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

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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...