil, Turkish Airlines CEO

Full article in PDF format: page 71-74 & cover

When Turkey’s government lowered its stake in Turkish Airlines (THY) to 49% in May 2006, the national carrier had fewer than 100 aircraft in its fleet and was operating an average of 460 flights per day.

Roughly half of those services were domestic flights, with the airline having enjoyed a monopoly on internal sectors for almost all of its seven-decade-long history.

But, following its transition to private hands, THY’s fleet has ballooned to 235 aircraft; its flight count has reached 1,200 per day; and its home market has been transformed into a vibrant, competitive landscape where the flag-carrier provides barely half of all domestic capacity.

This remarkable growth took less than a decade to achieve, and Kotil said a similar timeframe must now pass before THY even considers slowing down...

Interview: Larry Coyne, Coyne Airways CEO

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With the air cargo industry struggling to maintain yields in the face of rampant over-capacity, Coyne Airways presents an intriguing vision of how freighter markets may evolve over time.

The London-headquartered airline does not own or lease any aircraft, and it eschews the hub-to-hub distribution model favoured by most global cargo operators.

Instead, Coyne Airways enlists the services of various partner carriers to build a scheduled network through recurrent Block Space Agreements and interline deals. By reserving part or all of the space on other airlines' freighters, the company has developed specialised hubs in Dubai and Tbilisi that connect Europe, North America and Asia with countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan...

Interview: Ahmed Aly, Nile Air CEO

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When Nile Air was publicly unveiled at the 2007 Dubai Air Show – at the height of the Gulf aviation buying spree – the Egyptian start-up signed a memorandum of understanding for nine Airbus A321s.

Seven years on, the Saudi-owned company operates a more modest fleet of two smaller A320s. Its launch coincided with the onset of a global financial crisis, followed by two successive political revolutions that decimated tourism to its home market.

But having weathered these storms, Nile Air is now charting a clear path to expansion. The airline continues to be shielded from the downturn by its diverse traffic mix, and it is gradually benefiting from Egypt's improved ties across the region...

Friday, 1 August 2014

Libyan aviation up in flames

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

Less than three years after its fleet was all but destroyed by the Libyan revolution, Afriqiyah Airways, the North African country’s second flag carrier, suffered another depressing blow to its fortunes last month. A mortar assault on Tripoli International Airport damaged most of its 11 aircraft on 13 July, as well as knocking out the air traffic control tower and hitting planes owned by fellow flag carrier Libyan Airlines and privately-owned Buraq Air.

Even by Libya’s pitiful security standards, the audacity of bombarding the country’s main international gateway left travellers, local residents and officials dumbstruck. One government spokesman epitomised the sense of helplessness by suggesting that “international forces” should provide security in Tripoli. As he spoke, the UN began hastily withdrawing its remaining staffers...

Airport charges: Paying the price

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While investigating profitability in the air transport value chain last year, a joint study by IATA and McKinsey & Company found that the two sectors with the lowest return on invested capital are airlines first and airports second.

Being surrounded by business partners with greater financial stability inevitably means that both industries are proactive in minimizing their costs and maximizing their revenue. Little wonder, then, that divergent narratives arise when evaluating whom certain costs should be ascribed to, and how best to recover these costs through proportional charges...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Interview: Yuri Miroshnikov, Ukraine International Airlines President

UIA willing to resume Crimea flights under Russian control

Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) wants to return to Crimea even if the peninsula’s airspace remains under Russian control, president Yuri Miroshnikov tells Flightglobal.

“We would resume flights as soon as this is operationally possible and legally permitted,” he confirms. “Russian control, Ukrainian control … As soon as the situation is legalised.”

UIA and most international carriers stopped flying to Crimea after Russia moved to annex the territory in February.

Moscow seized control of Simferopol's airspace during the military intervention, but ICAO later said Ukraine remains the sole legal provider of air navigation services in the peninsula. Airlines have therefore been unable to resume flights without breaching international law.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Bridging the Gulf

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In February, Kamal Ahmed, the transport minister of the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain, told Arabian Business that “no-one wants” the top job at Gulf Air, the country’s flag-carrier. It was a candid admission for a company that, long before the rise of super-connectors Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, had once been considered the Middle East’s pre-eminent airline. Several foreign candidates had been offered the job, Mr Ahmed explained, but all turned it down over fears of political interference. Given that Gulf Air’s nine-strong board includes four serving ministers plus an advisor to the Crown Prince, they may have had a point...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Interview: Monwabisi Kalawe, South African Airways CEO

Full article in PDF format: page 75-77 & cover

Despite contending with a volatile boardroom and an irreverent local media, Monwabisi Kalawe, the new boss of South African Airways, sees a bright future for the troubled flag-carrier. Martin Rivers finds out why.

When Monwabisi Kalawe took on the role of CEO at South African Airways (SAA) last June – the fifth person to hold the title in as many years – he knew he was in for a rough ride.

South Africa’s heavily loss-making, state-owned flag-carrier has been castigated by local and international press for its apparent inability to stamp out management corruption and operational inefficiency. The announcement of a long-term turnaround strategy last year did not quell the protests, becoming the ninth such programme to be unveiled since the turn of the century...

Narrowbody converts

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The waning popularity of the Boeing 747-400 has been evident for some time, with oil prices above $100 making the four-engine aircraft a costly option for passenger operators.

But whereas ageing widebodies were traditionally considered ideal targets for passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversions, structural changes in the troubled air cargo market are now dampening demand. Instead, cargo operators are turning to more nimble narrowbody jets, leaving a growing numbers of widebodies abandoned in storage.

The trend is borne out by statistics. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of parked 747-400Fs spiked from 18 to 42 globally. Despite a wave of retired passenger units entering the secondary market, conversions of all widebody types – also including 767s, MD-11s and Airbus A300s – collapsed from 29 to just 8...

Interview: Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific CEO

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page 19, page 20/21 & cover

The European Union’s decision to remove Cebu Pacific from its aviation blacklist in April was a public relations coup for the Philippines’ largest carrier.

The move came in the same month as America’s Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the country's safety rating to Category 1. That paved the way for both Cebu Pacific and flag carrier Philippine Airlines to start evaluating US-bound services, as well as pursuing codeshares with American carriers.

Both measures were expected after ICAO, the UN’s aviation body, reported in early 2013 that Filipino regulators had addressed all significant safety concerns. For Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific’s chief executive, the upgrades are proof of the “dramatic improvement in the Philippine's regulatory reputation” over the past three years...

Interview: Maher Al Musallam, Gulf Air Acting CEO

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page 32/33 & page 34

If asked to describe Gulf Air’s prospects back in 2012, many observers would have responded with one word: “bleak”. The Arab Spring had decimated tourism to Bahrain, as well as forcing its flag carrier to withdraw from two key markets: Iran and Iraq. Operating losses reached 183.8 million dinar, and parliament slammed the brakes on a financial bailout amid calls for the airline to be dissolved.

All the more impressive, then, that the beleaguered company now appears to be turning a corner. When its 2013 results were published in May – three months later than originally scheduled – the figures spoke for themselves...

Europe & the Gulf: Old foes reunited

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In June, delegates arriving at the AGM of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry's biggest annual bash, were among the first passengers to experience Doha's new Hamad International Airport.

The glistening new gateway was not quite completed – screens had to be erected in lieu of a few finishing touches – but Qatar Airways nonetheless moved its entire operation to the hub on 27 May, five days before the world's airline bosses descended on the dusty, oil-rich Gulf state.

As one of three so-called Gulf super-connectors, Qatar Airways' selection to host the event was a symbolic reminder of the new dynamics sweeping across the industry...

Making low-cost long-haul flights work

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Low-cost long-haul flying has been a notoriously difficult nut to crack ever since Laker Airways, a transatlantic British airline, introduced the concept in 1977. It went bust five years later. Numerous other carriers have since come and gone, but none has managed to combine bargain airfares with long-haul intercontinental flights and survive. Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, continues to whet appetites with promises of €10 ($14) flights to North America. But bombastic claims are nothing new for Mr O’Leary, who privately admits that the cost of aircraft and high fuel prices mean it is not currently practical...

Sunday, 15 June 2014

UP, UP and away

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Last year’s signing of a controversial Open Skies treaty between Israel and Europe may have been good news for passengers, but among local operators it immediately raised fears of a rapid influx of foreign low-cost competitors.

Mindful of the potential for losing market share, Israeli flag carrier El Al in March began operations under a new low-cost brand, UP. The offshoot launched with a fleet of five re-painted Boeing 737-800s, taking over from the mainline unit on flights to Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Kiev and Larnaca...

Interview: Dimitrios Gerogiannis, Aegean Airlines Managing Director

Full article in JPG format: page 18/19, page 20, page 22/23 & cover

With economic confidence growing across Europe, it is easy to forget that just two years ago the continent was mired in a full-blown financial crisis. Unemployment and long-term government bond rates had surged to historic highs, raising the spectre of an imminent Eurozone break-up.

No country was worse affected than Greece, whose bankrupt economy needed a €110 billion ($146 billion) bail-out to stay afloat. As a condition for its support, Brussels forced Athens to implement severe austerity measures that sent Greeks spilling onto the streets in protest. Five people died and hundreds were injured in the ensuing riots – broadcast around the world on 24-hour news channels.

The impact on the country’s aviation sector was devastating. International visitor numbers slumped 5.5% in 2012 to 15.5 million. Those who did come expected heavily discounted airfares, pushing down passenger yields for Greece’s struggling carriers...

Do not disturb

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page 56/57 & page 58

For an industry forecasting average compound annual growth rates of 5.4% until 2017, balancing the benefits of enhanced global connectivity with the needs of people living under flightpaths has never been more urgent.

Supporters of airport expansion often point out that modern aircraft are 75% quieter today than their forbearers were 50 years ago.

But reducing noise at its manufacturing source is just one of four ways ICAO seeks to mitigate noise pollution for local residents. And according to Thomas Roetger, IATA’s Assistant Director, Aviation Environment Technology, the scope for OEM-led improvements is declining each year...

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Interview: Marlene Manave, LAM Mozambique CEO

LAM Mozambique plans intercontinental joint venture

LAM Mozambique is looking to establish a joint venture with an unnamed widebody operator in 2015, chief executive Marlene Manave tells Flightglobal.

The collaborative effort would utilise the foreign partner’s aircraft and flight crew, along with mixed cabin crew and a co-branded livery. Its planned route network would include destinations in Europe, China and South America.

Interview: Cornwell Muleya, Air Uganda CEO

Air Uganda network expansion to focus on DRC

Air Uganda is targeting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for a new wave of expansion over the coming five years, says chief executive Cornwell Muleya.

The airline currently deploys a fleet of three Bombardier CRJ900s to five East African countries: Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Tanzania.

Expansion into central and southern Africa will come alongside a planned order for “one or two” 50-90-seater regional jets, with frequencies on all existing routes also gradually rising to twice daily.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Aegean stable

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Holidaymakers will have been forgiven for steering clear of Athens at the height of the euro-zone crisis, when anti-austerity protests turned violent across the Greek capital. Footfall at Athens International Airport fell from 16.2m in 2009 to 12.9m in 2012. The foreign exodus was compounded by weak domestic demand, which slumped 26% as Greeks tightened their belts. The September 2009 launch of Olympic Air, a re-privatised version of Greece’s flag carrier, could not have been timed worse. Within months the carrier, which flies mostly domestic routes, tried to merge with Aegean Airlines, the country’s main international operator, as its only means of survival. European competition regulators threw out its proposal...

Boeing to benefit if US sanctions lifted on Iran

Iran Air would place orders for either the Boeing 777 or the 787 Dreamliner if US sanctions were lifted permanently, chairman Farhad Parvaresh has told Arabian Aerospace.

"If the doors are opened and we can order, we should decide between 777 and Dreamliner," he said on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Doha. "The 777 would be a good aircraft for us, as it is for some of our neighbours [in the Persian Gulf]."

The 747-8 will also be evaluated, although fuel consumption by the four-engine aircraft raises questions about its commercial suitability.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Interview: Abdulhakim Fares, Afriqiyah Airways Chairman

Afriqiyah shelves Libyan merger amid upsurge in violence

Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines have suspended plans for a merger as the two flag carriers' home market struggles to contain a simmering civil war.

"We are not working on this [merger] right now," Afriqiyah chairman Abdulhakim Fares said on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Doha. "We are working together as friends, not competing. They [Afriqiyah and Libyan] may stay separate for some time."

Asked if the two companies – both subsidiaries of Libyan Afriqiyah Aviation Holding Company – will be merged by the end of the decade, Fares responded: "It's impossible to say."

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Composite repair challenge

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page 23, page 24/25 & page 26

When footage of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 on fire at London Heathrow Airport was broadcast around the world in July 2013, the industry braced itself for another potential setback to the Dreamliner programme.

The global 787 fleet had already been grounded for three months following a series of electrical fires caused by on-board lithium-ion batteries.

With the Ethiopian blaze breaking out in the upper aft fuselage of the stationary aircraft – well away from the main and APU batteries – it was clear that Boeing had a new problem on its hands. Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch quickly placed the blame on an incorrectly installed battery within the aircraft’s Emergency Locator Transmitter, allowing the industry to breathe a collective sigh of relief...

Trouble Down Under for Emirates?

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page 24/25 & page 26

Holding your cards close to your chest is a wise strategy when negotiating commercial partnerships. So it should come as no surprise that Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Airline, appears to have rebuffed Andrew Robb, Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment, during his recent visit to Dubai.

Robb had met with Shaikh Ahmed, begging bowl in hand, after declaring to Al Arabiya News that he “will explicitly mention” the subject of an equity investment in Qantas. The Australian flag carrier has had an entrenched commercial partnership with Emirates, Dubai’s flag carrier, since last year. The statement was a bold move by the minister, especially given the repeated asseverations by Emirates’ senior management team – also including president Tim Clark – that Dubai has absolutely no intention of pumping cash into its Australian affiliate...

Monday, 26 May 2014

Discrimination at 30,000 feet

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South African Airways (SAA) has been taken to task by Solidarity, a trade union, over its discriminatory hiring practices for pilots. The union is angry with the state-owned carrier's decision not to admit Daniël Hoffman to its cadet pilot programme for the second year in a row. Mr Hoffman, whose theory and psychometric tests were described as exceptional by Solidarity, is a white male. That puts him at a handicap against other applicants because of the airline's self-professed bias towards hiring black, coloured (mixed race), Indian or white female pilots...